Jain and co then created a flavor network in which ingredients are linked if they appear together in the same recipe. The network can then be studied for interesting phenomenon such as clustering effects.
The question that the team set out to answer was to what extent food pairing is positive or negative. In other words, do ingredients sharing flavor compounds occur in the same recipe more often than if the ingredients were chosen at random.
The results make for interesting reading. Jain and co conclude that Indian cuisine is characterized by strong negative food pairing. Not only that, but the strength of this negative correlation is much higher than anything previously reported.
They also found that specific ingredients dramatically effect food pairing. For example, the presence of cayenne pepper strongly biases the flavor sharing pattern of Indian cuisine towards negative pairing. Other ingredients that have a similar effect include green bell pepper, coriander, garam masala, tamarind, ginger, cinnamon and so on.
In other words, spices make the negative food pairing effect more powerful, a phenomenon never seen before. “Our study reveals that spices occupy a unique position in the ingredient composition of Indian cuisine and play a major role in defining its characteristic profile,” say Jain and co.
The paper is on the arXiv
Spices form the basis of food pairing in Indian cuisine
Anupam Jain (1), Rakhi N K (2), Ganesh Bagler (2) ((1) Centre for System Science, Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur, India, (2) Centre for Biologically Inspired System Science, Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur, India)
(Submitted on 12 Feb 2015)
Culinary practices are influenced by climate, culture, history and geography. Molecular composition of recipes in a cuisine reveals patterns in food preferences. Indian cuisine encompasses a number of diverse sub-cuisines separated by geographies, climates and cultures. Its culinary system has a long history of health-centric dietary practices focused on disease prevention and promotion of health. We study food pairing in recipes of Indian cuisine to show that, in contrast to positive food pairing reported in some Western cuisines, Indian cuisine has a strong signature of negative food pairing; more the extent of flavor sharing between any two ingredients, lesser their co-occurrence. This feature is independent of recipe size and is not explained by ingredient category-based recipe constitution alone. Ingredient frequency emerged as the dominant factor specifying the characteristic flavor sharing pattern of the cuisine. Spices, individually and as a category, form the basis of ingredient composition in Indian cuisine. We also present a culinary evolution model which reproduces ingredient use distribution as well as negative food pairing of the cuisine. Our study provides a basis for designing novel signature recipes, healthy recipe alterations and recipe recommender systems.