Animals, especially omnivores, feed selectively to fulfill
energy needs and nutrient requirements, guided by chemical
cues perceived as flavors. Among animals, humans exhibit the
most diverse array of culinary practice. The diversity
raises the question whether there are any general patterns
of ingredient combination that transcend individual tastes
and cuisines. We introduce a flavor network that captures
the chemical similarity between culinary ingredients.
Together with recipe datasets of various cuisines, the
flavor network shows that Western cuisines have a tendency
to use ingredient pairs that share many flavor compounds,
supporting the food pairing hypothesis used in molecular
gastronomy. By contrast, East Asian cuisines tend to avoid
compound sharing ingredients.