Culinary Science with Prof. Dr. Sibel Ozilgen: 6 Fascinating Food Pairings

What should I consider when pairing the foods/drinks? Why do certain foods taste particularly good together? How do we know which foods combine well together?

İmam Bayıldı: When Europe and Anatolia Meets (2020) by Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department

Research chefs are the best scientists

The kitchen is a place of science. As with any scientific experiment, the results of the cooking process must be analyzed to understand how the methods influence the end results. Understanding the unique chemical structures of foods, and underlying scientific principles in each step of the preparation process and their effects on the resultant dish enables our chefs to perfect existing recipes and innovate in the kitchen.

Research Chefs are the Best Scientists (2020) by Prof. Dr. Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department







This understanding of the scientific process is what makes Yeditepe University a global leader in both traditional and modern Turkish cuisine: Yeditepe University is home to the only Department of Gastronomy and Culinary Arts to hold a PATENT for food product development.

Kitchen as a R&D Laboratory (2020) by Prof. Dr. Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department

Innovating the Turkish cuisine

Food engineer Sibel Ozilgen is Head of the Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department of Yeditepe University. She is the author of the first International Culinary Science textbook written by a Turkish academician. Her expertise is focused on food and science. She uses traditional Turkish dishes and combinations to explain the science behind food pairings as part of the course 'Culinary Science Laboratory'. Here are six common food pairings. 

Science of Food Pairing: Ispanak Borani (traditional spinach dish with yogurt) (2020) by Prof. Dr. Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department

#1: Ispanak Borani (spinach dish with yogurt)

Each food has its own chemical structure; hence its own hundreds or even thousands of taste and odor molecules that make up its flavor. The flavor compounds of foods determine the acceptable food pairing. 

The common, complementing, and contrasting flavor compounds in different foods may create new flavors when they come together as in our traditional dish, Ispanak Borani (Antakya, Turkey), that has spinach and dried yoğurt in the same recipe, which they share 11 flavor compounds. 

Science of Food Pairing: Rakı (traditional spirit), melon and feta cheese (2020) by Prof. Dr. Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department

#2: Rakı (traditional spirit), melon and feta cheese

In general, foods those share common or complementing flavor compounds are more likely to pair well in the recipes or in the menus. They may interact with each other so; the brain detects it as a new flavor. 

Rakı, feta cheese, and melon is the best known trio in Turkish cuisine.  Melon and feta cheese have 48, melon and anise (major flavor giving ingredient of rakı) have 96, and feta and anise have 19 flavoring compounds in common.

Science of Food Pairing: Pirinçli börek (pastry with rice) and ayran (2020) by Prof. Dr. Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department

#3: Pirinçli börek (pastry with rice) and ayran

The flavor compounds that may be produced as a result of chemical reactions  (such as fermentation, dextrinization, and Maillard reaction) during food processing must also be taken into consideration. 

Baked and fried foods such as bread, traditional Turkish pirinçli börek (Gaziantep, Turkey), toasts, and traditional pides are usually paired with yogurt and ayran in Turkish culinary culture since they have complementing and 2-5 common flavor giving compounds.

Science of Food Pairing: Patlıcan dolması (traditional stuffed eggplant dish) served with raw onion (2020) by Prof. Dr. Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department

#4: Patlıcan dolması (stuffed eggplant) with onion

Raw or cooked onion is one of the best partners in many Turkish dishes.  Patlıcan dolması from Adana completes and adds contrasting flavor compounds of cooked and raw ingredients.

The chemical properties of both raw and cooked onions make up the most common pairings in the Turkish cuisine.

Science of Food Pairing: Biberli kabak (traditional pumpkin dessert with chili) (2020) by Prof. Dr. Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department

#5: Biberli kabak (pumpkin dessert with chilli)

Some flavor compounds can suppress the specialized sensory cells on the tongue, which may modify the perceived intensity of the other flavor compounds. This is one of the reasons for example consuming tea with lemon or using salt, pepper, acidic ingredients etc. in some recipes. 

Traditional Turkish dessert biberli kabak (Eskisehir, Turkey) is a good example since the dessert is made of pumpkin, sugar and hot chili pepper.

Science of Food Pairing: Traditional Turkish tea with lemon (2020) by Prof. Dr. Sibel OzilgenOriginal Source: Faculty of Fine Arts, Gastronomy and Culinary Arts Department

#6: Turkish black tea with lemon

Pairing black tea with lemon or other citrus fruits is very common in Turkey because lemon changes the perceived intensity of tannin in tea.

The sequence of foods in tasting sessions (such as cheese-wine) and/or the sequence of food layers (such as canapé, and layered bars) are very important for the success of food-pairing designs.

Credits: Story

Photos: Aslı Ozturk, Gunsel Keserci, Sibel Ozilgen

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