Foundations Of Food

At the heart of each country’s signature dish is a trinity of ingredients and must-have utensils that have shaped the very beginning of a nation's cuisine, memorable meals that continue to capture taste buds across the world.

Picture your favourite dish and that furtive first memory sparks a high-speed mini movie in your mind. The preparing, the cooking and the serving of that tasty memory all adds to the flavour of the colourful cinematic experience that fills your brain.

It’s not just the taste that colours that happy memory; it’s the warmth of the setting and the conviviality of that family favourite recipe which will be served in the same dish or ground to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar that has been handed down through generations.

Olfactory memories are the most powerful of all, a sensory bibliography of life’s most unforgettable events — and reminiscences of foreign explorations are no different. The lasting memory of any holiday long after the suntan has faded and the pictures have been downloaded is one of smell. Close your eyes and remember the last time you stepped foot in Thailand and the evocative aromas of basil and lime will come to mind. Think of China and the sticky sweetness of a steaming wok fills the air, edged by an insolent spiciness of white pepper that assails the senses as keenly in your memory as if you were still there.

At the heart of many of the world’s most favourite dishes there is a trinity of ingredients, a tantalising trio on which the basic flavour of memory is founded, whether that’s in the Caribbean or Vietnam.

 

This basic foundation on which a nation’s savoury cuisine is built is universally known as mirepoix — the French word for a diced mixture of vegetables, which is sautéed to add a full depth of flavour to a dish. In a classic mirepoix these rough cuts come from diced celery, carrots and onions, which when combined with heat and a generous slug of verdantly green olive oil are the very foundations of flavour for a rich heritage of dishes across so many nations. Mirepoix has no specific meaning. Disappointingly it’s not the romantic French for finely chopped treasures or foundations of food but instead was named after the Duc de Mirepoix, by his chef (who remains nameless) in the 1700s. Although this foundation stone of flavoursome depth was certain to have been used years before, it was only around this time that it was given a name. The ratio for a true mirepoix is 2:1:1 of onion, celery and carrots. These vegetable foundations are often referred to as humble beginnings.

In Germany suppengrün uses carrot, celeriac and leek while the Italian soffritto starts exactly the same as its French relative, not to be confused with the Spanish soffritto, a heady dice of garlic, onion and tomato.

Similarly, most other cuisines feature their own local trinity, which follow the same ratios and add an unmistakable local flavour to the rich cuisine, as you will find all across the Banyan Tree network.

 

A new destination offers the chance to try out new dishes: