Mustard Seed Oil is oil from pressed mustard seeds and is used almost as much in Indian cooking as ghee . It is used a great deal all over northern and eastern India and in Pakistan and Bangladesh. It used to be even more commonly used before the advent of cheaply produced alternatives such as rapeseed oil (canola).
It has a strong cabbage like smell and tastes hot and nutty when raw. When heated just to its smoke point, the flavour mellows becoming sweeter and slightly hot. Oil makes up almost a third of the mustard seeds and all the varieties (black, brown and white) are used to produce oil.
Mustard seed oil was quite probably used for medicinal purposes before culinary ones. It certainly has a long history of use as a linament for aching joints and arthitis. It is very popular for cooking in Northern India and particularly in Bengal.
For many years it was considered to be unfit for human consumption in much of the Western world this was due to the presence of so much erucic aid. This was the result of doing experiments on rats which are less able to digest vegetable fats (irrespective of the eruric acid content). No negative health effects have ever been documented in humans. I suspect the real reason was once again the big powerful corn oil companies simply demonizing the opposition.
Mustard seed oil also has a cultural significance being used as fuel in clay lamps at Punjabi weddings and in the festival of Diwali.
As well as being used as a cooking oil, it is used in pickles. In cooking it is unique in that it should be brought to its smoke point before cooking. Other oils tend to break down at this point and the flavour is impaired. Mustard oil however actually improves both in flavour and nutritionally at its smoke point. It also means that the food is sealed very quickly
Unlike ghee, it has only 12% saturated fats and is largely composed of mono-unsaturated fats (60%) and polyunsaturated fats (21%). The mono-unsaturated fats include 42% erucic acid and 12% oleic acid (this is very close the recipe for Lorenzo's oil). It is also high in Omega-3, which is a powerful anti-oxidant and is used as a preservative. Once reckoned unfit for human consumption in America, Canada and much of Europe, it is now reckoned by some to be one of the healthiest cooking oils there is. Despite this, every bottle of mustard seed oil I ever buy always has 'For external use only' on the label because the EU considers it 'highly toxic'. The EU has issued a directive that the maximum erucic acid content should be less than 5% of the total fatty acids. So a poorly interpreted experiment on rats is clearly more important to the EU than an ongoing experiment with a sample size of about 1 billion humans. Why am I not surprised
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