Since winning the highest honor in the second season of Chef in 2010, cook and TV presenter Adam Liaw built an impressive career in the food world. He’s published seven cookbooks, writes food columns for a slew of newspapers, and regularly returns to our screens hosting a number of food and travel shows, including The kitchen.
Now Liaw can add a podcaster to her August resume with the launch of How taste changed the world, a seven-part Audible Original podcast series. Each episode explores the science behind the five basic tastes – salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami – and how they have defined civilization and could shape our future eating habits. To back up his research, he spoke to other taste experts, including Yotam Ottolenghi, Chinese food expert Fuchsia Dunlop and Tetsuya Wakuda.
“It originally started as a little research into human taste, but we found it was just connected to literally everything,” Liaw said. Large format. “Once you make those connections, it seems so obvious. Not only does it make cooking easier, but it also explains much of the world around us. It’s a fascinating topic that I think isn’t explored enough.
We asked Liaw to tell us his favorite Sydney restaurant dishes that best represent each of these five tastes.
Savory: Spanish Mackerel Fishball Soup at Amah, Chatswood
“Seasoning with salt is so important to good cooking, and in clear broths it is vital. These handmade fish balls are delicious and the way the seasoning of the fish combines with the broth is wonderful. The development of flavor from something as simple as salting fish has been crucial to the development of human civilization.
Sweet: Jersey Brie Burnt Cheesecake at The Old Fitzroy, Woolloomooloo
“Sweetness is something we enjoy biologically, but there is also great complexity in sweetness. The explosion in sugar production since the 1500s means that most of our sugar comes from cane or corn, but the complexity of the sugars in things like milk and cheese still makes for an interesting dish.
Sour: culatello with giardiniera at Bar Vincent, Darlinghurst
“Sourness is all about balance and the slight tartness of the giardiniera (pickled vegetables) is perfectly offset by the big cap of the savory culatello (an Italian ham). When we balance the sour taste with the sweet or salty, it becomes extremely pleasant.
Bitter: breakfast burger with thick bourbon bacon and long black at Matinee Coffee, Marrickville
“Bitterness is something we think is negative, but we all learn to like bitter foods and drinks like chocolate, tea and coffee. Sit down in a good local cafe and enjoy good food and a good, bitter coffee is a great experience, but if you talk to taste scientists, that kind of contextualization around food, especially bitter, is essential to our evolutionary biology.
Umami: tonkotsu abalone ramen at Senpai Ramen, Chatswood
“Japanese and Chinese cuisines do umami extremely well, and ramen is probably the quintessential umami dish. Tonkotsu ramen is made from long-braised pork bones, which really extracts and expands the umami-rich proteins.
Audible Original Podcast by Adam Liaw How taste changed the world is now streaming on Audible here. On June 1, Adam will take part in Vivid Sydney’s Ideas Exchange with Audible Live: Stories Made to Be Heard, during which he will discuss the podcast in more detail. Tickets are $10 plus booking fee. Buy your tickets online here.