Sweet sour is a juxtaposed taste of sweetness and sourness. Sweet taste is a pleasant taste that is felt and experienced by our palate, while sour taste has a slightly tangy feel to it, which can be a little sharp to the palate, not liked by many. However, when these two tastes come together, they are a wonderful combination that plays on our taste buds.
Every cuisine has its own recipes with its unique flavor that can be thoroughly savored. While sweetness can be experienced by the tip of the tongue, sourness can be experienced by the middle of the tongue and because of this the taste of the dish lingers on longer than usual. Most of the cuisines across the world have dishes that are sweet as well as sour.
History of Sweet and Sour Taste
The history of sweet sour taste dates back to the Aristotle (around 350 BCE) and Ayurveda times. Aristotle documented two basic tastes, which were sweet and bitter taste, and Ayurveda documented many tastes of which sour taste was one. Other than these early records, history is also proof that the actual taste is more closely associated with the Chinese cuisine, wherein such recipes are supposed to have originated in Canton.
Popular Sweet and Sour Foods
When sweetness and sourness of certain ingredients are combined it results in sweet sour taste. Some foods that have a sweet taste are milk and milk products such as butter, cream and ghee, grains such as rice, wheat and barley, legumes such as beans and lentils, fruits such as bananas, mangoes, and guavas and other than these foods, certain cooked vegetables such as carrots, beets and sweet potatoes too have a sweet taste.
Similarly, foods that are sour in taste are citrus fruits such as lemon and limes, milk products that are sour such as cheese, yoghurt and sour cream, and certain fermented products such as wine, pickles, vinegar, soy sauce and sauerkraut. When ingredients from these two groups are mixed and cooked together the resulting dishes have a very unique yet thoroughly enjoyable taste.
Popular Sweet and Sour Recipes of Various Cuisines
This taste is prominent in most of the Southeast Asian cuisines such as Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern. This taste goes well with all kinds of foods such as poultry, fish, sea foods, meat and even vegetables. There are many such recipes in these cuisines and some popular ones are –
Chinese – Chicken is a popular recipe of this cuisine. Most of the Chinese dishes contain vegetables such as carrots, onions, capsicum, spring onions, string beans, etc. cooked along with meats. This dish gets its sweet sour taste from soy sauce, cider vinegar, and tomato paste. Other ingredients such as corn flour, chicken stock, salt, pepper and dry cherry add to the flavor and thickness of the dish. Other common yet such popular sweet and sour recipes of this cuisine are Fish, Meatballs, Tofu Salad, Red Cabbage, Pork with Dark Soy Sauce and many more such recipes; in fact the list of such dishes is long in the Chinese cuisine.
Indian – Even the Indian cuisine has a host of such recipes and the taste is obtained by a combination of tamarind or kokum and something sweet like certain sweet vegetables or even sugar and jaggery, which is a common ingredient in this cuisine. One such popular dish is Aamti. This dish is made with split red gram cooked soft to which tamarind paste and jaggery are added to give the dish its sweet sour taste. Other ingredients that go into making this popular dish are turmeric powder, chili powder, green chilies, finely chopped ginger, and hot spice mix. The dal is boiled well and seasoned with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and asafetida in clarified butter or ghee. It is then garnished with chopped green coriander. This dal is generally served with white rice. Similarly, there are many more such recipes of this cuisine, made with vegetables, meat, poultry, and even seafood dishes.
Health Benefits of Sweet and Sour Dishes
Sweet sour foods have certain health benefits which work internally in our body. As per science, sweet taste tends to calm the nerves, while building the tissues, fat, muscle, bones, marrow, reproductive fluids and even plasma and blood. It also increases saliva in our mouth thus soothing the mucous membranes and it also enhances the quality of our voice, skin and hair.
Sourness on the other hand helps in absorption of minerals and cleansing tissues. It stimulates digestion and also helps in circulation and elimination. Sour taste plays a major role in strengthening the heart and sharpening the senses. However, sour foods have to be eaten in moderation. With so many independent benefits of sweetness and sourness, including sweet sour foods in our diet is highly beneficial.