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Also known as
Til oil, Gingely oil.
Sesame oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds, and is very commonly used in South Indian cuisine. It is also used as a flavour enhancer in Chinese, Korean and certain other Southeast Asian cuisines.
There are many variations of sesame oil. Cold-pressed sesame oil is almost colourless, while Indian sesame oil (gingelly or til oil) is golden and Chinese sesame oil is commonly a dark brown colour. This dark colour and flavour are derived from roasted/toasted sesame seeds. Likewise, cold-pressed sesame oil has less flavour than the toasted oil, since it is produced directly from raw, rather than toasted seeds. Cold-pressed sesame oil is available in Western health shops, while in most Asian countries, different kinds of hot-pressed sesame oil are preferred.
Sesame oil has a high proportion (41%) of polyunsaturated fats (Omega-6 fatty acids). Yet, compared to other cooking oils with a high smoking point, it is least prone to rancidity when kept in the open. This is due to the natural antioxidants present in the oil.
How to select
• Sesame oil is sold in bottles or tightly-sealed sachets for culinary use. Choose a pack size depending on your needs.
• Look out for a light golden colour when choosing sesame oil.
• Also, make sure it is free from discoloration, cloudiness or granulation.
• Sesame oil is commonly used for tempering, as a flavour enhancer, lubricant and preservative in south Indian cuisine.
• Since sesame oil is almost tasteless and odourless, it is a good choice for baking.
• It is widely used as a salad oil and is also the main ingredient in the production of margarine
• Sesame oil is used in the manufacture of pickles.
• Light sesame oil has a high smoke point, and is suitable for deep-frying. However, heavy (dark) sesame oil made from roasted sesame seeds has a slightly lower smoke point and is unsuitable for deep-frying. Instead it can be used for stir-frying vegetables, making of omelette, etc.
• Many communities in Asia used roasted sesame oil for seasoning, particularly in East Asian cooking.
How to store
• Store the sesame oil in a cool and dark place.
• Avoid reusing the leftover oil from deep-frying as reheating the oil again and again may affect the chemical composition and rancidity quotient of the oil.
• Unopened bottles, or metal containers, can be kept for about a year. Once they've been opened, though, they should be used within two months, after which, they can turn rancid (bad) and shouldn't be consumed.
• If possible, transfer the oil from a can into a glass bottle to avoid metallic tasting oil; plastic containers shouldn't be used because they may leach a plastic taste into the oil.
• Sesame oil can play an important role in our diet.
• It is a concentrated source of energy, is very digestible, provides essential fatty acids and is a rich source of Vitamin E and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which may help regulate blood cholesterol.
• Sesame oil is high in polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats so it is healthier to use than oils with higher saturated fat levels.
• Sesame oil is reputed to penetrate the skin easily, and is used in India for oil massages.
• It is suggested that sesame oil could be used in the treatment of dry nose, reduction of cholesterol levels (due to presence of Lignans which are phytoestrogens), as a laxative, a remedy for toothaches and gum disease, and as an anti-bacterial lotion.