Monday, March 5, 2007

Vegetable Oil is the SUXXORS

I have been handling myself all right since the departure of World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking -- I've made a few recipes from memory and a few by feel, and of course my favorite shorvedar shaljam (which is actually in Quick and Easy Indian Cooking, which I own).

Of greater concern is this whole vegetable oil thing. I guess I always thought that oil was oil, and its job was to lubricate things (namely, the bottoms of frying pans). But my well-intentioned "moment of frugality" choice to purchase generic vegetable oil instead of olive oil has had strange and unforeseen consequences.

Everything I cook now tastes a little bit greasy, even when I halve the amount of oil required. In fact, when I opened my little container of cheese vali gobi (from Climbing the Mango Trees) this afternoon, I was greeted by a cheery red film of oil and tomato bits which had decided to rise to the top.

Obviously I need to go buy olive oil, and fast. But why should there be this much difference between the two oils? Is it a chemistry thing? Is it because the olive oil I had before was "pure" and the vegetable oil I've got now is probably chock-full of lab-created filler?

What's the cause, and what do I do with half a bottle of generic vegetable oil?


Ennis said...

Actually, you're better off with what you have. Olive oil has a taste which doesn't go with Indian cooking. Personally, I prefer canola oil b/c it has almost no taste at all.

About that oily film? Probably use less oil than you are. Either that or skim it off the top / blot it once you're done. You see that oiliness in Indian restaurants all the time, although rarely in homecooking so I suspect that dialing it down will be sufficient.

Daniel said...

I've never tried to cook Indian, nor do I know much about their use of olive oil.

What I can tell you, though, is that olive oil is commonly used in Italian food. It adds an amazing flavor, especially when paired with garlic, pepper, or oregano. Using vegetable oil as a replacement for olive oil is a big no-no. They don't taste the same, have the same consistency, or work the same. Why? It does have to do w/ chemistry--although I'm not sure of the specifics. They contain different components. It's as simple as that.

I'm surprised that "olive" oil is used in Indian food. I mean, do olives grow in India? Weird!

Oh...and one last thing: you can fry things in your vegetable oil--like rice, beans, or potatoes--to make an amazing mexican meal. If you need recipies/instructions, lemme know. :) Learning to cook from my vegetarian/Mexican/Texan/Jewish boyfriend has taught me much. :)

Good luck!

sred said...

actually we use olive oil alot in our cooking. Its been a whie since we have used vegetable oil for the same reasons you mentioned. And for a while we were using peanut oil. I dont know why vegetable oil clumps like it does but i would stick with olive oil.

Ennis said...

I'm just gonna keep disagreeing here. Oil congeals in the fridge, but any kind of oil does that. And no oil should have lab filler in it. Different oils have do have different tastes, which is why I suggested canola oil, but olive oil will have more taste not less.

Blue said...

Hmmm... this is fun. ^__^

It'll eventually come down to price -- is canola oil cheaper than olive? (Probably; everything seems to be cheaper than olive oil.)

I won't have a chance to test it out until after my spring break, because I will be out of town, but I'll let y'all know what I discover.

Daniel said...

One other thing...

If you're using olive oil, you want "extra virgin." Yes, it's more expensive. But, the flavor! Oh, it's so worth it.

Olive oil is quite if you need the $11.95, I can send it to you or something.

John said...

It's likely that the oil you're having trouble with is the mass-produced, solvent-extracted kind, especially if it's in a big bottle labelled "VEGETABLE OIL". I avoid this stuff like the plague, and have never seen the oil slick after refrigerating that you mention. It could be a by-product of the scary scary chemical extraction process; this stuff is the farthest thing possible from natural.

See here for some info on oil extraction methods. Yes, "solvent extraction" really does mean they use a chemical solvent (usually petroleum-based like hexane, mmmm) to get the oil from the crushed seeds. They do try to clean up the hexane afterwards, but come on, they expect this stuff to be edible after all this?

What you want is expeller (cold-)pressed vegetable oil. As someone else mentioned, canola oil is very light, both on taste and in terms of fat content. Get the good kind from a health food store or any grocery store which sells organic and/or natural foods.

Here's another article which goes into more detail about the good versus bad in vegetable oils.

Anonymous said...


Like Ennis said, just decrease drastically reduce the amt. of oil called for in the recipe. We use sunflower oil now for Indian cooking, I don't like the smell/taste of olive oil in Indian food. As a poor grad student, I used only the cheapest kind of oil - which was, invariably, vegetable oil - and it worked fine, I never noticed any extra oiliness to it. We switched to sunflower oil only because it is supposedly healthier.