Flavor and Taste Perceptions of Asian Foods
America's shift toward foods with global flavors is influenced, in part, by a diverse influx of cultures. Asian foods from different regions offer different taste perceptions—each has a distinctive cooking style.
For instance, Thai foods, which rate very high in popularity, offer a variety of ingredients such as galangal, chili oil, peanuts, coconut paste, fish sauce, lemon grass, basil and tamarind. Spices, sauces and herbs are integral parts of Asian foods and are added to enhance taste, texture, aroma and color. The exciting myriad of flavors helps to explain the cuisine's gradual but steady integration into mainstream U.S. foods.
“Deep Foods Inc. (Union, N.J.) offers a wide variety of Indian and Thai cuisines, with a primary focus on the growing Indian population. [However,] the market has expanded and now these products are not limited to Asian stores but have expanded to aisles in local grocery shelves. Consumer responses are great, as people are evolving and getting to know new tastes,” says Chet Trivedi, director of sales.
The popularity of Asian foods is validated by significant growth in retail sales that is expected to reach $1 billion by the year 2008, according to information provided by Diversified Business Communications (Portland, Maine). Asians have $254 billion in spending power, but are only one third the size of the U.S. Hispanic population (Hispanics are responsible for about $452 billion). According to the U.S. Census, Asians numbered 11.3 million in 2000, and that population is expected to reach 19.6 million in 2020.
Flavor's Effect on Sensory Perceptions
Flavors from the East are unlocking the taste perceptions of millions of Americans who seek variety in their menu. Consumers are becoming more educated about international flavors and want their food to be colorful, tasty and diverse. They expect their food to be satiating and healthy, and they also want to experience the pleasing and wholesome aromas.
Bold, strong and exotic flavors are the driving force behind the burgeoning popularity of Asian foods. Chinese foods enjoy a large following partly because the entrées serve two to three people, the food is highly portable and Chinese cuisine is “the ideal meal for a large group of people preferring to dine out,” states Mintel International Group (Chicago) in its report, “Chinese Foods - U.S. - March 2002.”
Successful Asian food formulations maintain a delicate balance between wide varieties of ingredients added for improved sensory perceptions. This emerging trend is now opening new doors for ingredient manufacturers and product designers to explore. Food manufacturers incorporate flavor enhancers, modifiers, raw ingredients and ethnic recipes to meet consumer preferences.
The formulation of Asian foods is, indeed, a challenging task that requires a good understanding of the chemistry of ingredients, their interactions and stability during preparation. Apart from the availability of authentic ingredients from Asia, U.S. flavor companies are offering a wide range of spices and condiments such as coriander, lemon grass, wasabi and sesame (in a dry or powder form, to appeal to American palates not accustomed to chunks and pieces of raw ingredients). Flavor and seasoning companies are using cutting edge technology to develop ingredients for Asian food formulations.
An Intense Flavor Experience
U.S. consumers also are mesmerized by the contrasting texture and color created by toppings such as roasted peanuts, shallots, basil and cilantro. These ingredients help to heighten the consumer's perception of taste, texture and appearance of food. Flavor and taste perceptions are constantly evolving; therefore, formulators also should focus on sensory evaluation before marketing these products.
The ingredients used in Asian foods create flavors that are intense, subtle, deep and contrasting, and trained sensory panelists should evaluate them to determine ingredient quality and intensity of perceptions. The most important step is utilizing an experimental design to better understand the flavor variables. Descriptive sensory profiling of Asian foods offers a better interpretation of consumer responses.
An analytical framework to evaluate the flavor attributes is offered in “e-Sensory Perception Bench Marking,” that had been published by Arthur D. Little. This can be a valuable tool for Asian food formulators to get both the qualitative and quantitative insight about their products.
Companies also are conducting focus groups to determine the feasibility of their concept before rolling out their products. Arby's (Triarc Restaurant Group—Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) took two years to launch its new Roast Turkey Ranch and Bacon sandwiches with tamarind sauce. The process involved a lot of panels, brainstorming and focus groups.
