The idea to write this post came when I was slicing the onion and garlic in the kitchen as part of my daily cooking ritual. While looking at these two most essential cooking ingredients, the Onion and the Garlic remind me of the Indonesian version of a ‘Cinderella-type-of-story’.
In my country, the Onion and the Garlic or ‘Bawang Merah & Bawang Putih’ are not just known as the most essential cooking ingredients but also one of the famous Indonesian folktales, passed down orally through the generations. Like most folktales, the story is laden with lessons regarding family values, patience in the face of adversity, and that ultimately good will be rewarded and the evil will be punished.
The story centers on a pair of half-sisters named Bawang Merah and Bawang Putih. Bawang Merah, literally means red onion, is the Indonesian name for shallot while Bawang Putih, literally means white onion, is the Indonesian name for garlic. The use of these names for the female protagonist and her antagonist is symbolic of their physical similarity (both girls are beautiful) but have completely different personalities. Bawang Putih is the good and kind daughter, while Bawang Merah is the cruel and vindictive one.
This story was made into a movie back in 1953 and then again in 2007 as a serial TV film. If you are interested to read more on the story of Bawang Merah and Bawang Putih, perhaps you may visit the following blog sites:
Why Onion and Garlic ?
Onion and Garlic have the amazing ability of enhancing our cooking to a very large extend. They work equally well when combined together in a dish or when used separately or individually in different dishes. Therefore, we almost always find onion and garlic in different recipes from all over the world.
The onion (Allium cepa), also known as the bulb onion, and common onion. is the most widely cultivated species of the genus Allium The genus Allium also contains a number of other species variously referred to as onions and cultivated for food. In my country, it is more common to use Shallot than Onion. The Latin name for shallot is Allium ascalonicum, a derivative of the city name Ashkelon in ancient Canaan. In Australia, the term “shallot” can also refer to scallions.
The garlic (Allium sativum) is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent seasoning in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It has been used throughout its history for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
Cutting into an onion will break open its’ cells releasing noxious sulfur fumes. When this gas hits our eyes, the tears start flowing. This is due to the mild sulfuric acid that is produced when the gas dissolves in the watery tears. We react to this eye stinging by blinking and producing even more tears which will eventually flush out the irritating acid. Please resist the urge to rub our eyes, especially if we have onion juices all over .
How to avoid the tears
Here are a few tips to avoid the tears when slicing onions or shallots:
- Wash an onion after the first cut.
- Cut under cold running water.
- Heat the onions before chopping.
- Peel and then chill the onions in the refrigerator (1 hour) or freezer (15 minutes) before chopping
Garlic… Perfectly Pungent
Garlic is an extremely popular condiment and medicinal herb with a wide range of therapeutic uses but with a unique, very strong flavor that’s not for everyone. Cooks know there’s a huge difference between raw and cooked garlic. If you’ve ever gnawed on the raw form, you know it too. What a bite. When cooked, it is mellower. Raw garlic is full of sulfurous compounds, including a chemical called alliin. When a clove is bruised, chopped, or crushed, the alliin is quickly converted to a chemical known as allicin. That’s the stuff that makes raw garlic pungent. It actually activates two human proteins, called TRPV1 and TRPA1, that interact with pain-sensing neurons in your mouth. But when the garlic is cooked, the allicin is converted into other sulfur molecules.
Crispy Fried Shallots and Fried Garlic
I love to keep stock of fried shallots and/or fried garlic in my kitchen. Often I just buy ready-made fried shallots and fried garlic from supermarket. Recently, I even found a special vendor for spicy fried shallots and garlic.
These crispy shallots or garlic are delicious garnish to enhance just about every dish. They will keep 3-4 weeks in an airtight container, so it is worth making a large quantity.
Here is the recipe :
- 30 shallots or 30 cloves garlic
- 1 cup (250 ml) oil
- Peel and thinly slice the shallots or garlic , then pat dry with paper towel.
- Heat the oil in a work over medium low heat and stir-fry the sliced shallot or garlic until golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes (*)
- Allow to cool completely, then store in an airtight container.
- Reserve the shallot or garlic oil for frying or seasoning other dishes
(*) note: You may need to fry the shallots or garlic in batches as they cook best if they are in a single layer.