2021’s ingredient of the yr: 19 Australian meals lovers share their favourites | Australian food and drinks

What’s your ingredient of the yr? An ingredient you ate for the primary time, rediscovered, cooked lots over the yr, or learnt about this yr?

Extremely, I by no means heard the identical reply twice. If anybody is curious, mine is tamarind. I attempted to combine up my use of acid this yr (there’s extra than simply lemon and vinegar, I stored telling myself) and tamarind was what I landed on.

That is what everybody mentioned.

Nagesh Seethiah: yoghurt

Yogurt in cup on table
Array of makes use of: yoghurt. {Photograph}: Juhari Muhade/Getty Photos

It’s been round my entire life – I actually haven’t given it sufficient credit score. My mum makes use of yoghurt as the bottom marinade in her biryani, and my favorite drink rising up in Mauritius was almond dahi, a lassi-style ingesting yoghurt. Yoplait ought to make this accessible around the globe, particularly in Melbourne throughout summer time.

This yr I’ve taken to creating yoghurt weekly with Schulz Natural Dairy full cream milk, probably the most unimaginable, wealthy milk we are able to discover. Our yoghurt tradition has developed over the previous few months into a superb being, with an attractive refined acidity and richness.

Our yoghurt now contributes to lots at our restaurant: cheeky breakfasts throughout prep mornings; the bottom for our kalia sauce, combined with recent herbs and masala; whereas the whey is used to season different dishes or kickstart ferments with a singular lactic be aware.

John Susman: coral trout

A coral trout, at home on a reef.
A coral trout, at residence on a reef. {Photograph}: Jane Gould/Alamy

The collapse of the Chinese language marketplace for stay coral trout has resulted within the home Australian market having unprecedented entry to this actually scrumptious fish. A lot of the coral trout fleet in north Queensland have constructed high quality requirements of catching and dealing with, commensurate with the calls for of the stay commerce, and whereas a lot of the home demand is for lifeless fish, the standard is outstandingly good.

Khanh Nguyen: gochugaru

Gochugaru, a ‘mild ... slightly sweet, fruity and smokey’ Korean chilli powder.
Gochugaru, a ‘gentle … barely candy, fruity and smokey’ Korean chilli powder. {Photograph}: Khanh Nguyen

My ingredient of yr the must be Korean chilli flakes, also referred to as gochugaru. The flakes are historically constituted of sun-dried chilli with out the seeds. It’s fairly gentle by way of warmth, with a barely candy, fruity and smokey flavour. The flakes have a noticeably vibrant, pink color to them. We season our dishes with it and in addition make a chilli oil, which turns deeply pink.

Nathan Lyons: rooster thighs

Indian chicken curry on black stone background
‘Hen thighs are in a league of their very own in terms of curry.’ {Photograph}: Tatiana Volgutova/Getty Photos/iStockphoto

It must be rooster. Such a flexible meat: bake it, fry it, stir-fry it. It absorbs flavour, it’s one among my favorite components to work with. I exploit the thighs in curries. I’m a curry fanatic and there’s loads of styles of curry – Thai, Japanese, Australian made with Eager’s – I make.

The thighs have extra flavour than the breast, they’re fattier they usually cook dinner higher in curry sauce. The breasts will be good for baking and stir-frying, however rooster thighs are in a league of their very own in terms of curry.

Yvonne C Lam: Knorr liquid seasoning

Toast with avocado on cutting board
Knorr liquid seasoning works wonders on avo on toast. {Photograph}: Vladislav Nosick/Getty Photos/iStock

“A couple of drops of Knorr liquid seasoning will full your dishes with further richness” – so goes the typeset promise on the sauce bottle. And what a promise. Drizzle it on scorching white rice, dot it on just-cracked eggs whereas they’re scorching within the pan, and – the final word “mod Oz” culinary litmus take a look at – it really works wonders with avo on toast.

The condiment takes prime place within the hallowed halls of savoury brown-coloured foodstuffs, the likes of which incorporates soy sauce, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce; the crusty bits of a steak; the wonderful thickness of a very good masoor dal. It helps too that the bottle is available in two novelty sizes – a petite 205ml for picnics and novices, and a gigantor 835ml for many who are severe about enveloping their world in raindrops of this savoury saviour.

