Internationally renowned writer, television personality and celebrity chef Rick Stein spent a lot of time travelling through India during the shooting of his widely acclaimed television series Rick Stein’s India, produced by the BBC. One of the unique features of the show is that it avoids the glamour and glitz of five-star kitchens and fine-dining establishments and, instead, goes into ordinary middle-class homes, roadside eateries and small – but famous – local restaurants in search of Indian culinary styles, methods and preparations.
There is an interesting (if not hilarious) incident during Stein’s visit to Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). A housewife shows Stein how to make a certain traditional Bengali dish and she begins by pouring the cooking oil into the pan. Stein is horrified by the amount of oil she uses. She smiles and reassures him that it’s okay because the oil is very healthy and wholesome – it’s Mustard Oil. More importantly, she explains that it isn’t just a cooking medium – it is also an important contributor to the overall flavour of the dish. She also emphasises that the dish would be neither tasty nor authentic if Mustard Oil were to be replaced by some other oil.
When Stein recreated the dish in his own kitchen, he found that the lady from Bengal was absolutely correct. Mustard Oil was an integral part of the character of the dish, and using less Mustard Oil adversely affected its flavour. Stein’s experienced taste buds could clearly discern the special dimension that Mustard Oil was adding.
And here’s the part that Indian foodies will find hilarious. In the final cut of this episode, Stein actually has to tell his British viewers not to be horrified by the amount of oil that he is going to use. He explains that it isn’t just a cooking medium; it is also an essential taste agent in the recipe.
Regular readers of this blog will, of course, know that not only is cold-pressed Mustard Oil very healthy, good for the heart, and packed with diverse nutrients, it is also absorbed into food in very low amounts while during cooking and deep frying. So go ahead – use Mustard Oil to your heart’s content and savour the unique flavour that it offers.