"It Has A Bad Rep Because People Don't Know How To Prepare It": 25 Polarizing Foods That Are Undeserving Of All The Hate They Get
"People can be incredibly snobbish about using this ingredient while cooking, but I think it's the perfect balance of flavors."
Some foods suffer from a serious PR problem (I'm looking at you, anchovies). But maybe these polarizing ingredients just aren't getting enough love or attention. Redditor u/CanuckIeHead asked, "Is there an ingredient that you think gets a bad rep but you will always support?" Here are some of the responses.
1. "Spam. I only buy two or three cans a year because it's basically just straight salt and fat, but it's pretty delicious when used right. I love using it in fried rice or cooked until crispy, and served on a sandwich or with eggs."
2. "Yellow mustard. Most recipes call for Grey Poupon, Dijon, or brown mustard, but I find it's amazing how a dab or two of yellow mustard can really brighten up a dish. Part of that is from the vinegar, but I also love the more subtle mustardy, turmeric flavor it imparts."
3. "Tofu! In most Asian cuisines it's eaten alongside meat, not just instead of it. It's also treated, prepared, and enjoyed as its own distinct category of ingredient, not as a meat replacement. There are so many amazing tofu-centric dishes, like Szechuan mapo tofu, Korean sundubu, Japanese agedashi tofu, and more. Unfortunately, often in Western cooking, it gets reduced to some mediocre, bland, faux-meat substitute."
4. "Beef fat and all animal fat in general. Beef fat is perfect for frying and it's really affordable, especially if you buy it from a good butcher. People may say it's bad for you, but I'm not eating french fries to be healthy."
5. "Spiralized zucchini noodles. I think most people associate zoodles with a soggy, tasteless pasta alternatives. I also felt this way, and I used to overcook them so they got all mushy. Now I throw zucchini noodles into a screaming-hot pan just to get some fast color. Once charred, I add basil, olive oil, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and fresh Parmesan. It's the best summer side dish ever."
6. "Fish sauce. It's smelly, I'll admit it, but a dash of this East Asian condiment makes savory dishes taste so much better."
7. "Paprika. Many people don't know all the different types of paprika, like Hungarian hot, Spanish pimenton, smoked, and more. They think it's just a lame condiment restaurants use to add color to mashed potatoes, but it's really such a powerful flavor."
8. "Cottage cheese. I'm definitely not the only one who has felt grossed out by this curdled, soupy food. But as I got older, I realized that cottage cheese is actually pretty good. I really enjoy using it in savory dishes: Try dipping cucumbers into cottage cheese topped with sriracha, or serve it on crackers with smoked salmon and everything bagel seasoning."
9. "Say all you want about ketchup, but I'm a firm believer that this condiment is perfectly acceptable to use as an ingredient in your cooking. It's made up almost entirely of tomatoes, sugar, and vinegar, but people get horrified or extremely snobbish whenever a recipe calls for just using ketchup instead of the base ingredients separately."
10. "Sardines. I held off on this controversial fish for too long. Then one day I tried some on sliced baguette with butter. Oh my god...mmmm!"
11. "MSG is so misunderstood and gets so much hate. So many people put weird ingredients in their food for the glutamates because they're too afraid to write 'MSG' in a recipe. It's just an ingredient like any other, and it makes food taste great."
12. "Garlic paste in a tube. Foodies can be snobby about this convenient product, but it's delicious. I think it's infinitely better than the jarred stuff, so easy to use, and I love it."
13. "Beans. I'm not sure you can say beans get a bad rep, per se, but they are definitely hugely underrepresented despite the fact they are so versatile, cheap, nutritious, and filling."
14. "Gefilte fish. As an American Jew, I realize that this is an acquired taste. Most people hear 'gefilte fish' and immediately look disgusted, but hear me out. Even I would not touch the store-bought gefilte fish that comes in a jar. That stuff is truly disgusting. But homemade gefilte fish is totally different, and anyone who likes seafood will probably enjoy it. My mother makes a baked gefilte fish loaf with whitefish, salmon, plenty of dill, and lemon, topped with lots of horseradish and sliced cucumbers. It's honestly one of my favorite comfort foods."
15. "Truffle oil. I agree that it's easy to overuse this stuff, and you should apply it to dishes sparingly. I also know it doesn't contain real truffles, but I love the flavor...especially on french fries."
16. "Lard. People are turned off by the idea of it, but it's the perfect fat for frying chicken and making pastries and other dishes, like tamales and tortillas. Other fats, like butter and olive oil, just don't add the same flavor."
17. "Serrano peppers. They might not have a bad rep, but they are certainly overshadowed by the jalapeño pepper. As a spicy food lover, I enjoy cooking with serranos because they have really good flavor and heat that mixes well with lots of dishes. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like jalapeños have lost their heat over the last couple of years."
18. "Steamed vegetables, especially green ones like bok choy, broccoli, and spinach. I feel like people went through a big steamed-vegetables phase in the '90s, and then they went way out of fashion. But they aren't necessarily bad. Steamed veggies should be crunchy, not mushy. I always used to cook them for too long, but they don't need any more than five minutes of steaming."
19. "I think shallots are criminally underrated. They add SO much great flavor to sauces, soups, and stews...way more than their cousin the onion. They are great thin-sliced on salad, and of course, they can be fried until crispy for a delicious garnish."
20. "Mayonnaise. Look, I get it. Looking at a big glob of mayonnaise going into your tuna or potato salad is pretty unappealing, but the right amount of mayo is delicious. I exclusively buy Kewpie because it's delightfully tangy and creamy."
21. "Mirin. A lot of Americanized versions of Japanese recipes leave out mirin. Or, even worse, they say to use sugar in its place. I also have a hard time finding mirin at most markets. I have no idea why. Sugar doesn’t cut it, and some recipes just need that distinct mirin flavor profile."
22. "Lentils. Before moving to Europe from the US, I’d really never had a lentils-based dish. Americans are missing out on a lot of versatility and easy nutrition by underestimating and ignoring lentils."
23. "Anchovies. They somehow became the 'stinky fish on pizza,' but anchovies are awesome when used to make salad dressings, mixed into dips, or minced and simmered in sauces. They're little umami bombs, and they're delicious. That said, a little can go a long way with them."
24. "American cheese, aka that 'fake' processed cheese. A lot of folks look down on this stuff and call it an inferior version of 'real' cheese. And sure, you definitely can't use it wherever you'd use a hunk of cheddar or manchego. I'd never put it on a cheese board or use it in lasagna or on pizza. BUT there's no better cheese served on a cheeseburger. It just melts better and tastes amazing."
25. "Iceberg lettuce. There are certainly trendier lettuces out there, but OG iceberg is lovely and crisp in the right situation, like on a burger."
What's a food or ingredient with a polarizing reputation that you actually love? Tell us in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.