With the Foodpairing® Tool, you can easily create pairings, based on their aromatic matches. However, what does it take to turn those pairings into a well-balanced recipe? Once you've selected interesting aromatic pairings, it's then up to you to balance taste and texture to add depth and dimension to your dish. Finding the right balance sounds simple in theory, but this can often be the most difficult part of the job when you're in the kitchen. Follow along with this infographic to learn how the Foodpairing® Tool can help you make your selections!
We can't build a recipe based on complementary aromas alone. Or, rather, we could...but it might not prove to be very interesting. About 20% of our eating and drinking experience is actually due to taste and texture (while 80% is due to aroma). However, all of these factors contribute to our overall experience—and enjoyment—of food and should, therefore, be taken into account when crafting a recipe.
"By incorporating ingredients with contrasting tastes and textures, we can add depth and dimension to our creations."
Whereas ingredients with complementary aromas should be paired, you'll want to incorporate ingredients with contrasting tastes and textures to add further dimension to our recipes.
Ingredients pair well when they have complementary aromas. As a subscriber, you can access our ingredient pairing data by using the Foodpairing® Tool. Once you select an ingredient, you'll see an entire list of potential pairings that share complementary aromas (read more about the science behind aromas and flavors here). You select the ingredients, and we’ll come up with the matches!
First, let's differentiate between taste and flavor. Taste refers to our ability to detect the sensations of what we refer to as the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. All the ingredients we use are characterized by one or several of these tastes. When crafting your recipes, you'll want to add at least one or more—without getting too carried away—contrasting tastes to balance your dish or beverage.
In the diagram below, double-sided arrows indicate which tastes are counterparts of each other and can be used to balance one another. For example, use something bitter to contrast salty foods. Like adding a pinch of salt when baking chocolate cake to contrast the bitterness of dark chocolate. Or, use salty ingredients to balance the sweet ones, like the flavour you experience when you bite into an Oreo cookie. The same holds true for sweets versus sour foods. You can reduce the intensity of a sweet dessert by countering it with something sour.
Apart from the 5 basic taste, the tongue can also feel other sensations not generally included in the basic tastes. The pungency of chili is perhaps the most familiar of these. This particular sensation is not a taste in the technical sense, because the sensation does not arise from taste buds. You probably already experienced the burn under the fingernails or even worse in your eyes after cutting chili. That is because capsaicin is detected not by taste buds but by nerves present on many parts of the body including your mouth. Next to pungency there is also the burn of alcohol, fattiness (butter), coolness (mint), astringency (tannins in red wine), numbness (Sichuan peppercorns), kokumi, and so on. When making a balanced dish, these other sensations also need to be taken into account, because they also interact with the basic tastes (diagram).
As eaters, we are especially sensitive to the textures of the foods we eat, and even the things we drink. Many of the dishes that pique our interest are the ones that exhibit a variety of textures, whereas dishes that lack texture (e.g. baby food purée) become boring after a few bites. We've identified 60 different types of textures which can be categorized into two main groups: soft textures and crispy textures. When building a recipe, it's a good idea to include at least one contrasting texture from each of these groups for dimension.
There are countless examples that illustrate our natural affinity for pairings that contrast soft and crispy foods, for example chips and guacamole, french fries with ketchup or mousse served with a cookie or crumble. A (soft) mousse becomes more interesting when we add something crunchy like a (crisp) cookie. The potential ingredient pairings are endless!
Example of a well balanced recipe: