Monday, March 05, 2007

Served Raw

A very famous chef once said if it's not "cooked", as if it hasn't met heat, it's not "cooking", it's not acceptable to him.

Hmph. I...kinda...liked this guy, and rather...admired this guy for his talents and really bringing NY dining scene into something more than a slice of Junior's Cheesecake.

So I raise the question: Do we really have to "cook" the food to bring it's qualities to it's fullest? What is "cooking"? Can food be "cooked" without EVER meeting heat?

Limiting "cooking" to use of fire, I think, is pretty narrow. Pickling, mixing, cutting, framenting, tossing are all acceptable cooking methods. As long as the ingredient is processed by human hands or even, by bacterial hands has been cooked.

You'd think I'm being biased because I'm Japanese. Or that Asian eat more raw food than Westerners. Not true. Other than for pasteruization purposes, I don't think any cheese making traditionally involves heat.

In NY, "Crudo" is all the rage. It's basically a Italian-Style Sashimi, usually marinated in citrus, sliced thin and served with olive oil and capers. Spanish food also has raw cuisne called "Ceviche", which was also all the rage in NY like 4 years ago. (then it moved on to Crudo) Not yet the rage, but Korean Cuisine also has raw dishes, such as Yukke and in forms of various kimchee (kimchee's not just in cabbage form, you know!).

These are all very acceptable cooking methods, and certainly delicious dishes. I think "cooking" means using all humanly possible methods of perparation to bring out the best in the ingredient, with incorporation of cultural influences.

I think it's important to note that a chef who is so highly regarded in America so narrow minded that he cannot accept meals that hadn't been through fire as a proper dish. I think it just brings back American cuisine back 20 years...

America wasn't exactly known for it's cuisine for a long time. I mean...this is the country that invented "PROCESSED CHEESE". And, proudly declared it as "AMERICAN CHEESE". ew. America loves canned food, survives on frozen meals, and is a country where the government tells you to heat your pork until it becomes leather. Still large number of American still dine at Red Lobster on special occasions. Large number will still coward at the sound of fish eggs (but will eat "caviar" - which also happens to be prepared without heat). A good "American" meal meant over cooked beef steak (served with Heinz Ketchup) and a baked bland potato drenched in SALTED (ew.) butter. Yet these past decade or so, it's finally evolved far enough to have things like "Vermont Goat Cheese" and "Wisconsin Cheddar". People finally seemed to get the difference between "charred" and "over cooked". Where seafood would include more than canned tuna.

What scares me is that somebody so influential in culinary development of American cuisine still believes so strongly that ingredients still must go through heat to be "cooked".

...what do you think?


Anonymous said...

Hmmm I suppose you can use sun drying (like sun dried tomatoes, or seaweed/nori) to "cook" it which doesn't require artificially generating heat.

Pickling and marination are artforms in itself and have long histories. In Chinese cooking there's a type of sour cabbage that is not done via vinegar but fermentation. Though to consume it, it usually goes through heat. In those senses pickling and marination are more preparation oriented, but does the job of killing as much bacteria as possible, and serves the purposes of preservation.

My forefathers and mothers also enjoyed salt curing of pork/pork bones. Goes great with a lot of things.

Anonymous said...

I'm taking an environmental health class right now and it's made me watch what I eat. It's the way the US gets their meat and how easily we'd get sick if we aren't careful. No comment on the chef liking everything cooked, I like my steak medium rare and LOVE my sushi =d

Anonymous said...

Fish in lime juice is also called "cooking", no fire required.

Looking forward for more recipes and if you love to feature a Japanese recipe on my site, please let me know in email to stef2k[at]yahoo[dot]com

I just linked to you, would you mind to link back to me?

Happy eating!

TheSkinnyCook in Malaysia