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With regard to Asian recipes, is there a product or spice I can use to obtain the flavoring of sesame or peanut without having to use the fatty oil?
There are a number of alternatives. Using a smaller amount of the oil in a given recipe may work. So many Asian dishes have more oil than needed.
If sesame oil is used primarily for flavoring and not essential to the recipe, but you want the flavor, try using sesame seeds themselves. Toasting the seeds will bring out their flavor and you can use less. This works well with peanuts as well (since there is not much peanut flavor in peanut oil).
With the sesame seeds or peanuts place them in a hot non-stick skillet and cook over high heat. Careful to shake the pan often and watch the timing because the seed will burn easily. As they toast the flavor is intensified and you won't need to use as many seeds or nuts for the same flavor.
The Napa Cabbage salad on my web site is an example of this.
I chose to use canola oil because the flavor of the sesame oil would be too intense and I like the health qualities of this oil. The sesame seeds and almonds are toasted.
Sesame oil is also found in "light" and "dark" oil. The latter is made with toasted sesame seeds (which intensifies the flavor as noted above). Sesame oil is lower in saturated fat but using 1:1 ratio of canola to dark sesame oil may give you the desired effect.
Thanks for writing,
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP