Image by Salah Jalal from Pixabay

Trying to replicate that tasty dish you had at a restaurant can prove to be an enormous challenge for the amateur cook.


Even closely following a recipe can be frustrating when the finished product just doesn't capture that burst of flavor found in the foods we eat at restaurants.

Why is that? What are these online recipes cruelly leaving out? Are we doing something wrong?

Usually, an excess of butter or salt should do the trick, but even those quick fixes don't always apply.

Fortunately, chefs online were generous to share some of their secrets from the kitchen when Redditor liberta0407 asked:

"Chefs of Reddit, what's is your single favourite ingredient and why?"

Maybe Not In Your Pantry

Think outside the box and your palate will be awakened.

Asian Market

"Miso paste Gochujang Doubanjiang."

"All good stuff."

Nitemarex

"Sweet Sticky Heaven"

"BLACK GARLIC!!!!. MAKES EVERYTHING 100x better. Most of what I see here is staple pantry items. IF YOU DONT HAVE BLACK GARLIC, GET IT. Crush it into a paste and make a compound butter or anything. B L A C K G A R L I C. SWEET STICKY HEAVEN"

bananapursun

"Garam Masala! I find it to be sooo good in many savory dishes. I replace cumin with it whenever it's called for. It's INCREDIBLE in chili or any Asian-influenced dishes!"

ABeld96

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Reddish-Purple Powder

"Sumac. Seriously, get yourself a huge bag for like $15 bucks and thank me later. It's lemony and salty, sweet and smoky and earthy and beautifully red. Sprinkle it on toast, curry, chicken, steak, tacos, devilled eggs, ice cream... Just about everything."

"You can also brew it like tea and it has an intense wild-berry flavor."

Picker-Rick

Not All Households Have It

"My mom is half Iranian, so we grew up eating sumac with our rice all the time. My parents thought it was hilarious when little me asked for some while at a friend's house, and of course they had never heard of it."

TehPinguen

Savory Dried Herbs

"zaatar is amazing. you can have it with olive oil; dip a small piece of pita bread in olive oil then dip that same piece in a separate bowl with zaatar (obv another bowl from the storage container) for breakfast and thank me later."

lilbluerobot

For Pasta Sauce

"Bay leaves. Like salt you don't want them to be the dominant flavor in anything, but they make a night and day difference in stews, pasta sauce, you name it."

notasparrow

For Baking

"Not a chef, but a baker. Cardamom. It's still not super common in American baked goods, and while I love cinnamon, that flavor isn't special to my palette anymore. Cardamom gives such a warm, floral scent/flavor to whatever you make, and can be paired with so many things. Treat yourself: add some cardamom and orange zest to your next batch of banana bread."

DaygloDago

Flavor-Deepener

"Cardamom is incredibly inviting. The fragrance and the flavor add dimension...I really don't know how to put it into words. It's so easy to recognize even though it doesn't overpower. It's wonderful and as you said goes ups the flavor of a wide spectrum of foods. Whatever cardamom is added to,it deepens the flavor experience."

5hrs4hrs3hrs2hrs1mor

It's About...

"Thyme"

"Thyme pairs well with meat, tomatoes, and beans."

"It is the main ingredient in the classic French herb combinations Bouquet Garni and Herbes de Provence. These herb blends are frequently used to flavor meat, stews, and soups."

"Can't imagine not having thyme on my side when cooking a wide variety of dishes."

Back2Bach

Taking Stock

"Best life hack I ever learned was adding chicken stock cubes to cut potato's boiling in water. Seriously will up your potato game in ways you can't imagine. I've also done it with rice as well where the rice was going into something else."

Trist8686

Nice Pour

A touch of the following can add so much flavor. Just careful with portions.

Queen Of Oilseeds

"roasted sesame seed oil, it adds a light nuttiness and saltiness to a dish."

Ez-lectronic

Use with care though. It's amazing, but it can overtake a dish fast if you use too much."

ratherbewinedrunk

"Nice Umami"

"Chef of 25 years. Personal favorite is worcestershire sauce."

"Use it more at home than in restaurants I've worked. Such a nice umami though."

Bluewolf83

The Missing Ingredient

"Vinegar. It is often the thing that is missing when people go for more salt and spices in their cooking wondering why it doesn't taste quite as good as in a restaurant."

HEAT_IS_DIE

Just A Squeeze

"Chef here"

"Lemon juice, enhances flavour in almost anything. Vinegar is too dominant for me."

mons388

One amateur chef who appeared to be overwhelmed by many of the options contributed something else to consider.

This person suggested, "beer," but not as a secret ingredient for use in food.

"I drink 4 or 5 before cooking and my food tastes 10 times better!" they joked.

Not my personal method, but beer is most definitely a wonderful addition to your recipes if you want to bring out the flavor of meats and vegetables. Just substitute it with water as a simmering liquid.

I'm no chef either, but beer is also an excellent baking agent that adds lightness to your favorite baked goods like banana bread, muffins, or pancakes.

Now go out and get your culinary imaginations brewing.

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