The science behind Foodpairing
What exactly is Foodpairing?
Foodpairing is a method for identifying which foods go well together. The method is based on the principle that foods combine well with one another when they share major flavour components. Therefore the Foodpairing process starts with a flavour analysis of a product, that is to be combined. The process results in a Foodpairing tree; a visual aid for chefs and cocktailmakers that indicates which ingredients match from a flavour perspective.
What is a flavour?
An aroma compound, also known as odorant, aroma, fragrance or flavor, is a chemical compound that has a smell or odor. A chemical compound has a smell or odor when two conditions are met: the compound needs to be volatile, so it can be transported to the olfactory system in the upper part of the nose, and it needs to be in a sufficiently high concentration to be able to interact with one or more of the olfactory receptors.
Are flavours so important?
Experience the importance of flavour in food through the following experiment. Take some sugar, mix it with cinnamon and taste it while your nose is pinched, you will only experience a sweetness and grainy feel in your mouth. You have to release your fingers from your nose to taste the cinnamon. In fact, our sense of smell is responsible for 80% of our taste experience, making flavour a key driver for the creation of food combinations.
How do you measure flavour components in food?
The product's flavour profile is determined through gas chromatography coupled mass spectrometry (GC-MS). This analytical technique separates and identifies the various components of the flavour.
The result of the GC-MS is a chromatogram. Here you can see the aroma profile of cucumber.
The chromatogram shows the retention time of detected molecules and their intensity.
What are major flavour components?
Major flavour components or key odorants are compounds that you will effectively smell. Key odorants can be identified by comparing the concentrations of the odorants with their respective flavour threshold. They are defined as every compound that is present in concentrations higher than their specific flavour threshold. Cucumber contains a few dozen of different aroma compounds. But in reality there are only a couple of aromas which are important for the smell of cucumber.
What is a Foodpairing tree and how is it created?
Once the flavour components of a particular food have been analyzed, they are compared to a database of several hundreds other food & beverage products. Products which have flavour components in common with the original ingredient are retained. The results are then graphically presented on a Foodpairing tree. The chosen food, here cucumber, is placed at the center of the tree and surrounded by possible combinations. The shorter the branch, the better the match to the central ingredient. Beijing roasted duck, for example, fits a little better with cucumber than cardamom. The translation from the flavour profile into the correct Foodpairing tree is executed by an algorithm based on 5 years of research.