Roast chicken with seaweed salad? Beef with chocolate sauce, anyone?


Forget the apple sauce - pork goes better with vanilla, according to the scientists
Forget the apple sauce - pork goes better with vanilla, according to the scientists
English scientists have discovered new food pairings they claim are tastier than traditional choices. You may not agree ...

Forget pork with apple sauce and mashed potatoes with beef.

English scientists have discovered a range of new food pairings they claim are tastier than traditional choices.

According to their research, pork works best with a dash of vanilla and slices of beef with chocolate sauce, while roast chicken could be enjoyed with a side of seaweed.

University of Cambridge scientists examined the chemical compounds shared by different ingredients.

They analysed the flavour compounds in 56,498 online recipes to see how the components of different dishes relate to each other.

Dr Sebastian Ahnert, a physicist who studies biochemical networks and led the research, said the study had allowed them to look for unexpected foods that could be paired.

“It is led to something called computational gastronomy. We can use datasets about food compounds to change the way we experience food.”

Ahnert presented his findings at a conference in Oxford last week entitled Hacking Flavour Perception.

He said his research had revealed recipes from North America, western Europe and Latin America tend to use ingredients that share a lot of the same flavour compounds.

Recipes from East Asia did not appear to pair ingredients that shared compounds to nearly the same degree. They tend to play off opposing flavours, such as sweet and sour sauces.

Using this information he has been able to identify some unexpected links between ingredients that might make some interesting foods.

Coffee was found to share a number of compounds with garlic and beef. Beef was also found to be compatible with chocolate.

Matcha tea went well with sour cherries while strawberries might actually be worth trying with mussels rather than the traditional cream.

White chocolate was found to be a good match with caviar while pork goes well with vanilla.

Roast chicken might be worth matching with kelp seaweed instead of bread sauce while lamb would go well with goat’s cheese.

Ahnert warned that some of his attempts to create new dishes with these matches have been less than successful.

“I have tried out a number of things from the datasets.

“Coffee and potato share a lot of compounds so I made mashed potato with milky coffee. It was horrible. But I’ve had a dish in Paris with coffee and potato that worked.

“So the execution is a big part it and that is where chefs can really help.

“Cooking can also alter compounds so we need to do some work predicting how that can change a flavour profile.”

Professor Charles Spence, an experimental psychologist at the University of Oxford who specialises in playing with flavour and wrote a new book, Gastrophysics, said pairing flavour compounds could produce interesting new dishes, but sometimes the order in which the foods are eaten can be important.

Drinking orange juice after cleaning your teeth, for example, can leave the drink tasting bitter rather than sweet because of the action of compounds in toothpaste on your taste buds.

Drinking water after eating a globe artichoke can have the opposite effect, making water taste sweet.

“Even if different ingredients share aroma compounds, that does not guarantee that they will necessarily be present at a level that is detectable.”


  • Forget coffee and cream; scientists say it goes better with garlic
  • Gravy and beef are not the best pair; chocolate sauce may work better
  • Matcha tea and sour cherries are the perfect combination
  • Strawberries and cream could be replaced by strawberries and mussels
  • White chocolate and caviar are a winning pair
  • Ditch the apple sauce when eating pork and try vanilla
  • Rosemary and roast chicken should be replaced by seaweed and roast chicken
  • Try goat’s cheese with lamb instead of mint sauce



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