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With its blend of mouthwatering spices and unique flavours, Indian food is one of the most sought after cuisines. Now science explains what it is about Indian food that gets our tastebuds revving.
Shami Sivasubramanian

30 Dec 2015 - 2:06 PM  UPDATED 31 Dec 2015 - 5:19 PM

It is no surprise Australians love Indian food. 

It is one of the most distinctive cuisines in the world.  From its blend of spices, to labour intensive dishes, cured meats, and pickled vegetables, Indian food is enduringly popular.

Indian is even the most popular cuisine on Menulog.

But finally a group of scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Jodhpur have discovered what it is that makes Indian food so gobsmackingly good. 

The answer?  Indian dishes use ingredients with little to no molecular flavour similarities.  Western foods however use ingredients with lots of flavour overlaps.

To put it simply, Western food uses the same tastes together, while Indian food goes to the extreme, offering huge flavour contrasts.

To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers at IIT studied over 2500 recipes on popular Indian food website TarlaDalal.com, analysing flavour compounds and combinations. 

Every ingredient contains about 50 molecular flavour compounds.  

Flavour compounds are shared by other many ingredients, though its not always obvious which foods have overlapping compounds. 

For example, strawberries share more in common with white wine and champagne than with apples.  

Indian cuisine contained the most complex and varied compound combinations. 

“We found that average flavor sharing in Indian cuisine was significantly lesser than expected," the researchers wrote in their report.

One Indian meal can have tens of thousands of flavour combinations.

The spices mixes used in Indian curries also contribute to this balance of flavour.

The use of garam masala in one dish or sambar powder mix in another both set the tone of the dish as well as complement the flavour compounds of the vegetable, meat, and dairy present in the dish.  

“Each of the spices is uniquely placed in its recipe to shape the flavor sharing pattern with rest of the ingredients," the researchers shared.

The study opens the door for new food and flavour discoveries.  

Chefs know for taking gastronomical risks, like Heston Blumenthal, may take solace in these finding, since the pay off for mixing opposites when it comes to food can be delicious.