“Truth, like oil, always rises to the top.”
I recently went for an olive oil tasting session at Iberica, a Spanish restaurant in Marylebone – which I must say is a wonderful experience to my surprise!
However, when I told some friends in China – they are absolutely horrified! They find the thought of tasting oil revolting. I wouldn’t blame them. In Asian cuisine oil is not suppose to add too much flavour to the food (with an exception of sesame oil as dressing). We commonly use groundnut oil, vegetable oil, or even Rapeseed oil for deep frying – everything else is covered by the strong taste of salted soy source or sweet rice vinegar.
There is no best (olive) oil we were told. The best oil is supposed to be perfectly blended with the food flavour.
First of all we were asked to do blind tasting of six different types of olive oils on its own. Each is a slightly different blend, be it the colour, the smell or the taste. Some can even be quite deceiving! The last type of olive oil I tasted looked rather cloudy with a sweet and nutty aroma, but when I took a tiny sip, the creamy liquid slid down my throat with an explosion at the end – it was spicy?!
We were then moved onto tasting a variety of oils (I cannot remember the three names so I have to describe them with my own feeling instead!)
- mild and creamy
- medium mild with a little grassy aroma
- very strong in terms of the colour (darker) and the taste (‘unripe’ green olive taste to me)
with a selection of dishes served including:
- Gazpacho of red berries, beetroot & anchovies
- Salad of Urgell cheese, pine-nuts & pear
- Octopus gallega with potatoes and vinegar
As a Chinese growing up with East Asian cuisine, I tend to always go for the mildest taste of olive oil, which is the first option. However, as we moved on with the dishes, I have actually decided if I were to buy extra virgin olive oil, I would choose the second option – it worked superb with the seafood – octopus, vinegar and spicy paprika. The olive oil has added an extra layer and created a more balanced flavor.
The Spanish proverb goes “Truth, like oil, always rises to the top.” I wonder if it works the same way with people in different culture – you, as an unique individual, rise above the cultural stereotype. We can also mix well with different cultural environment by making an effort to find the right balance.