The Flavor Star
If you have the chance to venture into Petra’s kitchen, you will undoubtedly smell the aroma of the traditional Mexican spices such as Garlic, Oregano, Cumin and Chile Powder. We have all spent time sprinkling these delicious flavors onto pieces of chicken or pork or into a delicious Petra’s delicious tortilla soup.
Petra combines all these different flavors to produce a delicious balance on our taste buds but you may ask yourself, how do flavors and spices work together to make such goodness.
Well, let’s review the basic flavors we have to work with. Until 2002, scientists (yes scientists…cooking is scientific) only recognized four “official” tastes: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. Then in 2002, umami was named the fifth flavor. Umami is hard to describe but for simplicity sake, we are lumping it with salty because it corresponds to the flavor of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate.
The Flavor Star
Now for the secret: The Flavor Star is the key to balance in any dish; it shows how the five flavors work together to balance and enhance each other.
If a flavor balances another flavor, it means it offsets or counteracts that flavor to reach a more pleasant taste. For example, spice balances sweet and sweet balances spice. This is why Mexican hot chocolate is sprinkled with a pinch of cayenne pepper, the spice works with the sweet to achieve a more dynamic flavor.
For example, if you ever prepared a dish that is too spicy, you can balance the heat by adding a bit of your preferred sweetener.
Over the years, Petra played with all the spices to achieve balance and to amplify certain flavors to create the dishes we all cherish every day.