Some people are pretty adventurous eaters, or even reckless (how else can you explain sea urchin dishes), but when it comes to the flavor itself, things are pretty simple: Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami. Each of them corresponds to one of the different taste receptors in our tongues, and while you can get some real depth from their combinations, it also keeps things simple in the kitchen.
It usually doesn’t take much tasting to know what kind of flavors you like better than others, right? Some people are pretty set on their ways when it comes to that, or at least that’s how it would seem for everyone until you get out of your comfort zone and try any of these weird food combinations that are actually good but you probably didn’t know about.
Parmesan cheese and strawberries
We’re starting with a pretty mellow note before warming up to the real left-field stuff, and that’s because lots of people (especially those who enjoy Mediterranean cuisine) know that cheeses and fruit are a pretty good pairing. Parmesan has a very sharp flavor that goes along very well with the sweetness of the strawberry to create a savory, complex yet balanced flavor. Try creating a fruit platter of chopped strawberries topped with parmesan shavings.
Peanut butter and bacon
Even if you’re not a fan of the King’s great songs, you should be thankful to him for bringing this delicious combo into the mainstream. You’d think that a flavor as rich and full as that of bacon wouldn’t pair up so well with such a contrasting ingredient as peanut butter, but the saltiness of the former perfectly complements the sweetness and (sometimes overpowering) mouthfeel of the latter. The classic way to enjoy this mix is on a sandwich, usually accompanied with bananas, but there are many ways to get creative about it.
Garlic and coconut
On their own, coconut and garlic don’t pull it off for a lot of people. Coconut’s flavor is too subdued, and garlic can easily overpower most other ingredients in a recipe, but together they form a mighty combo; strong and earthy but sweet and savory at the same time. Any seafood lover will recognize this combination as a match made in heaven to marinate shrimp, fish, and many other sea critters. Just remember that cooking with garlic leaves behind quite a smell, so you might want to get cleaning afterward.
Pineapple or mango and chili powder
Already a staple of Vietnamese and Mexican street snacks for ages, this tasty pairing of sweet and hot flavors balance each other outstandingly. The chili powder awakens a much more complex flavor in the mango and pineapple, making it the perfect choice for a fresh, healthier summer snack that doesn’t sacrifice taste. You can also go the extra step and create salsas and marinades from this combo, go crazy!
Melon and prosciutto
Much like bacon, prosciutto is both salty and fatty, making them a perfect match for the soft, juicy sweetness of the melon. Both rock and honeydew variants will do, and you can create some very delicious combinations for the warmer seasons, such as a salad topped with melon and prosciutto slices, or an appetizer plate of them both with some mint thrown to the mix.
Ice cream or gelato with olive oil and sea salt
Mario Batali popularised the vanilla gelato and olive oil combination, but we can take it even further. First of all, the way it works is that olive oil expands greatly on the creaminess and smoothness of the ice cream base without making it too savory, and the slight olive taste adds depth to the flavor itself. You can also try with a chocolate base and adding a pinch of sea salt, which brings out the flavor in ways you can’t imagine.
We’re not saying these unexpected flavor combinations will change the way you eat all of these already delicious foods. But they totally might! Expanding upon the already tasty flavor of these common ingredients makes you look at food in a completely different way, and the enticing results will definitely have people talking the next time you have people over for dinner. Guaranteed!