You probably take it for granted while dining on sushi or dumplings, but that iconic Kikkoman soy sauce dispenser has been in production since 1961. And as the New York Times discovered, it was actually developed by a Japanese Navy sailor who dedicated his life to design when he left the service.
As the story goes, Kenji Ekuan’s younger sister was killed by the Hiroshima atomic blast, while radiation sickness took his father’s life a year later. And after seeing the devastation left by the bomb while riding the train home one day, he decided to dedicate his life to making and designing things. Over his 60 year career he was responsible for many recognizable designs, but none more ubiquitous or iconic than the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle.
Its unique shape took three years and over a hundred prototypes to perfect, but the teardrop design and dripless spout have become a staple of restaurant condiments all around the world. Over 300 million of the bottles have been sold since the design was first introduced, and besides the occasional special edition versions to commemorate anniversaries and other occasions, the bottle’s design hasn’t changed over the past 50 years. So the next time you’re drowning a California roll, stop and remember that you’re also enjoying a piece of history with your meal.
Nature has published a fascinating paper that solves a seemingly silly but very interesting question: why do Western and Asian foods taste so different? After analyzing 56,498 recipes the answer is in the way they pair 381 ingredients.
Why do they taste different?
According to the study, Western cuisines have a tendency to pair ingredients that share many of the same flavor compounds. East Asian cuisines, however, do precisely the contrary, avoiding ingredients that share the same flavor compounds. The more flavors two ingredients share, the less likely they would be paired together in Asian kitchens.
Why is this important?
This is the first time that a experimental study has confirmed what only was an hypothesis over the past decade:
This food pairing hypothesis has been used to search for novel ingredient combinations and has prompted, for example, some contemporary restaurants to combine white chocolate and caviar, as they share trimethylamine and other flavor compounds, or chocolate and blue cheese that share at least 73 flavor compounds.
However, since Asian food works by avoiding food pairs, their analysis also destroys the idea that flavor pairing is the only way to achieve amazing new plates. According to the study, this “discovery of patterns that may transcend specific dishes or ingredients” may open new ways to cook.
How do flavors connect?
Why Does Asian Food Taste So Different From Western Food?This graphic shows the backbone of the flavor network: “each node denotes an ingredient, the node color indicates food category, and node size reflects the ingredient prevalence in recipes. Two ingredients are connected if they share a significant number of flavor compounds, link thickness representing the number of shared compounds between the two ingredients.”
I can’t wait to taste how cooks all over the world use this research to create new weird flavors for me enjoy.
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