I've been cooking for as long as I can remember. Indian food. I grew up in my family's Indian restaurants and learned a lot along the way.
One of the biggest things my mom taught me was how to taste. It might seem like nothing big, but being able to taste something and knowing its balance is the biggest tool to anyone who wants to cook.
An amazing recipe can be completely messed up by having a heavy hand with salt, or acidity or sweetness. Any type of flavor can easily overpower a palate and ruin the flavor of any dish.
This past weekend, we celebrated my first Father's Day as my step-daughter's father and went camping. At the campsite, I made my wife and daughter's favorite dish that I make, Rajma. By premixing the spices I needed to take, I was about to make the "tardka" and then add everything I needed to the dish to make it. I forgot the ginger, and the garlic though, and I could tell. My wife could as well, but my daughter could not.
Personally, I think one of the best way to ensure you have a successful Indian dish is to taste the dish several times, once right after the "tardka" is made, once after adding all the ingredients, and lastly when it's ready to serve.
Each and every dish has a level of balance that is required. Salt, fat, acidity, sweetness. Tipping one profile over another can make or break a dish. That's why we add things like salt to desserts, and acid to dishes that seem a little fatty. We are always in search of the best balanced dish. The one that makes our mouth and taste buds experience euphoria.
Morale of the story, taste, taste, taste! Oh yeah, and taste!