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Must Have Herbs

Often overlooked as a garnish or “just another flavouring ingredient”, herbs – even those we deem common – are actually integral to making a dish complete. Here are the best ones to use for Italian and Japanese dishes:

ROSEMARY

“They have a bitter, astringent taste and are highly aromatic. When charred, they give a mustard-like smell similar to burning wood. The leaves, both fresh and dried, are used in stuffings, meat marinades and seafood soups. In my dish of handmade pappardelle – with slow-cooked duck leg ragout – it is utilised as an extra virgin olive oil infusion and serves to marry the different components of the dish together.”

 

JAPANESE SHISO

“This leaf is comparable to the mint. It exudes a most unique and fragrant scent that is not only refreshing but also possesses cleansing qualities that allow it to be used as a palate cleanser. Hence, instead of using the Japanese shiso leaf as a mere garnish, I have incorporated it in my dessert – a shiso sherbet.”

 

FLAT ITALIAN PARSLEY

“Native to southern Italy, flat Italian parsley is a key ingredient in special sauces such as the gremolata – a mixture of parsley, garlic and lemon zest to accompany the famous veal stew, Ossobuco alla Milanese. In my dish of pan-roasted Atlantic wild cod fish fillet with parsley puree, radicchio salad and marinated Taggiasca black olives, the herb puree is only second to the cod in terms of prominence.”

 

BENITADE

“This is a Japanese microgreen that’s a spicier wasabi. Because of the subtle taste and punch of spice it adds, I enjoy using it in delicate dishes to give a different taste dimension. The truffle kampachi, which comprises slivers of yellow tail drizzled with truffle essence, is one dish I use with benitade.”

 

SWEET BASIL

“It’s a perennial herb native to southern Italy and is considered the ‘King of Herbs’. It is an essential component of parmigiana di melanzane – a layered dish of baked Italian eggplant, buffalo mozzarella cheese, tomato coulis and sweet basil. It’s also commonly used in a herb sauce, such as the Genovese pesto made with basil, toasted pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil.”

 

APPLE MINT

“It offers a fragrant and refreshingly sweet taste to dishes. It’s a good herb to consume, especially after enjoying a fish or seafood dish, as it helps cleanse the palate and rids any heavy aftertaste. I use it in a floral herbal tea as a way to cleanse the palate. This herb, like all the others I use, is imported from Japan.”

 

By Koh Yuen Lin, The Peak Selections, Gourmet & Travel, Issue 12

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