Why Do Some People Love Foods Others Can’t Stand? June 17, 2019

by Hattie Learn

The way in which we pick up the flavour in foods and drinks involves each of our five senses. That’s sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste.

But, how does taste actually work? Why is it some people think coriander tastes of soap and for others, it’s a must-have seasoning?

HelloFresh partnered with Flavour Expert and Food Scientist, Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart, to shed some much-needed light on the science of taste and why some flavours tickle our taste-buds while others we just can’t stomach – here’s looking at you, coriander!  

Rachel says that for a long time scientists thought it was determined by our genes. She explains:

There is, for example, a genetic basis for some people hating coriander and finding it soapy, and others unable to appreciate truffles because they cannot physically detect androstenone, one of the key aromas that make truffles such a luxury.

Sensitivity also plays a big part when it comes to taste.

Do you struggle with bitter-tasting things like coffee, citrus fruits, even the heat of chilli? You might be a supertaster. Supertasters make up 25% of the population and are particularly sensitive to bitter flavours, whereas non-tasters, which make up another 25% actually can’t detect these compounds at all.

The science of taste.

Taste works, Dr Rachel explains, through the activation of taste receptors on our tongue. Activation comes from when we eat or drink and taste compounds are released. Complex stuff. Science shows that we are able to pick up on five main different taste qualities. These are acidity, sweetness, saltiness, bitterness and umami.

Acidic foods often come with a mouth-puckering sensation caused by acids, so lemons, yoghurt and sour cream belong to this taste. This flavour has a reputation of being hard to swallow, but even the smallest addition of a sour ingredient can really lift a dish.

Sweet is a taste that can balance out acidic flavours and can be found in ingredients like honey, fruit and some veggies like carrots. Bitter foods are often confused with acidic but their taste is more sharp and pungent than acidy foods, broccoli and endive being two examples.

Salty, unsurprisingly, can be found in salt, but other salty foods are aged cheeses, anchovies and soy sauce. Then there’s the newest of the five, the umami taste, a taste rich in flavour released by cooking, curing or ageing, examples include parmesan or fermented foods.

Let’s take 3 HelloFresh Family recipes, each meal has elements of the five tastes that work to create a tasty, balanced plate of flavours. 

Halloumi and Mango Chutney Curry

What makes this dish so delicious is the contrast between the sweet and salty flavours. Halloumi actually packs more salt than sea water. Yes, really! Whereas the sweet taste of mango in the mango chutney works to balance this salty flavour nicely. The chutney contains vinegar, lending acidity to the plate, while the green beans tick bitterness of the list and tomatoes are rich in umami components.

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Veggie Noodle Stir-Fry

A staple stir-fry ingredient, soy sauce adds savoury notes to any dish so it is classed as an umami taste. Soy sauce works great, then, with sweet tasting foods like red peppers and carrots in this dish. Our chefs have added ginger for bitterness and salted peanuts for – you guessed it! – some added salt. For acidity, a squeeze of fresh lime over the finished dish would work a treat.

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Pasta Primavera with Asparagus and Mangetout

This HelloFresh recipe has a fantastic mix of flavours thanks to the five tastes enhancing one another. The two main ingredients, asparagus and mangetout, belong to the umami and sweet taste categories. While crème fraîche and lemon, with their acidity, add zing and lift this dish. Plus they balance the bitterness of sautéed garlic. A sprinkling of salt is all this dish needs for a well-balanced plate of flavours.

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Keep your eyes peeled on our menus in the upcoming weeks here and our recipe archive for a chance to try these recipes yourself!

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