I’m not sure how secret this is but when I make cheese sauce I always put some Cayenne Pepper in it. Just enough to sharpen the flavor.
PSA - Replying to the idea of “peanut” tofu scallops, as someone with a serious peanut allergic child, I would caution everyone to NEVER use one of the common allergens as a hidden or “surprise” ingredient.
I didn’t say to make it for someone with a peanut allergy. But the “tofu” could be made with something else other than peanut powder.
The “scallops” are actually mushrooms.
My Mexican experiment wasn’t great, so I may make Shan tofu (chickpea powder based). Anyone work with the stuff, and would it disintegrate if cooked in a sauce? Cold, dressed in homemade chili oil that people would think contains a secret ingredient, it would be fine to bring, but I may try to make Mapo Shan tofu.
@sasha , I didn’t say it in the OP, but this gathering is among adult friends and we’re aware of each other’s allergies and preferences. But, yikes—- this is a vegetarian event so I don’t have to worry, but I just remembered i forgot to announce that I’m allergic to insects people sometimes eat!).
MSG. Accent was used a lot years ago before MSG was a dirty word and hordes of people suddenly had a massive reaction to consuming a micron of the stuff
Ok - I gotta know - which insect???!!!
Crickets and ants. Ants I once ate covered in chocolate, and learned to avoid, but later ate accidentally as a contaminant.
In the SFBA, I’ve seen cricket flour products and there also these guys
You could pan-fry it first to form a slight crust so it doesn’t disintegrate. Or deep fry the chunks like they do with tofu in some preparations.
I don’t know your friends’ familiarly with chickpea flour, but I can definitely taste it (re “secret”), especially in a chunky form.
Thanks again for all the suggestions, and to @Presunto for suggesting an alternative tofu. The texture and look of the Shan tofu was closer to polenta than tofu and, @Saregama, you are absolutely right, the taste is undeniably chickpea! To limit any chickpea aroma, I served it at room temperature, topped with a sauce laced with lots of homemade chili oil. The power of suggestion bought me around a minute before someone identified it as chickpea tofu :-), and it tasted great!
Nice! I’m inspired. Have a go at making sesame “tofu” next time, maybe? In Japan they use “kudzu” starch to thicken sesame tofu but I can’t find it here, unfortunately. Not sure if I could use another starch instead.
Peanut tofu I had in Okinawa.
I like sesame/goma “tofu” more. Ate it at my temple lodging in Koyasan.
Again in the blue bowls. Btw, the whole meal is vegetarian.
More about Japanese vegetarian food Shojin Ryori.
Yum!!! Very impressive!
It wasn’t clear from your posting. But the OP was asking for surprise ingredients that she could put in something that would have people guessing. I can see now that she’s responded, that the group knows each others dietary restrictions and allergies. But as an allergy mom of an anaphylactic kid, I’d hope you would give me some slack when I react strongly to “surprising” anyone with peanut anything. It shouldn’t even be considered.