Yield: 1 Informed
| Kadoya Sesame Oil For the accent oil, I choose Kadoya Sesame Oil.
The toasting and pressing of this particular brand of sesame oil is done with such consistent card that I have never had a burnt-tasting or rancid bottle in all my years of cooking. If your market does not have Kadoya brand, taste the other candidates with a critical nose and tongue. | Marukan unseasoned rice vinegar (with green label) | Heinz distilled white vinegar and Heinz apple cider vinegar are my favorite vinegars of choice for making infusions. | Miysukan unseasoned rice vinegar is another good brand. These are not the least expensive, but in my experience they are the most tasty, with a broad range of flavor in addition to the acidic bite. In the realm of dry and fresh aromatics used for infusing, you must also choose with care: | Dried red chili flakes should be red (indicating sweetness and fire), not brown or purple-black. They should be so pungent that you rear back when you smell them. The bag should contain no more than 25 percent seeds. | Szechwan peppercorns should smell profoundly good and herbal. The bag should contain few if any black seeds. Twigs and tiny leaves are part of the bundle, along with a good-size thorn every so often (that should be picked out) | Pearl River Bridge Chinese fermented black beans should be moist and pliable to the touch. They should taste good, with a nice range of flavor in the after-taste. My favorite brand is Pearl River Bridge in a round yellow box. Don't use beans that are hard and shriveled.
Likewise, don't wash them before use; you want the salt they carry as a contribution to the infusion. | Garlic, ginger and lemongrass should be rock-hard fresh, with no hint of mold to the eye or the nose. | Scallions should be straight-standing and perky, ideally wearing their white beards as a sign of freshness. They should feel dry or pleasantly moist from the grocer's water pistol, not slimy. | Orange and Lemon Zest should be washed well in warm water with an abrasive scrubber and then rinsed squeaky-clean, even if the fruit came from your back yard tree. | Diamond Kosher Salt is the only kind I use unless a recipe specifies otherwise. It comes in a big red and gold box and is a feature of most good restaurant kitchens. No other brand, in my experience is so consistently mild and clean tasting.
Buy a box from a neighborhood restaurant if you can't convince your grocer to order it. (Dorothy's note: I found Diamond Kosher Salt in my super market's Kosher/Jewish food section _not_ with the other salts and spices for sale.)