Adam James: hakurei

Hakurei turnips
Delicious and crunchy: hakurei turnips. {Photograph}: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Hakurei are a most scrumptious number of Japanese turnip. They’re white, across the measurement of a golf ball and have probably the most delectable crunch. I like to quarter them and throw them in a wok or wood-fired oven with good olive oil. Each the foundation and leaves are edible. With the leaves I usually make “gundruk” – a Nepalese ferment the place you lacto-ferment for per week or two, then sun-dry till they resemble tea leaves. They’re nice sprinkled on salads.

My favorite utility for the roots is in a “perennial pickle mattress” the place they’re pureed with turmeric and garlic. This turns into wealthy in lactobacillus and, in time, you possibly can merely submerge entire greens (within the paste) solely to pluck them out weeks or months later after they’ve reworked into scrumptious, crunchy and acidic pickles.

Rosheen Kaul: fermented tofu

A jar of fermented tofu
‘I like … sneaking slightly spoon straight from the bottle.’ Rosheen Kaul on fermented tofu. {Photograph}: Hong Hanh Mac Thi/Alamy

This can be a beautiful, tender tofu preserved in salt and rice wine, then saved in both oil or vinegar. I personally love the model saved in Sichuan chilli oil, much like miso in its scrumptious texture and saltiness. It’s utilized in braises, marinades, and I find it irresistible as a creamy, umami punch in sauces, or sneaking slightly spoon straight from the bottle.

Paul van Reyk: mushrooms

Mushrooms, carrot and onion
Mushrooms swimsuit such an array of dishes. {Photograph}: Westend61/Getty Photos

My first style of mushroom in Australia have been grey-brown slimy slices, in a grey-brown gravy tipped on to toast. Color and texture however, I used to be hooked on the earthy flavour.

I’ve progressed since then, and these lockdown years I’ve been comforted by Japanese varieties – shiitake, enoki, cloud ear fungus and shimeji – added to a bowl of two-year fermented brown rice miso soup, umami-ed to the max.

Fides Santos-Arguelles: calamansi lime

Calamansi limes
The calamansi tree ‘symbolises the migrant story of my mother and father’ era’ for Fides Santos-Arguelles. {Photograph}: Getty Photos/iStock

These fruit are undervalued of their abundance within the Philippines, however so revered of their shortage by the Filipino diaspora. Like Philippine delicacies, calamansi is comparatively unknown, and never commercially accessible at scale, but. But when the success of yuzu is something to go by, there’s hope. For now, you will see that calamansi timber in backyards of Filipino households or, very hardly ever, at Asian grocers.

  • Fides Santos-Arguelles is the cofounder of Entree.Pinays, an organisation on a mission to advertise Philippine tradition and delicacies

Lina Jebeile: za’atar

Mound of za’atar
Dried za’atar is terrific however when recent additionally has a definite scent and flavour – and shouldn’t be confused with oregano. {Photograph}: Kevin Dutton/Getty Photos

I preserve this lovely spice and herb condiment inside arm’s attain of my stovetop, I exploit it so usually in my cooking. From za’atar man’ooshe (a flatbread with a za’atar and olive oil unfold throughout earlier than baking), to a rub for roast rooster, or sprinkling it on hummus, labneh, eggs or avo on toast, I simply find it irresistible.

Past the spice combine, I can’t go with out mentioning recent za’atar. I’ve been on a mission this yr to get folks conversant in this herb, that’s usually confused with oregano. They do look related and are from the identical household however za’atar has a definite scent and flavour. It’s this herb, dried, that’s the fundamental ingredient within the combine.

I now have a big pot rising in my backyard which I usually use to make a conventional za’atar salad – which is solely the recent leaves, sliced pink onion and an olive oil, lemon juice and sumac dressing.

Radha La Bia: besan flour

A chickpea flour pancake – farinata – in Italy
A chickpea flour pancake. {Photograph}: Anna Quaglia/Alamy

This yr I’ve rediscovered a easy ingredient: besan flour. Also called chickpea flour, it’s used lots in Indian cooking to make pakoras, bhajis and dosas. I’ve been utilizing chickpea flour, in my try to keep away from gluten, and have discovered it so as to add crispness much better than wheat flour. I’ve additionally began including it to my banana breads and cookie doughs, for that further flakiness.