“Asian foods offer a broad array of notes, all in harmony. Some are subtle; others reverberate with excitement. Compared to American food that is often monochromatic with dominant sweet and salty perceptions, Asian food often creates a 'sensory' experience. Sparingly used meat, punctuated with lots of taste and texture surprises, creates a sensory adventure,” states Nancy Rodriguez, president of Food Marketing Support Services Inc. (Oak Park, Ill.). “Elements such as wasabi and chili oil are creating new taste sensations. This is a transitional period and gradually, Asian flavors will be folded into the American mainstream.” A descriptive sensory approach is imperative to supplement consumer acceptability learning, she says.
Taste perception is a complex phenomenon and involves several parameters including genetics, age, ethnicity and physiological interaction with taste buds.
Asian foods are delicious as they include exotic ingredients like curry, ginger and lemon grass, delicately balanced with a strong focus on both appearance and taste.
Asian cuisine also impacts the range of sensory experiences traditionally grouped into categories such as hot, sweet, sour, spicy, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent and “umami.” Umami is a “taste” perception that results from certain compounds such as the amino acid glutamate, a flavor enhancer. Since Asian foods often contain ingredients with amino acids like soy sauce, soybean products and fermented fish, those imparting salty and savory characteristics are referred to as umami.
The foods in Asian cuisine generally are cooked with a wide variety of spices, herbs and condiments that gives much variation in flavor notes and aroma. Freshness also abounds in Asian cooking with garnishes such as lemon grass, basil, coriander, sesame and others.
The growing population of Asian American communities in the U.S., and a more sophisticated American palate, forecasts a promising future for Asian foods. Cultural diversity is increasing awareness among Americans who perceive Asian flavors as bold, exciting and delicious. These flavors are craved not only by Asian Americans, but also by Americans seeking a diversity of flavors and cuisines. The innovation and creativity of formulators and chefs will go hand in hand with enhancing these consumer preferences.
For information on the report, “Chinese Foods - U.S. - March 2002,” available for $2995.00, contact Mintel International Group Ltd.: 213 W. Institute Place; Suite 208; Chicago, IL 60610; phone: 312-932-0400. For information on other reports, go to www.Prepared Foods.com and click on "Mintel Research Reports."
http://asiarecipe.com/indomain.html — Features Asian recipes, as well as information on culture, religious food practices and cooking methods, by country
www.carnegielibrary.org/subject/food/asian.html#filipino — Asian food information, and links to pertinent sites
www.asiasource.org/thisday/ah_mp_01.cfm — Asian history, current events, and food
Caption: Savory and exotic flavors from the East are gradually sweeping the nation, as such a broad spectrum of experiences intrigues Americans.
Caption: Soy sauce, soybeans and fermented fish have a flavor called “umami,” the perception of a combination of savory and salty ingredients used
in Asian cuisine.
Showcase: Savory Flavors
Snacks are a growing category, and teriyaki sauce is ideal for savory snack applications. Kikkoman International Inc.'s formulation for Western Nuts & Bolts combines the textures of crispy rice and corn cereal with pretzels. The teriyaki sauce helps build the robust profile of Western Nuts & Bolts while binding the flavors of butter, brown sugar and garlic. Visit the company's website for more information on its other industrial products. Kikkoman International Inc., Industrial Dept., 415-956-7750, www.kikkoman-usa.com
Soy sauce is a fermented flavor used in dishes throughout the world. If Nikken were known for only one product, it would be this, says the company. Nikken has the experience and resources to spray dry a naturally brewed product with consistently flavorful taste and quality. And, the company offers powdered soy sauce in many different versions. Come to your senses. Come to Nikken. Orders may be placed online at www.nikkenfoods.com. Nikken Foods Company, Herb Bench, 636-532-1019
