A machine “taste tested” food and alcohol pairings to see which was the most umami of them all

Robot holding tomato
Photo: Sompong Sriphet / EyeEm (Getty Images)

Robot, oh robot, on the wall, which is the most umami combo of them all?

Scientists are trying to figure out which food and alcohol pairings have the biggest boost in umami flavors when working in tandem. We recently covered researchers in Copenhagen who were in a similar pursuit to figure out why oysters and champagne pair so damn well together. In this case, AISSY Inc., a company specializing in data related to the sensation of taste, conducted an experiment for the Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center, an organization that promotes Japanese agricultural products abroad, to see which food and alcohol combinations produced the biggest umami boost.

But hold up one second. The tool they used for this flavor journey was a machine. This contraption, named “Taste Sensor Leo,” converts various tastes into numerical data that can then be analyzed. In this case, our new friend Leo (I wonder if Leo can figure out what people taste like) “tasted” a mix of 25 dishes and seven alcoholic beverages. Thanks, Leo! Please do not try and eat me.

One thing was clear, according to a press release from AISSY: Sake was the most successful alcohol in creating an overall boost in umami when paired with various dishes, particularly seafood. Whether it was mussels in white wine, lobster, or raw oysters, the amino acid in seafood combined with the glutamic acid in sake to create a magnified umami effect. (Other dishes that were tested included sausage, cheese, pizza, and French onion soup.) So if you were reaching for the champagne with your raw oysters, maybe think again and grab the sake instead.

Staff writer at The Takeout. Also: Saveur Humor Blog Award Winner, professional pizza maker, and insufferable troublemaker.

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DISCUSSION

“Sake was the most successful alcohol”

conducted an experiment for the Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center”

Wow, we’ve managed to automate provincialism. Nice job, science!