The diverse, global flavors of chicken

by Jeff Gelski
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The phrase "tastes like chicken" may need more explanation in this global age. Ingredients, cooking techniques and a preference for white or dark meat have created specific chicken flavors for different geographic regions. Givaudan, Vernier, Switzerland, and International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., Hilversum, The Netherlands, both have developed chicken flavor programs to allow food formulators to tap into ethnic chicken flavor profiles.

Givaudan’s TasteEssentials chicken program developed this year is designed to enable food manufacturers to identify precise chicken essence, signature and aroma needs, including taste solutions for low-salt recipes. Givaudan surveyed 7,300 consumers in 14 countries across the four continents of North America, South America, Asia and Europe.

"We know the experience of flavor is more than just sensory," said Andreas Haenni, global head of Savoury for Givaudan. "It is also deeply cultural. Givaudan experts literally sat in the kitchens of Russian, Spanish, French, Brazilian, Mexican, Colombian, American, Indonesian and Chinese households watching how authentic chicken dishes were prepared.

"Consumers used products bought locally, in recipes handed down through generations, and created dishes native to that region. Using this unique insight into flavor creation, we have created a captivating range of distinctive, innovative and authentic chicken flavors, which will enhance consumers’ enjoyment of chicken dishes around the world."

Ingredients and cooking techniques vary not only by continent, but by country and region. Ginger and shallot are the most commonly used ingredients with chicken in China, Mr. Haenni said.

"These are also used in Indonesia, but garlic is the main ingredient used, followed by turmeric," he said. "The use of coriander is also widespread. In Japan, on the other hand, the main ingredients found with chicken are onion, potato and mushrooms."

The Latin American profile may vary from palm oil and cilantro in Brazil to chayote and chili chipotle in Mexico, Mr. Haenni said.

Preference for dark or white meat varies by country. Consumers in Spain and Mexico, for example, prefer dark meat found in legs and wings while French and U.S. consumers prefer white breast meat.

"Roasting and grilling are the preferred cooking methods in Europe, whereas in many parts of Asia, steaming, boiling, and in particular the technique known as double-boiling, and stir-frying are the most common methods," Mr. Haenni said.

International Flavors & Fragrances launched its own global chicken flavor line earlier this year. The company brought in a selection of chickens from around the world raised on different diets and a variety of habitats, said Florian Webhofer, a certified master chef. He led a group of research chefs that cooked the chickens with such techniques as open pan, slow cook and high pressure pan.

Chicken profiles included boiled white meat, boiled dark meat, skin, roasted and grilled. Applications for these chicken flavors include soups, sauces, bouillons, gravy, marinades, noodles, quick-service foods and frozen foods.

"Our extensive consumer research conducted in major markets across the globe told us that chicken is a nearly universal comfort food and that consumers want authentic, familiar chicken tastes and aromas created by cooking techniques they know and love," said Jos Muilwijk, head of global savory category management for International Flavors & Fragrances. "I believe that this partnership between culinary artistry and state-of-the-art technical expertise resulted in the successful development of these extraordinary, high-impact authentic profiles, which have substantially raised the bar for natural chicken flavors in the industry. These are truly game-changing products."

Gilroy Foods and Flavors, Omaha, Neb., included chicken flavors in its recent FoodCast, a sampling of trends and insights. Yakitori-ya restaurants in Japan create skewers of grilled chicken, according to FoodCast. Yakitori means "grilled or roasted poultry" in Japanese. Yakitori-ya restaurants serve such items as kimo (grilled liver), sunagimo (giblets) and kappa nankotsu (grilled chicken cartilage).

"Understandably, these ‘variety meats’ may not play as well in the states as they do in Tokyo," the FoodCast report said, "but variety remains the spice of the yakitori concept."

Gilroy Foods and Flavors offers ideas as to how yakitori may appeal to American consumers. For example, chiles, grated ginger or roasted garlic may add flavor.

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