Offering a distinctive flavor deepened by 11 herbs and spices, the new A.1.[r] Steak Sauce Flavor from Kraft Food Ingredients Corp. (KFIC) adds a popular taste dimension to a variety of dishes. Developed after America's best-selling brand of steak sauce, the ingredient possesses that tangy, pungent, fruity character that consumers recognize. A.1. Steak Sauce Flavor can be used in both wet and dry applications including marinades and sauces, as well as in rubs and snack seasonings. Packaged in 50-lb. boxes, its convenient powder form does not add liquid to the final application. Kraft Food Ingredients Corp., 800-458-8324
Flavors such as Shiso, Kimchee, Ume, Hoisin, Green Tea, Soy Sauce, Taro, Teriyaki, Yuzu, and Ube reflect the growing popularity of Asian foods. This company also specializes in other savory flavors such as Worcestershire Sauce, Grill and Mushroom. Most are available in liquid and dry forms as well as in both natural and artificial versions. Gold Coast Ingredients Inc., Jon Wellwood, 800-352-8673, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.goldcoastinc.com
Two flavor system product lines providing an added zest to the culinary world are Savory Select[r] and Cheez-All[r] from McCormick Flavor. Savory Select[r] offers a wide array of poultry, pork, seafood and beef flavors, diversifying the profile of your formulation. Cheez-All[r] offers bold and zesty flavors such as Cheddar, Parmesan, and Monterey Jack, among others, to enhance your product. Both product lines perform in applications including soups, sauces, snacks, side dishes and baked goods. McCormick Flavor, www.mccormickflavor.com
Designed to impart the rich taste of long slow-cooking processes in rapid preparation systems, Red Arrow's Roastin'[r] flavors are ideal for building savory depth. Roastin'[r] 3106 provides a dark roasted pork taste, while Roastin'[r] 3107 provides an oven-roasted beef flavor. Braised chicken flavor is obtained from Roastin'[r] 3108. The latest flavors are a wonderful complement to the roasted chicken skin taste of Roastin'[r] 9073, the meaty roasted chicken taste of Roastin'[r] 1013 and the deep roasted turkey notes obtained from Roastin'[r] 2002. For more information and samples, please contact the company. Red Arrow Sales Team, 920-769-1100, ext. 1162, email@example.com, www.redarrowusa.com
To bring that savory flavor to all your applications, this company offers a wide selection of products. For label identity and essential tastes necessary for flavor systems, start with IDF[r] Meat Powders. For a rich roasted flavor or a smooth, savory finish, IDF[r] Broth Powders offer an agglomerated texture that is particularly suited for soups, bases, marinades, and injection solutions. IDF[r] Fat and Broth Powders provide that savory flavor and creamy mouthfeel you have been looking for in your sauces, soups, gravies, and more. IDF/International Dehydrated Foods Inc., 800-641-6509, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.idf.com
Whether they are used to deep fry, broil, bake or roast, these custom blended seasonings will add that flavor and zest customers need. Blendex will work with customers to develop unique formulations to meet their individual needs. Using only the finest “bacteria reduced” ingredients, the need for high-quality and consistent products is readily met, and nearly legendary customer service is part of the order. Blendex Custom Blended Seasonings, 800-626-6325, Ron Carr, email@example.com, www.blendex.com
You are invited to discover the rich, varied cuisine of Mexico with this company's Mexican flavor portfolio. Simplify your product development efforts with authentic recreations of the tastes of Mexico. IFF's top-notch chefs and food technologists have the expertise to achieve the right balance of savory flavors that can be used in soups, sauces and dressings. International Flavors & Fragrances, www.iff.com
Low-carb dishes will be brought to life by an extensive line of gravies, sauces, and marinades made to complement low-carbohydrate dishes. Recipes and sample products currently available include Sweet & Sour, BBQ, and Alfredo Sauce, as well as a full line of gravies. Ethnic or regional flavor profiles can be added to the base systems to create superior tasting chicken, steak, ribs, and burgers, adding variety to basic protein dishes. Wynn Starr, Roland Abate, 800-996-7827, firstname.lastname@example.org
A new line of masking flavors for specific product applications utilizes proprietary technology. Comax offers multiple formulations for a range of challenges including glycerin burn, caffeine bitterness, artificial sweetener's harshness, soy's beany note and vitamin fortification's inherent off-flavor. The application-specific line considers the product matrix (fortification, processing method and shelflife), and recognizes that a protein drink has different requirements than a protein bar, for example. This line is available as a Natural or N&A, liquid or dry form. The company also offers technical assistance and samples. Comax Flavors, 800-992-0629
