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Sugar — along with salt and fat — make food taste delicious. Sugar balances the tastes of salt and sour and hot. Sugar is not only for dessert; caramelizing the sugars in savory food makes the dish taste better. My goal is to eat the most delicious foods possible.

Sugar is a necessity in these savory foods:

  • Sugar cuts the acid taste in tomato sauce or tomato salsas.
  • Sugar brings together the salt and spice in a dry rub for meats and helps to caramelize the meat.
  • Sugar balances the heat of chile peppers. If a dish is too spicy, add a little sugar to take off the edge.
  • Like salt, sugar can be used to pull out the excess water in raw foods to concentrate the flavors.
  • Sugar is essential in curing foods, such as fish, pork, duck, and beef.
  • Equal parts of sugar and vinegar in sauces and chutneys produce irresistible sweet and tangy concoctions, such as agrodolce sauce or sushi rice.
  • Sugar makes yeast grow and results in a better loaf of bread.
  • Sugar takes the edge off of bitter foods, such as arugula, kale, endive, and citrus.

Unfortunately, the food police are attacking sugar. Makes me long for my favorite sweet-and-spicy Asian noodle dish. The caramelized sugar in the sauce is the key to this delicious bowl of noodles. If desired, cooked chicken or tofu or eggplant can be added to the noodles to make a complete meal.

Sweet-and-Spicy Noodles

1 pound soba or udon noodles

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 teaspoon Sambal oelek (chile paste)

1/3 cup minced ginger

1 cup chicken stock

¼ cup fish sauce

chopped green onions for garnish

chopped cilantro for garnish

Boil the noodles until tender, about 5-7 minutes, and drain. In a wok, combine the sugar with ½ cup water and bring to a boil. Cook until caramelized, then add the chicken stock. Add the garlic and ginger. Add the chile paste and fish sauce. Stir in the noodles. Garnish with green onions and cilantro to taste.