Ingredients that chefs have but hate to cook

By Sheere Ng - Friday, May 04, 2012

A food lover gets to choose what to cook based on what he or she likes to eat, but not chefs. They too have preferences but it is their job to cook something pleasing even if it is out of ingredients that they dislike. One chef admits that he has a phobia of cinnamon, another has a fear of durian, and one Indian chef says he has grown tired of the taste of an onion even though he cooks everything with it! Does any ingredient turn you off? Tell us in the comments.


These red hot chillies are divine essentials of many kitchens. With seeds they turn up the heat of the dish, but when deseeded they add a refreshing, citrusy flavour, which Chef Eric Teo loves. While he likes the flavour of it, he hates working with it. He says deseeding and chopping kilos after kilos of chilli is tedious and it’s not funny when he rubs his eyes with his hand, or worse, go to the toilet


Chef Chris Hooi of Dragon Pheonix cannot stand the smell of cinnamon even though he uses it everyday to braise dishes. It irritates his nose more than pepper powder does. He even has an irrational fear of the smell transferring to the other food through his hands; therefore, he washes his hands immediately after handling the spice.


Chef Susur Lee of Chinois used to dislike working with kaffir lime because it yields very little juice and to make matters worse, it taste bitter. He liked the skin much better. Instead of banning the fruit in his kitchen, he discovered that the bitter juice actually brings out the sweetness of other acidic fruits. One dish that he has worked magic on with kaffir lime juice is Pomelo and Duck Salad.


It does not mean that if you are an Indian chef, you are naturally drawn to onions. Chef Manjunath Mural of Song of India is tired of the taste, probably because onion is the basis of almost everything in Indian cuisine and too much of his time is spent on peeling and chopping them. He adds that they make his hands smelly too. Anyway, one way he uses to remove the smell of onion is to dip his hands in a bowl of lemon juice for a couple of minutes.


If there’s one thing foreign-born chefs tend to shun, it has to be durian. You either love or hate that pungent, gas-leak-like kind of smell. Chef Ku Keung of Conrads Golden Peony falls in the second group. Unfortunately for him, the previous restaurant that he worked for was popular for its durian pancake. For three years he wore a mask when he prepared the snack. Today, the smell no longer put him off, but the taste still takes some getting used to.