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December 5, 2011

The physics of taste: "Flavor Network and the Principles of Food Pairing"

Flavour network

Excerpts from a November 29 Technology Review article:

Some years ago, while experimenting with salty foods and chocolate, the English chef Heston Blumenthal discovered that white chocolate and caviar taste rather good together. To find out why, he had the foods analyses and discovered that they had many flavour compounds in common.

He went on to hypothesize that foods sharing flavour ingredients ought to combine well, an idea that has become known as the food pairing hypothesis. There are many examples where the principle holds such as cheese and bacon; asparagus and butter; and in some modern restaurants chocolate and blue cheese, which apparently share 73 flavours.

But whether the rule is generally true has been hotly debated.

Today, we have an answer thanks to the work of Yong-Yeol Ahn at Harvard University and a few friends.

Their main conclusion is that North American and Western European cuisines tend towards recipes with ingredients that share flavours, while Southern European and East Asian recipes tend to avoid ingredients that share flavors.

In other words, the food pairing hypothesis holds in Western Europe and North America. But in Southern Europe and East Asia a converse principle of antipairing seems to be at work.

Food pairing seems to be one principle operating in some parts of the world. How far antipairing can take us has yet be seen, although customers to the Blumenthal's restaurant, The Fat Duck, may be among the first to find out.

Read the abstract of the scientific paper here.

You say you're not satisfied with an appetizer — you want the entire tasting menu.

No problema: you can download the full article as a PDF here as well.

[via Richard Kashdan]

December 5, 2011 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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