Chemically analysed ingredients, tastes and recipes to find the reason behind Western and Asian food tasting different was carried out as a study by researchers.
Researchers including Sebastian Ahnert from the University of Cambridge analysed 381 ingredients used around the world, and 1021 flavour compounds found in those ingredients, networking them to show how many 'flavours' each ingredient shared.
They then compared the information with 56,498 recipes from Epicurious.com and Allrecipes.com, plus a Korean recipe site menupan.com to see which of five cultures, north American, western European, southern European, Latin and East Asian, paired flavour compounds that 'matched' each other most frequently.
The results were surprising. North American and western European recipes tend to pair flavours that 'match'. Both southern European and east Asian recipes tend to avoid recipes where the ingredients share flavours.
The researchers found that the contrast with east Asian recipes was particularly marked.
The more flavours two ingredients share, the less likely they are to be used together in east Asian cuisine, whereas 13 key ingredients, including butter, milk and egg, appear in 74.4 per cent of dishes in north America.
"Western cuisines tend to use 'pairs' that share many flavours," the Daily mail quoted the researchers as saying.
"But east Asian cuisines tend to avoid ingredients that share them. This investigation opens new avenues towards understanding culinary practices," they added
There are flavours that 'define' a cuisine, for instance basil in south European food, or soy sauce in east Asian, but the classic pairings of each cuisine, such as parmesan cheese and tomato, which share lots of flavours, and garlic and sesame oil, which share very few, show that 'food pairing' is a distinctly western idea.
It also turns the whole idea of 'food pairing' cuisine on its head. If east Asian food tastes good by avoiding food pairs, rather than simply identifying, then pairing them, then perhaps this study paves the way for new avenues of experimental cooking.
The study has been published in Nature.