Cooking Tips

Kitchen Counsel

Tom Douglas tells us how to boost the flavor quotient in protein-rich dishes.

By Kristin Cordova October 28, 2009

Tom Douglas, thinking about what he and his steamer are making tonight.

On November 15, Dahlia Lounge turns 20. To celebrate Tom Douglas and company are hosting a soirée and, starting soon, prize giveaways. The details are hush-hush, but Douglas did let us in on another fun tidbit: The secret to bringing out the best flavors in protein-rich dishes.

I use my Chinese bamboo steamer a ton. It’s a great way to get at the essence of certain foods, like copper river salmon. You can do a simple steam or add a little soy or a squeeze of lemon to the fish. It’s great for anything really pristine like that. Spot prawns with a splash of ginger juice are great, too. When you cook it like that, you really get what that food is about.

To add a layer of depth, you can put things like a slice of onion or a stalk of lemongrass into the water to make an aromatic steam that infuses whatever you’re cooking. Bamboo emits a flavor itself, kind of like how oak affects wine. There is an essence that comes out with the heat and moisture that brings out great flavors in your protein.

You can find bamboo steamers for about $15–$20 at places like Viet Wah and Uwajimaya down in Chinatown. I use one from my Tom Douglas line on You also need a plate with a well that will fit inside the steamer to collect the juices and not let them drip into the water—even a pie plate can work. Your steamer needs to be large enough to fit the plate and still leave room for steam to rise around its sides.

See what else has Seattle’s culinary cognoscenti buzzing HERE.

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