So That's Why Indian Food Is So Delicious

Proper indian food takes hours of preparation and tens or even hundreds of individual spices, herbs and other ingredients, so it's something of a labour of love.

And it's one of the most-loved cuisines all around the world - and especially here in the UK, where we can't get enough of the stuff. And there's a reason for that, says Science.

Ingredients that don't have flavour overlaps are the key to Indian cooking (VideoJug)
Ingredients that don't have flavour overlaps are the key to Indian cooking (VideoJug)

And that reason is down to all those intricate spices and herb rubs and pastes, but perhaps not in the way you'd expect. It's not because the carefully chosen ingredients that are used to make each differently-flavoured curry concoction are perfectly matched - it's actually because molecularly, they completely clash with one another.

Indian dishes can be an assault on the senses - spicy, tangy, sweet and sour at once - and unlike many Western dishes, it seems that chefs prefer to choose ingredients that have completely disimilar molecular structures.

In a study of more than 2,000 Indian recipes, researchers found that dishes were made with a radically different attitude to our carefully-chosen flavour combinations.

What is Flavour?

To understand exactly what it is about Indian dishes that make them so scrumptious, we have to look at what we really taste when we eat.

Like everything, food breaks down into chemical compounds - and these chemicals make up everything different dish.

Even seemingly totally different foods can contain the same compounds - which is why chefs in the West often put them together. For example, beer and roasted beef share similar traits, making them a regular pair. Strawberries and white wine too.

They're totally different but share enough similarity at a molecular level to work in harmony.

So how often do you think the flavour compounds in Indian cookery harmonise? Rarely, it seems.

Strawberries and white wine are a classic pairing because their flavours overlap (REX)
Strawberries and white wine are a classic pairing because their flavours overlap (REX)

Researchers at the Indian Institute for Technology in Jodhpur used online recipe site to investigate the flavour pairings used in Indian cuisine and found very few flavour overlaps in the dishes. And when they did there it was only slight. For example, onions and coconuts are used in many recipes and they do have some small similarities in flavour - but this overlap is tiny.

This unique approach seems to be a key reason that our tastebuds love Indian cuisine so much. And it could also be because Indian chefs certainly work with what they've got - out of the suggested 381 cooking ingredients in the world, the researchers found that Indian cuisine used a whopping 200.

They said: "Each of the spices is uniquely placed in its recipe to shape the flavor sharing pattern with rest of the ingredients."

Curry tonight, anyone?

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