For truly Asian flavors, employees with this company's Asian operation make sure the flavors created are genuine, meaning the flavors reflect the delicate balance between salty and sweet and sour tastes, which vary per country and come from a variety of ingredients, as well as cooking methods. Ottens Flavors' Savory Plus™ line of meat and poultry flavors allows for easy customization. Asian flavors such as Stewed Meat, Sweet & Sour and Vegetarian Chicken, Fried Meat and Chicken, Spicy Chicken and Roasted Pork are available. Ottens Flavors, Rudy Dieperink, 215-365-7800
Flavor enhancement is taken to a new level where 'HVP' and 'artificial' become non-factors. It says a lot when a company like Yamasa is relied upon for flavor enhancement for almost four centuries. The company's naturally brewed soy sauce-based products offer traditional flavor enhancement while adding an ease of application yet to be matched. Yamasa products are offered in liquid form with and without preservatives, and low-salt. The powders are offered with maltodextrin or with brown rice flour carriers. Reach deep into the past and let Yamasa put the flavor into today's and tomorrow's best recipes. Yamasa Corp. USA, Michael Loera, 310-944-3883, ext.103, email@example.com
A line of dry meat and poultry seasonings and flavor rubs in moisture-barrier, foil pouches makes serving your customers and creating value easy! Each product can be customized with specific preparation directions printed right on the pouch. They are great for food service, processors, or anywhere that savory creativity is needed. The pouched rubs are available in a flavorful variety, including Barbecue, Cajun, Caribbean, Latin American, Italian, and Asian, or can be customized for your unique product. Chr. Hansen Inc., Karen Wood, 800-558-0802, firstname.lastname@example.org
This powdered form of lactic acid enhances savory flavors in a range of applications. PURAC[r] Powder typically is used in dry soups and sauces, bouillon/stock cubes and a wide range of cheese formulations. The powder enhances the flavor of cheese, gives a mild taste to tomatoes, makes soy flavor more balanced and boosts beef and chicken aromas. Its mild sour taste creates opportunities in a wide range of food products. PURAC America Inc., 888-899-8014
This vast collection of savory flavors is available to use in ready-made meals and other applications. Special attention should also be given to Bell's range of acid suppressors that can be used in meat, tomato sauces and salad dressings. In addition, Bell has a wide range of heat-stable, non-EMC-based natural cheese flavors. Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Steve Carlin, 847-291-8300
Made-to-order marinades and sauces add zing to meat, poultry and seafood. From classic marinades and grilling sauces with a twist—such as Asian BBQ and sauces infused with tropical fruits or bourbon—to ethnic sauces with a micro-regional focus—such as sauces inspired by the central plains people of Thailand—Kerry Ingredients is the processor's source for fresh, flavorful, authentic marinades, sauces and seasonings solutions. Kerry Ingredients, Lionel Vil, 800-331-0135
Complete flavor systems and solutions that go far beyond taste, appearance and texture to delight customers with every mouthful are available from this company's Savory Flavors Division. The division uses the results of extensive in-house research to determine the key components of savory flavors. This enables Frutarom USA's creative flavorists to develop high-performance flavoring systems that deliver the right profile for products such as meats, snacks, meat analogs, bakery products, soups, sauces and salads, dairy foods, pickled foods and foods for the catering industry. Frutarom USA, Sharone Liberman, 201-861-9500, ext. 210, email@example.com
Are you looking to improve the flavor of your products while minimizing costs? Proliant's line of beef and chicken savory flavors will boost flavor and improve the mouthfeel in a variety of applications. These quality, value-added ingredients have roasted flavor notes that accentuate the aroma and taste of the base ingredients used in food applications. These flavors are ideal for a broad range of savory applications, including dry blends, marinades, soups, gravies and more. Proliant Meat Ingredients, 800-369-2672 (please mention code FJ04S.), firstname.lastname@example.org