The tiny seeds of the sesame plant are an important source of cooking oil in Asia and elsewhere. For enthusiasts looking to cook Chinese food at home, buying a bottle of sesame oil is mandatory. However, there are two different kinds of sesame oil: the clear, or pure, kind; and the dark kind. For a novice, it's not always apparent which oil to use for which purpose. Dark sesame oil, as the name suggests, is much darker in color than the pale golden variety. It's pressed from toasted sesame seeds, which give it a coffee-like hue. The toasted seeds also give this oil a very intense sesame flavor, one that would be overpowering if it were used for cooking. Dark sesame oil is used instead as a condiment or flavoring, added to foods just before serving to give them a rich sesame flavor.
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