The lure of Indian food and its lip-smacking diversity is well-known. If you ask any Indian living abroad, it’s perfectly possible that he/she confesses missing the food more than their own family! Can you guess the reason, after all?
On an average, a food ingredient has over 50 flavour compounds. In fact, scientists have come up with athat you can explore to come to a scientific decision on how to pair up your foods.
The general idea is to pair up food items based on the number of flavour compounds they share. As an example, wine and cheese go very well together and the reason can be understood in the following snippet of wine and cheese flavour map, as they have a lot of flavours in common:
Each blue dot represents a food and the size of a dot shows how popular the food is. A line connecting the two dots means the two foods share at least one flavour-related chemical compound. Moreover the more flavour compounds they share, the thicker the line. Also the grey line connects food in the same category and the vertical position of a food reveals the total number of other foods that connect to it. I highly encourage clicking on this interactive
Now that you have got the hang of this, I am going to break the secret of Indian food to you, according to a recent research.
Indian food does not follow this general rule. Foods at the top of the page share flavour compounds with many other foods. Foods at the bottom of the page are completely unique — they don’’t share flavours with any other foods. You can see that the most prominent ingredients of Indian food, such as clove, onion, tomato, cumin, yoghurt, lemon juice, sesame seed and many more lie close to the bottom of the chart.
Thus the average flavour sharing of ingredients in Indian food is significantly lesser than expected. Moreover the final quality of Indian food that differentiates it from western cuisine is its complexity.
An average Indian recipe calls for over 7 ingredients with moderate to low flavour overlap, and Indian food makes use of over 200 distinct ingredients out of the roughly 381 ingredients observed around the world. That’s what make Indian food unique and for Indians, so uniquely delicious.