The smart people over at Nature have done some extensive research and have determined, based on comparing East Asian and Western cuisines, what it takes to come up new and exciting dishes for your discerning pallet. After reading the article I was asking my self “Why on earth did it take a research to figure this out, they could have just asked me and I would have easily given up the information free of charge.”
Here is a summary of the research:
The cultural diversity of culinary practice, as illustrated by the variety of regional cuisines, raises the question of whether there are any general patterns that determine the ingredient combinations used in food today or principles that transcend individual tastes and recipes. We introduce a flavor network that captures the flavor compounds shared by culinary ingredients. Western cuisines show a tendency to use ingredient pairs that share many flavor compounds, supporting the so-called food pairing hypothesis. By contrast, East Asian cuisines tend to avoid compound sharing ingredients. Given the increasing availability of information on food preparation, our data-driven investigation opens new avenues towards a systematic understanding of culinary practice.
They further went on to say
As we search for evidence supporting (or refuting) any ‘rules’ that may underlie our recipes, we must bear in mind that the scientific analysis of any art, including the art of cooking, is unlikely to be capable of explaining every aspect of the artistic creativity involved. Furthermore, there are many ingredients whose main role in a recipe may not be only flavoring but something else as well (e.g. eggs’ role to ensure mechanical stability or paprika’s role to add vivid colors). Finally, the flavor of a dish owes as much to the mode of preparation as to the choice of particular ingredients
Important Charts from the Research.
Fig 1. Flavor Network
This chart maps ingredients to flavor compounds and shows flavors that are prevalent in two recepies. Click on the image for a more scientific explanation.
Fig 2. Backbone of the food network
The nodes in the graph shows ingredients based on categories where each category is denoted by a specific colour. If there is a link between ingredients then they share some similar flavor compound. Node size dictates how much of a flavor compound is prevalent. Click the image for a more scientific explanation.
If you want to be a better or a more diverse cook, you should think of cooking in terms of interracial mating – sample out of your race as much as you can so as to get the most unique off springs, which in cooking terms means, the most unique flavors… of course.
By the way, Jamaican cooking mixes ingredients similar to that of Eastern Asian cuisine, which is why a lot of Jamaicans like Asian food.