My favorite factor to make with it’s celeriac fritters: a little bit of carom seeds, thinly sliced curry leaves, salt, pepper and slightly little bit of water to bind all of it; then shallow-fry them and serve with a ginger-tamarind pickle. Scrumptious.

Kevin Cheng: cornstarch

Deep-fried tofu
Deep-fried tofu’s crispiness owes lots to cornstarch, a staple of Chinese language cooking. {Photograph}: Olena Mykhaylova RF/Alamy

How do Hong Kong and Chinese language eating places obtain that silky egg (wat dan) texture? And why is the protein in your takeaway Chinese language all the time so tender and velvety? And the way can deep-fried tofu be so crispy? Cornstarch – or cornflour – is likely one of the MVPs of Chinese language cooking.

To name it a shortcut can be an insult to its ingenuity. I’ll by no means have the ability to recreate these basic dishes akin to wat dan hor (rice noodles in silky egg gravy), or to completely marinate low-cost cuts of beef in my beef and broccoli dish in order that it tastes like a dear minimize. However cornstarch has been a revelation, taking my lockdown cooking rattling near the true factor. That’s the great thing about utilizing such an ingredient, and the magnificence and cleverness in Chinese language cooking.

Kevin Cheng is a journalist and cofounder of non-profit group Soul of Chinatown

Gunjan Aylawadi: black chickpeas

Black chickpeas
Versatile and ‘a magic ingredient so as to add to salads and wraps’: black chickpeas. {Photograph}: Burcu Atalay Tankut/Getty Photos

Residing in Australia, I’d nearly forgotten how we added protein and iron in our largely plant-based diets again residence. As a lot as I like my tofu and mushrooms, the concept of them, meal after meal, will get a bit miserable. Black chickpeas have saved the day a number of occasions per week for me, I cook dinner them as soon as and the batch retains on giving.

Excessive in protein and fibre, they’re a magic ingredient so as to add to salads and wraps. I exploit the cooking water (black aquafaba) as inventory for dals and rice, and one sip of this iron-rich liquid gold takes me again residence to the place my mom used to squeeze a lime right into a cup of scorching, salty aquafaba for a fast soup earlier than dinner.

Hisham Al-Bakri: kantan (torch ginger)

Kantan (torch ginger) flowers for sale at a market.
Kantan (torch ginger) flowers on the market at a market. {Photograph}: Ellinnur Bakarudin/Alamy

This herbaceous flower is an ingredient we use in Malaysia lots. Native to Malaysia and Indonesia, you’d discover it within the forest the place it grows actually tall. It’s vibrant pink. It seems nearly like a Waratah.

We solely use the bud – it’s very fragrant. I exploit it in kantan spiced rooster, the place I slice the flower very thinly, combine it with different aromatics and stir-fry it, then I coat deep-fried rooster within the sauce. It’s obtained a piquant flavour; it’s a bit peppery.

It’s my ingredient of the yr as a result of not many individuals comprehend it, however at any time when I describe it, my prospects fall in love with it.

Kym Masters: yuzu

Yuzu on tree
Yuzu is turning into extra accessible in Australia and being utilized in ever extra fascinating methods. {Photograph}: maroke/Getty Photos/iStock

Often I’d choose cheese – it’s the ingredient of the yr yearly, isn’t it? However my secondary ingredient is yuzu. We’ve now obtained some nice growers in Australia, and it’s turning into rather more accessible and utilized in increasingly more fascinating methods.

I had a scrumptious kingfish ceviche at the start of the yr which had a yuzu dressing, at Maxwell Wine. You see some sake and gins that have gotten yuzu, and I’ve additionally had a yuzu cheesecake that was off the charts.

I exploit it to make citrus dressings at residence. I stability it with lemon, as a result of it’s such a robust flavour.

