It was on a recent trip to rural Vietnam that the thought came to me. We were spending a night at a homestay, in-between hiking downhill through rain on muddy tracks. It was very early in the morning, still dark from the fog clouding the sun.
For breakfast, our hosts gave us bread with fried eggs, strawberry jam and bananas. I, always the sweet-toothed one, went ahead and spread my bread with the jam, squashing the egg on top and taking a bite of the sweet, yolk-y goodness.
To me, it was quite good. To the others, it looked disgusting.
But, I said, why?
Why is egg and jam so terrible, when we have jam-glazed ham? Bacon with maple syrup? Cheese with fruit?
To me, cooking is about the basic flavour of ingredients. We like salted caramel, yes? Basic flavour: sweet and salty. The jam was sweet, and the fried egg salty. The creaminess of the yolk added texture, without detracting too much from the taste.
Try this with other food, too. Boiled eggs taste good with salt. So how about soy sauce, or Worcestershire instead? Instead of pineapple on a pizza, how about banana?
I have my own preferences. When I have something bland, I like to pair a stand-out flavour with it – avocado and Worcestershire, custard and apricots, tomato and Vegemite.
Just because something is typically in desserts, doesn’t mean it can’t be used as a savoury ingredient. One of my grandmothers uses nutmeg in custard; the other puts it in her mashed potato.
So go out and try some different flavour combinations.
Add some coriander to your grapes (plus a pinch of salt), or have chocolate with your cheese.
Edit: 30 Jun 2014 – Apparently, a 50:50 ratio of fat and sugar is what makes us love food so much… Fried egg and jam = fat and sugar (plus some yummy salt 😛 )