Re: [CH] sensory remapping

The Old Bear (
Sat, 16 May 1998 13:00:06 -0400

In Chile-Heads Digest, v.4 #419, J. B. Cattley wrote:

>Date: Sat, 16 May 1998 03:02:00 +1000
>From: "J. B. Cattley" <>
>Subject: [CH] sensory remapping
>You're pretty much all cooks out there, and flavours are obviously
>preeminent, so I'll ask a weird question:
>Anyone else out there cook by shape? Hard to explain, but I sort of 
>remap flavours to a spatial context to do additive/subtractive 
>manipulations on them.  Different flavours fit in different 
>places/directions, and if you know what I mean, you know what I mean.
>In other words, when the curry sticks out equally in all directions, 
>it's done.  This is, I have just realised, why I don't much care for 
>Thai: the lemongrass just doesn't interlock with the other flavours, 
>but sort of rides over the top.
>I am not synaesthetic, as it doesn't boil down to an actual concrete
>sensation, it just seems to be a convenient sensory algebra, IYSWIM.

On a similar topic, I recently wrote to the Chile-Heads list:

  "A few months ago I read an article about an 'electronic nose' 
  which had been developed -- like what a microphone is to hearing 
  and a camera is to sight.  Although this might be a step toward 
  'smellovision' (and, yes, I know, much of what's on TV already 
  stinks), its real application is in the food and cosmetic flavor 
  and fragrance industry.

  "The article explained that the 'electronic nose' had 
  chromotographic sensors for over a thousand common organic and 
  inorganic compounds to which the human nose was sensitive.  The 
  signals generated by each of these sensors were fed to a 
  computer which mapped the information to a graphic display 
  consisting of a mosaic of pixels which would change color and 
  brightness depending upon which compounds were being detected.

  "The mosaic was somewhat analogous to the taste and olfactory 
  system, with, for example, certain compounds stimulating the 
  'back of the tongue' or the upper nose or lingering on the 

  "This device produced a unique and identifiable visual signature 
  for virtually all recognizable smells.

  "Interestingly, the while the system would let a skilled operator 
  recognize patterns which were unpleasant versus pleasant, it did 
  not easily allow one to 'design' fragrances -- i.e., create a 
  visual 'painting' and then translate it into a predicatable 
  designer scent.

  "The practical application of this device is in production lines 
  for products like liquid soaps and household products where it can 
  quickly recognize a departure from the correct scent formulation 
  and alert the operator to correct the problem."

Sounds to me like you're doing pretty much the same kind of thing, 
by mapping flavors and aromas into a 3-dimensional pattern which 
you can mentally manipulate.

This is a very interesting junction between cognitive psychology, 
psycho-chemistry, and mathematical analysis of seemingly chaotic 

In the case of particularly spicy foods, it has the additional 
factor of extracting a subtle signal in the presence of a great 
noise -- the basic capsaicin being the great noise.  I recall that 
someone recently wrote a seminal article of how fish hear sounds 
which classic information theory would predict as impossibly lost 
in the background noise of the ocean.  Do we have the makings of 
a thesis here -- or maybe just a good tom yaam goong?
The Old Bear


     1/2 pound  shrimp
       4 cups   water
       1 stalk  fresh lemon grass, sliced
       1 can    straw mushrooms (8 oz.), drained
       2        kaffir lime leaves
  1 to 4 Tbsp   fish sauce
     1/4 cup    fresh lime juice
       2 Tbsp   slice green onions
       1 Tbsp   chopped Chinese parsley
  1 to 4        red chili peppers, seeded and chopped
                  (or 1/2 tsp red chili paste)

Garnish:      Chinese parsley sprigs

Devein shrimp; leave shells on for color, if desired.  Bring water 
to a boil.  Add lemon grass, straw mushrooms and kaffir lime leaves; 
immediately reduce heat to medium-low.  Add shrimp and cook for 
3 minutes; stir in fish sauce and lime juince.  Sprinkle with green 
onions.  Chinese parsley and red chili peppers, if desired.  Serve 
hot.  Garnish with Chinese parsley sprigs.  Makes 4 servings.

Note: Fresh mushroom can be substituted for hte canned mushrooms, but 
add at end of cooking time.

(This is the most popular soup served at Keo's, the well-known gourmet 
Thai restaurant in Honolulu.)

source: Keo's Thai Cuisine 
        by Keo Sananikone 


       1 pound   shrimp, medium size - about 26/pound  
                   (preferably with heads)
       4 stalks  fresh lemongrass, with the outer leaves 
                   discarded and root ends trimmed
       6 cups    water
     1/4 cup     coriander roots and/or stems, well-washed 
                   and finely chopped 
     1/2 tsp     salt (or to taste)
     1/2 tsp     black pepper, freshly ground 
  1-inch cube    fresh gingerroot, peeled and cut into 
                   fine julienne strips
     1/4 cup     Asian fish sauce (preferably Naam Pla)
     1/4 cup     fresh lime juice
       1 small   fresh red or green Thai chili or serrano chili, 
                   or to taste, seeded and sliced very thin

Garnish:         fresh coriander leaves, thinly sliced kaffir lime 
                    leaves, and small fresh red Thai chilies for 
                    garnish if desired

Rinse shrimp well and shell, reserving shell and heads.

Cut 3 lemongrass stalks into 1-inch sections and crush lightly with 
flat side of a heavy knife. In a saucepan combine crushed lemongrass 
with reserved shrimp shells and heads, water, coriander roots, salt, 
and pepper and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes.  Strain broth through 
a fine sieve into another saucepan. 

Thinly slice lower 6 inches of remaining lemongrass stalk, discarding 
remainder of stalk, and combine with broth and gingerroot.  Simmer 
broth 5 minutes.  Add shrimp and simmer 1 minute, or until shrimp are 
just firm to touch.  Stir in fish sauce, lime juice, and sliced chili.

Serve soup warm or at room temperature, garnished with coriander 
leaves, lime leaves, and chilies.  Makes about 6 cups.

Note:  This soup as a version of the classic "Tom Yaam Goong."  In its 
homeland this soup would have far more hot chilies.  The above version 
has been toned down by Gourmet Magazine to appeal to newcomers to Thai 
cuisine, but veterans can add more chilies to make this soup as 
incendiary as they wish.

source: Gourmet Magazine
        June 1994