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Foodpairing, or the non-registered trademarked term food pairing, is a method for identifying which foods go well together from a flavor standpoint. The method is based on the principle that foods combine well with one another when they share key flavor components. Foodpairing uses HPLC, gas chromatography and other laboratory methods to analyze food and find chemical components that they have in common.
The method aids recipe design and provides new ideas for food combinations, which are theoretically sound on the basis of their flavor. It provides possible food combinations, which are solely based on the intrinsic properties of the different food products; these combinations are based on the flavor compounds that are present in the products. It also can result in unusual combinations (e.g. endives in a dessert, white chocolate and caviar, or chocolate and cauliflower). While unusual these combinations are found enjoyable to many people because the combined food products have flavor components in common.
Additionally, it is able to provide a scientific, modern basis for the success of traditionally settled food combinations. It is not a coincidence that the vast majority of the traditional top hit combinations like bacon and cheese, and asparagus and butter have many flavor components in common.
Experimenting with salty ingredients and chocolate around the turn of the century, Heston Blumenthal, the chef of The Fat Duck, discovered that caviar and white chocolate are a perfect match. To find out why, he contacted a flavor scientist at the flavourings manufacturer Firmenich. By comparing the flavor analysis of both foods, they found that caviar and white chocolate had major flavor components in common. At that time, they created the hypothesis that different foods will combine well together when they share major flavor components, and Foodpairing was born. In 2009, the Flanders Taste foundation organized a gastronomic symposium, "The Flemish Primitives", completely dedicated to Foodpairing.
The method starts with a chemical analysis of a food. The aroma compounds are determined with the aid of gas chromatography, which in most cases is coupled with a mass spectrometer (GC-MS). The odorants are also quantified with other techniques. Key odorants can be identified by comparing the concentrations of the odorants with their respective flavor threshold. Key odorants are the compounds that a human will effectively smell. They are defined as every compound that is present in concentrations higher than their specific flavor threshold.
For example, coffee contains 700 different aroma compounds, but there are only a few compounds important for the smell of coffee as most of them are present in concentrations that may not be perceptible with the human nose, i.e. they are present in concentrations lower than their flavor threshold.
The key odorants are essential towards composing the flavor profile of the given product. The resultant flavor profile is screened against a database of other foods. Products which have flavor components in common with the original ingredient are selected and retained. These matching products could be combined with the original ingredient. With this information on possible matches, a Foodpairing tree graph is built.
The essence of Foodpairing is to combine different foods that share the same major flavor components. Comparing the flavors of individual ingredients can result in new and unexpected combinations, such as strawberries paired with peas. This combination was adopted by Sang Hoon Degeimbre, the chef of L’Air du temps in Belgium.
- "Molecular Gastronomy Cooks Up Strange Plate-Fellows". Chemical & Engineering news. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- Heston Blumenthal (4 May 2002). "Weird but wonderful | Life and style". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- "Flavor pairing engenders strange plate-fellows and scientific controversy". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- "The Flemish Primitives". The Flemish Primitives. Archived from the original on 2 July 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
- Imre Blank et al. (1991) "Aroma Impact Compounds of Arabica and Robusta Coffee. Qualitative and Quantitative Investigations", imreblank.ch