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I recently learned that if you put a bit of sodium bicarbonate on onion when frying it, the onion will literally melt away. This is absolutely amazing, and I love that trick.

But I tried it now when I was cooking some tomato sauce, and while the mouthfeel was incredibly creaming (as opposed to a bit chewy when I do without), there was a clear and ever present sensation of the baking soda at the back of my throat.

Is it just because I've put too much baking soda (about half a teaspoon for one small-medium onion, and also two and a half plum tomatoes that came in shortly thereafter), or is there something else to do to resolve this without changing the intended flavor profile too much? (I don't want to add vinegar, for example, if that causes the sauce to taste like vinegar)

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    I think you added too much - less than 1/4 tsp can tenderize a couple hundred grams of beef, so you probably need much less. Unfortunately I don't have any numbers on how much per weight, so it would have to be trial and error. – bob1 Mar 15 at 20:40
  • Oh, I didn't know that it's really that effective. I'll try next time with a pinch instead. – Ink blot Mar 16 at 10:56
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You cannot remove a flavor that's been added to a dish once. There are very few exceptions to this, and I would say this isn't one of the exceptions.

You will find people telling you that baking soda is neutralized by acids. While chemically, baking soda can react with an acid, I would say that this won't help you here:

  • baking powder is a combination of baking soda and acid and I personally easily notice the metallic taste in anything made with baking powder. So the reaction products don't taste much better than the baking soda itself.
  • a tomato sauce likely also has fat. Some of the unpleasant soapy taste of adding baking soda to food happens due to its reactions with fat, and I don't think that the products of this reaction will react with acid.
  • your sauce has quite some acid already, through the tomatoes (and possibly more, if you used canned tomatoes or more ingredients which add acid, like vinegar). If acid was enough to prevent the bad taste, it would have happened already.

So, if you want to enjoy the effects of baking soda, you generally also have to live with its taste.

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  • Thanks. I've tried again since then with about a 1/4 of the amount I previously used (so, a tiny pinch really), and it did the work of melting the onions without imparting too much flavor. But the point you make are great and hit the general version of my question, so I'm accepting the answer nonetheless. – Ink blot Mar 23 at 20:47
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The best way would be to add some acidic touch to neutralise it. Lemon and vinegar might be too strong for a tomato sauce. I see several options:

  • What about tartar cream, sour cream or even some sugar? Might also add creaminess to the sauce
  • In general, incrementing ingredients solves the issue (by balancing), but you will also need to add onions, which loses the whole idea. Tomatoes are acidic and might help to add.

Maybe a combination of these two options is a good idea

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    Given the comment by bob1 on the question, it seems that the real solution is cutting the baking soda amount to a quarter of what I used (so a pinch, maybe just the tip of the spoon). Which is the equivalent of increasing the ingredients, really. I don't want to cook more sauce than I use. – Ink blot Mar 16 at 19:34
  • That would make sense! I suggested that as I am not very sure if by using less, you will get the texture on the onions that you wanted! But that would definetly be the best solution so far I think! (to reduce the amoun of baking soda!) @Inkblot – M.K Mar 17 at 8:30

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