A little dark chocolate and red wine may be good for you, but an exclusive diet of either wouldn’t be healthy. The same with cooking oil. From exotic edible oils to the common varieties, it makes sense to have fun experimenting with different types. With the understanding, of course, that some may be healthier than others.
In her special feature in Malaysia’s The Daily Star, writer Monica Islam shared her culinary perspective on what she called, “the kitchen’s life blood”. Many Americans may not have heard of mustard oil, but you might want to try it when preparing Indian cuisine. Islam writes that it is a sharp-testing, traditional ingredient in North and East India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. She cautions that, “due to its composition, mustard oil, especially expressed/fatty oil of mustard, should be consumed in moderation.”
Islam next describes palm oil, as a core cooking ingredient in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia) as well as parts of South America including Brazil. Malaysian cuisine is among the top trending flavors for 2014. Sustainable Malaysian palm oil is known for its long shelf life, and as a rich source of vitamin E. She says that research suggests that moderate consumption of palm oil helps to “avoid an increased risk of developing heart diseases.” Because of its neutral flavor and ability to handle high heat, palm oil lends itself to a multitude of cuisines, but especially Asian and even Italian.
Other oils she reviews include:
Olive oil: A Mediterranean staple, olive oil is suited for drizzling over uncooked dishes. Islam suggests that it can also be used in marinades and dips.
Sunflower oil: Because it originated in the Russian empire, sunflower oil lends itself to Russian or Ukrainian dishes.
Soybean oil: This flavor-neutral oil is consumed by many people in Bangladesh.
Canola oil: You probably have a bottle of this in the kitchen right now. It originated in Canada. While it’s an American kitchen staple, Islam warned that when over-heated, it “has a tendency to emit toxins as well as smoke that is associate with lung cancer.” She added that, “It becomes stale quickly.”
So what cooking oil will you be using to prepare dinner tonight? If you want to use a healthy oil and minimize your time in the kitchen, consider one of the recipes found in Back to Basics, a cookbook that calls for Malaysian red palm oil in each dish.