Every Chef loves to have the flavours of their dishes appreciated for how exactly they prepared them.
However, when people dine on various dishes at a time or one after the other, flavours tend to get muddled. This is why palate cleansers are either eaten or sipped to remove lingering aftertastes.
What is a palate cleanser?
A palate cleanser can be any food or beverage with a neutral flavour that removes food residue from the tongue. Something a bright, clean flavour with minimal aftertaste works too.
The palate is located at the roof of the mouth. It works with the nose and tongue to determine taste. When we consume intensely flavoured food and drinks, our sense of taste can be altered when this area is overwhelmed.
The tongue can adequately assess a new flavour when a palate cleanser is taken between dishes or drinks. Consider rebooting the tongue sensory buds to detect subtle flavour differences. Palate cleansers are often used between tasting wine or cheese, where the determination of the depth of flavour can be very subtle.
Are palate cleansers a new thing?
On the contrary, palate cleansers have long been a part of the dining experience. The French came with the name as these palate cleansers are an essential part of their cuisine. Some cultures that prefer intense flavours consider palate cleansers an essential companion to the main dishes. Food or beverage are served between courses as preparation for the next course or between bites, such as in sushi restaurants where pickled ginger is served between bites of raw fish.
In the kitchen, Chefs make do with palate cleansers to help them properly taste the food as they cook.
RELATED READ: How Do Chefs Balance The Flavour Elements In Cooking?
Here are some classic examples of palate cleansers:
- Water – is the easiest way to wash flavours off the tongue. Some consider that water should be unflavoured and not carbonated to get the full effect. However, fizzy water can be perfect for either drinking or rinsing the mouth area. The bubbles stimulate the tongue and make it more receptive to new flavours. At the same time, lightly flavoured citrus variety can sharpen the palate, which is why some restaurants add a wedge of lemon. When eating spicy foods, water may be the least effective in reducing the heat in the mouth since it will spread the spicy oil around the mouth.
- Sorbet – Sorbets are cold, light flavoured treats and the ones best for palate cleansing are made without sweeteners. They are typically made with citrusy flavours. This is because the sour notes of lemon, grapefruit, lime and cucumber neutralize lingering flavours. Because sorbets are light and refreshing, they are an ideal follow-up to rich and fatty foods.
- Clean Plain Crackers – Unsalted or water crackers are best for salty meals.
- Tortilla chips – work best with spicy food as they absorb the capsaicin oil. Notice that salsa is always served with tortilla chips.
- White Bread – The starchy texture of white bread is popular with wine and cheese tasters for its ability to absorb previous flavours.
- Dark chocolate – Dark chocolate can be eaten between each taste of wine or bite of food to ensure the flavours aren’t blending on your taste buds.
- Fruit and vegetables: Raw fruits or veggies, particularly celery, can be great accompaniments to a rich, flavorful meal. The natural acids in apples refresh and sharpen the palate, which makes apples a great addition to a cheeseboard.
- Herbs – Herbs have a strong, refreshing flavour that can jolt the taste buds in preparation for new flavours. Consider a sprig of parsley or a peppermint leaf to a glass of drinking water, or as a garnish on lemon sorbet, or serve them alone.
- Beer or Margaritas – works best with spicy food as the acids in alcohol or citrus can also help cut the oil.
- Milk – contains a protein called casein, which can break down capsaicin, the spicy chemical content found in chilis. Drinking milk after a spicy meal can minimize the burning sensation, enabling diners to appreciate the foods that come afterwards.
- Pickled ginger – Thin strips of ginger pickled in vinegar is an excellent palate cleanser. These are typically served with Japanese food, mainly when raw fish, rice and seaweed are served,
How are palate cleansers served?
Palate cleansers often consist of just a few mouthfuls. Therefore they are smaller than an entire dish.
Since sorbets and sherbets don’t have the high-fat content of ice cream, remove them from the freezer for at least 5 minutes before serving to soften up a bit, making them easier to scoop.
Palate cleansers play an invaluable role in food appreciation. They provide a temporary respite from intensely flavoured foods and wipe the slate clean, so to speak, for tastebuds to assess new flavours. Skilled Chefs get creative with their menus with their knowledge of how flavours interact with each other.
And if you are based in Perth and Western Australia and looking for skilled Chefs to fill in or for a permanent hire, look no further. Give us a call at Anytime Chefs!
That’s it for this week.
As always, Professional Chefs on Call at Anytime!
Ciao for now,