Pair The Right Sweet And Savoury Combinations To Unlock Your Flavours
The quick summary
- Understand the difference between taste and flavour
- The number one goal is to achieve balance
- Don’t try too hard to shock – but give diners something to talk about
- Add an innovative twist to your menu.
A new generation of Irish diner is becoming more adventurous and open-minded about what they eat. And that’s great news for chefs! It means you’re free to experiment with unusual flavour combinations in a way that wouldn’t have been possible even a few years ago.
The latest trend for blending sweet and savoury flavours is one area where you can afford to be a dare-devil. You don’t want to turn familiar flavours too wacky or weird. But if you can strike the right balance of flavours, you’ll achieve maximum innovation – and deliciousness.
The science of flavour
Creating a sweet and savoury combination that wins with your customers is all about getting the science right. We need to understand how our bodies react to tastes we enjoy? And how the best flavour combinations take advantage of this.
First, let’s think about the difference between taste and flavour. Did you know that taste is only part of how we experience the food we eat? It refers to the specific sensations that our tastebuds give us – namely sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.
The only word that might be mysterious there is umami. But fear not. It just means that savoury, meaty, broth taste you get from things like dried shiitake mushrooms or parmesan cheese.
Flavour is where your other senses come in. We’re talking about the sensations of smell, texture, temperature and expectation.
With smell, it’s not just your nostrils that take odours from food to your brain. They travel there via your throat, too, when you’re chewing – and this plays a big part in how you respond to food.
The temperature of food introduces another sensation. Colour and shape also create anticipation of the effect you expect the food to have. Morph all those things together – and that’s your flavour.
Sweet and savoury – dos and don’ts
The contrast between sweet and savoury is one of the fundamentals of food.
While it has a strong Asian heritage, it’s more prevalent in Western cooking than you might think. Carrot cake? Tick. Pain au chocolat? Tick. Even spaghetti bolognese, where a pinch of sugar adds a new dimension to the dish.
While today’s diners are usually well travelled and up for sampling new food combos, there are some rules to follow. The big one is balance.
Think about finding harmony with your textures and flavours. You’re not trying to shock or overwhelm anyone, just give them something fresh to taste and talk about.
Leading chefs have this advice. Try and build a bridge between traditional main dishes and desserts. Introduce flavours or ingredients that are comfortable and familiar, but punchy enough to retain their integrity. Keep these words in mind: balance, harmony and restraint.
We’d always encourage you to let those creative juices flow when devising sweet and savoury combos. However, if it’s your first foray into the trend, you might want to stick with something that’s tried and tested. Check out these classic pairings…
Brie (or any cheese) and fig – chic and elegant, this cool coupling adds up to a great flavour combination.
Ham and pineapple – as a pizza topping, it creates lots of dinner debate. But it is an enticing pairing, especially if you apply it to cupcakes or pies to give customers a surprise.
Bacon and brown sugar – adding a syrupy glaze to bacon makes an already awesome ingredient even more sublime.
Salt and caramel – whether it’s in chocolate or ice cream, this taste sensation satisfies on every level. A menu mainstay in the dessert industry for decades, diners of all ages have fallen for its charms.
Fries and milkshakes – an American diner staple, and not just for the kids. Why not offer a premium shake with a side of fries?
All these combinations are tried and true ways to tantalise customers. They deliver on the science – offering a play on favour, mixing up textures and creating culinary anticipation. They’ll push your customers’ buttons, without pushing them away.
All-new enticing crossovers
The sweet-savoury crossover is a great way to inject innovation into your menu. And high-calibre chefs are creating new and incredible combinations by the day.
Here are some fresh and novel ideas to energise your menus…
Steak with cranberry sauce – a great cut of venison, combined with a fruity cranberry sauce strikes a wild and wonderful blend. And makes a refreshing change to traditional ‘steak and sauce’ recipes.
Salmon with rosemary grapes – looking for a new wingman for salmon? Just sprinkle the fish with salt and paprika before searing it. Use the same pan to fry up grapes in olive oil and rosemary. Crush the grapes down with a fork to let out all the juices before serving.
Caramel and cheese popcorn – these much-loved flavours work so well together. The dish could be served as a fun bar snack or even a shareable, slightly savoury dessert.
Doughnut burger – a fun twist on a classic. Just switch out a traditional burger bun for, you guessed it, a doughnut. The sweetness works great with bacon and a beef patty. If you’re feeling adventurous, add peanut butter – or even nutella – to your doughnut mix to add colour, texture and flavour.
Let’s wrap this up…
So there you have it. The latest trend in food pairings is a great – and cost-effective – way to add fun and flair to your menu.
You’ll bring surprising new dishes onboard, while adding the innovative edge that top-class restaurants across the globe are increasingly pursuing.
Just remember to keep your crossovers surprising – but subtle. Be experimental. But be honest with yourself about whether the flavours really work. If you can create something left of field that still has mainstream appeal, it’ll be a profit spinner as well as a talking point.