Juan Carlo: maiz (corn)

Hands holding corn cobs
Corn: ‘such a foundational ingredient’ in Mexican cooking. {Photograph}: Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Photos

We opened our restaurant this yr and we’re attempting to showcase Mexican meals, so my ingredient is a reasonably apparent one – corn. It’s such a foundational ingredient. We use a heap of corn: native Australian candy corn and heirloom varieties we now have to import from America. In Mexico, we now have so many types which are all used for various functions, some only for soup, some recent, some for making tortillas, some for popcorn.

I might like to see some heirloom varieties grown in Australia. Having conversations with farmers is subsequent on the record, however as you understand, nature has its personal concepts. It could be a sluggish course of.

Palisa Anderson: honey

Bees on honeycomb
‘It’s like liquid gold,’ Palisa Anderson says of honey. {Photograph}: F1 On-line/Rex Options

What does the world must survive, and hasn’t modified, hasn’t been doctored, in hundreds of thousands of years? Pollination.

My ingredient of the yr is honey. There are such a lot of controversies round honey lately, due to the issues inside our agricultural strategies and the way in which we cotton on to sure fads in our diets. This got here into the general public consciousness round 10 years in the past when the US and Europe have been speaking about bee demise, and that got here to Australia.

We had this fad of nut milks and nuts – it’s a monoculture offering that produce. Bees don’t naturally happen in that surroundings; they should deliver them in. Then they promote their honeys as single-flower honeys, one other fad they’ll market.

The best way we farm, we let all of the pure grasses develop out and flower. Due to all that pure flowering, the honey takes on a extremely fascinating flavour. It’s simply such a pleasure to look at the bees too. Final yr was the primary yr we introduced on European bee packing containers. We obtained 120kg of honey, and I’ve been lathering it on every little thing. This season’s honey tastes like citrus flowers, and the tea tree that was flowering on the time, on the farm throughout the street. It’s like liquid gold, extra helpful than something as a result of it means my bees are thriving – and in the event that they’re thriving, it means we’re not breaking the panorama.

  • Palisa Anderson runs Boon Luck Farm, an natural farm within the Byron Bay space, in addition to Chat Thai eating places round Sydney

Gayle Quarmby: saltbush

Old man saltbush in north-west New South Wales
‘A pioneer plant’: previous man saltbush in north-west New South Wales.

Saltbush can be utilized in so many diversified methods; it’s nice in stir-fries – we learnt that from our good friend Kylie Kwong. Due to the feel, it holds its chew. It doesn’t disappear like western spinach does. It’s additionally obtained nice color; I’m an artist and I like the distinction of the color in a dish. And it may be tempura-ed to be slightly crunchy factor to have with beer. It’s a terrific bar snack. I additionally make bread for my grandchildren and all the time put saltbush in – only for slightly increase of nutritional vitamins.

It additionally connects us to nation and place. It’s about social consciousness round our First Nations communities and their meals. To deliver their meals to our desk is basically related on this time.

Saltbush is a pioneer plant, an excellent regenerator of the land. When you have got land that has been overused, it may be salt that’s the drawback for utilizing that land for agriculture. Saltbush will scavenge salt out of the bottom and alter it into a really helpful mineral for folks’s food plan.

Suci and Santhi Ida Bagus: chicken’s eye chilli

Bird’s eye chilli plant
Scorching, therapeutic and scrumptious: chicken’s eye chilli. {Photograph}: Rafael Ben-Ari/Alamy

A bringer of pleasure and serotonin, we use it in every little thing from our sambals to our marinades to chopped up and added to our home-cooked pasta throughout household dinners, tears streaming down our faces as we provide one another extra chilli! “It’s scorching,” I’d say; “Oath it’s,” my sister would reply … “Extra?” “Ef sure.”

It’s been a scorching yr right here in Melbourne, and by scorching I imply unstable and stuffed with heated feelings. Generally I felt like my stomach was stuffed with chilli as warmth and anger rose in me. What finest to do? Prepare dinner one thing and add some chilli. Therapeutic and scrumptious. Eggs for brekkie whereas residence education my teen and nephew? Positive factor! Facet of chilli? Awww, go on then …

  • Suci and Santhi Ida Bagus run Warung Agus, a Balinese restaurant in West Melbourne

  • What has been your most indispensable ingredient, must-use or finest rediscovery of 2021? Tell us within the feedback and we might publish a number of readers’ favourites

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