Thou shall not use too much cooking oil. You will be surprised how much you can cook with just one spoon of oil. Of course, you will have to cook on a slow flame. A high flame burns the food and spoils the texture and flavor of the ingredients. Less oil, however, means that you must watch your dish cooking to ensure that it does not catch and burn. That is why servants like to use too much oil. Also never reuse old or recycled cooking oil. Used oil not only carries the flavors of the previous frying but can be unhealthy. Rancid oil from overcooking is often used by unscrupulous food vendors and makes people sick. It is also carcinogenic.
Overcooking is worse than under-cooking. Overcooking destroys the flavors and kills the nutrients in the food. If you cut your vegetables and meats into smaller pieces cooking is fast and all the natural flavors, colors and vitamins are retained. You also save on gas and time.
Do not ever use old spices or herbs that have lost their flavors. There is nothing like freshly ground spices or herbs to hugely enhance the flavor of your dishes. Grind small quantities of spices to last you not more than two weeks but if you have a small mortar and pestle you can do the spices on the spot and see the difference in the aroma and the taste of your dishes.
Never overload your dish with too many ingredients. Conflicting tastes, flavors and textures confuse the senses instead of enriching the flavors. Always respect the character of the main vegetables or meats you are cooking and use small quantities of herbs and spices to enhance the flavors without smothering them. Many people are not even aware of the natural flavor of the vegetables as the vegetables or meats are loaded with too many spices. Using too many chilies is also a mark of a poor chef as it destroys the flavor and all that is left is a burning palate and acidity.
Cheap ingredients are a false economy. Fresh and ripe ingredients cost very little more while a small teaspoon of olive oil, good vinegar, spices and herbs add hugely to the taste of your final product. Always use real vinegar which is a little expensive but feel the difference. Cheap white vinegar is just acetic acid, it is good for cleaning taps and disinfecting your work table but is not used by good cooks.
Do not reheat the food again and again as it destroys all the nutrients and the flavors of the food. Use a cling film to store food in your fridge. Leaving it exposed quickly makes it dry and unpalatable.
Never neglect hygiene as nothing spoils the reputation of a cook as much as bad hygiene that makes food unhealthy. If washing has to be done sooner or later, sooner is much better than later and needs no additional effort. If you, or your servants, wash, scrub and sweep after every meal cockroaches and bacteria have nothing to eat and you will not need poisonous pesticides. Wipe the kitchen tables with vinegar and see the difference in your family’s health.
Tannie Baig is a well-known culinary author and hobby chef. She is known for her Indian and Thai recipes in India and abroad. As a well-known cooking consultant and teacher Tannie has authored 16 cookbooks and some of them are bestsellers too. She is also found on the Lonely Planet portal as a fine Indian, Chinese, and Thai Cooking Teacher.