If there was a question that previously never really needed an answer other than "it just is," it's "Why does Western food taste so different than Asian food?" A few researchers from the University of Cambridge asked and sought to find out because, well, they're researchers.
The study, recently published in Nature, took 381 ingredients used around the world and isolated 1,021 flavor compounds found in those ingredients, using a computer to show how many flavor attributes each one shared.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Then the scientists did what we laymen would do when we have a whole bunch of ingredients and need a recipe--they went to Epicurious.com, Allrecipes.com and some Asian recipe websites, then made their algorithms do a bit of food sleuthing.
What their program revealed after analyzing more than 50,000 recipes was that North Americans and western Europeans tend to pair matching flavors, while southern Europeans and east Asians favored pairing ingredients that didn't share a flavor. In Asian food, the researchers found, the more common flavors two ingredients shared, the less likely they would be paired together.
What's the implication for all this? The researchers hope that it opens new ways to cook and lend some understanding on how to pair ingredients. Ferran Adria and Nathan Myhrvold must be salivating already.