ELEMENTS OF FLAVOR
When Ayesha was developing the menu for her restaurant, International Smoke, her partner, chef Michael Mina, shared a valuable lesson about building flavor. “He says most savory dishes have five necessary components that help to maximize flavor: salt, fat, spice, sweet, and acid. My best meals incorporate something from each group.”
SALT It carries the important load of intensifying sweetness and counteracting bitterness. Some, like French sea salt and Maldon salt, also add texture.
FAT Olive oil and/or butter help foods lock in the other flavors you add to them. Ayesha sautés rice in butter and olive oil before simmering to add a rich, toasty note to the rice.
SPICE Ayesha goes for seasonings like cumin and chili powder for maximum impact. Fresh ginger marries well with them.
SWEET Brown sugar is a secret weapon. It mellows spices and cuts acidity. (Honey also works.)
ACID Citrus creates a contrast to earthy spices like paprika and chili powder. Food can taste flat without a burst of acidity from citrus zest or juice.