EVOO Evolution

EVOO, hip and healthy foodies know these four letters refer to Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Thanks to famous TV cook, Rachel Ray’s frequent use of the both the oil and the word on her show, EVOO made it to the Oxford American College Dictionary in December 2006.  Olive oil is commonly used throughout Mediterranean countries such as Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Tunisia, Portugal and Turkey.  

Recently, Casa do Azeite – Portuguese Olive Oil Association was in Hong Kong to provide greater awareness and education on this liquid gold. Portugal has six  “Protected Designation of Origin Olive Oils.” These oils originate from a specific geographic location, with certain soils and climate and are made exclusively from olives of specific varieties.  These factors, together with the region know-how, give these oils the typical characteristics that distinguish them from others.

Teresa Zacarias, Assesora Tecnica of the Casa do Azeite, led an olive oil tasting.  Before us were five glasses of different extra virgin olive oils.  Teresa educated us on how to choose olive oil. It depends on one’s personal taste and use.  EVOO is used for raw food, to season and finalize dishes. Virgin Olive oil is used when some heat is required. Olive Oil, a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil is best for deep-frying or strong heat.  

“You must choose olive oils based on aroma and taste, not acidity level,” she emphasized.  Positive attributes to look for include: fruity, bitter, pungent/tingling sensation, apple, almond, grassy, green leaf, and sweet aromas and flavours.  The color of olive oil is not related to its quality. Unlike wine, it does not improve with age. It is advisable to use it as soon as possible.  

The history of olive oil in Portugal probably dates back to the Bronze Age. But in recent years, there is a boom in olive oil consumption and production around the world.  Thanks to the appreciation of extra virgin olive oil as the healthier fat and technological advances making it cost-effective to harvest. Olive oil is now produced in unlikely places like Croatia, Australia, Chile, even China and India.

While I doubt if Chinese cooks would give up peanut oil or vegetable oil for cooking their stir-fries, and opt for olive oil instead.  But with the growing appreciation of its health benefits, the consumption in China is steadily increasing.  Since 2004, the average of olive oil import keeps increasing, nearly 60% every year. Spreading the word on the health benefits and superior of this liquid gold recently in Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai, the Portuguese Olive Oil Association is confident more Asians will be part of this growing EVOO evolution.     

Text and photo by Maida Pineda

Posted on 26 October 2010