On deliciousness

David Chang at Wired – The Unified Theory of Deliciousness:

Joshua told me he wanted to make a version of a Bolognese, the Italian meat sauce. I told him that was fine, but he had to use only Korean ingredients. I often set these kinds of limitations, because I’m a big believer that creativity comes from working within constraints.

Anyway, that meant he would have to find a way of re-creating the sweetness, umami, and pungency of Bolognese without the onions, celery, carrot, tomato paste, or white wine. He ended up using scallions, red chiles, ground pork, and fermented bean paste. Instead of using milk to provide that silky mouthfeel, I encouraged him to add in some whipped tofu. And rather than pasta or gnocchi, he served it with rice cakes that looked like gnocchi. We called it Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes, and when most people taste it, it reminds them—even on a subconscious level—of a spicier version of Bolognese.

I often find that with our food constraints, much of what we cook tastes the same, and very familiar. This is good in one sense, since by now we know what our son likes and dislikes and can guess whether he’ll like the food or not. But it’s bad in another sense, where I feel that we’re limiting him and not presenting a wider range of flavours and textures the we want him to experience.

Chang’s attempts at recreating familiar foods with different ingredients shows that in some instances he can re-imagine familiar dishes using unfamiliar ingredients. We are trying to do that every time we make a new dish, having to replace ingredients with others that are safe. Unfortunately it’s only too easy to fall back on the tried and true recipes. Time is the overriding constraint.