People prefer different flavours in their meals, which is the basis of sweet and savoury foods. So what is the basic difference between sweet and savoury? Sweet food is dominated by the taste of sugar or honey as in desserts, while savoury food is quite the opposite, full-flavoured, often sometimes spicy and associated with food of necessity rather than comfort.
They do however complement each other at dinner to the benefit of the palate. Pork as a savoury dish is often served with sweet apple sauce; similarly cranberry with turkey at Christmas. Salads and cheese boards have savoury cheeses, some with fruit inside them and are often accompanied by fresh, sweet fruit such as apples or strawberries; cheesecake as a popular dessert is a good example of a savoury product like cheese used successfully in conjunction with a fruit topping like mandarin oranges, blackcurrants or strawberries. Even wine as an accompaniment is chosen with such tastes in mind with dessert wines tailored for sweet desserts and other wines subtly chosen to compliment savoury meats and fish. Modern chefs frequently combine sweet and savoury foods to produce complex and yet complimentary flavours.
Sweet and savoury foods can be considered as two separate categories in practice, and sometimes they are in reality depending on your appetite and need for food. I mentioned meat as a typical savoury food earlier; vegetables, in general, are also classed as savoury and feature as a complimentary part of dinner. Snack foods, particularly those designed as part of a dietary requirement, are normally savoury and keep you from eating too much sweet food which is often high in calorie and fat content.
Sweets on the other hand are predominantly produced with sugar a main constituent. This may come from the natural sugar in fruit or introduced as part of the recipe. Most people have a strange affinity for sweet things, symptoms almost like a drug. It probably stems from when they were children when those fortunate had pocket-money for chocolate and candy. Both have a tendency to appear on various forms of dessert reminding us of those past and pleasant times. As with savoury foods, sweet tastes may be paired together. For instance, chocolate and orange have been famously and successfully combined by one certain chocolate manufacturer.
Nuts are a typical bridge between sweet and savoury. They can be coated in salt, chocolate or toasted or as a dressing to sweet cookies. As a savoury they are often added to whole-grain rice, chopped to give it a nutty texture and taste to accompany a mild chicken curry or salad.
Sweet and savoury flavours famously used in Chinese dishes go together in the same dish. Pork and chicken is one of the most popular combinations of sweet and sour in conjunction with a sweet sauce. Ham and pineapple is another favourite though some diners prefer ham with egg; another good example of sweet and savoury or just savoury foods combinations. This is seen more obviously when considering the numerous toppings you can have when ordering or making your own pizzas. Asian dishes often have sweet sauces with raisins and sultanas, but often tempered flavour wise with garlic and onions. Raw carrot sometimes blended as a drink is traditionally sweet to the taste and yet cooked as part of a dinner becomes more savoury.
It is sometimes difficult to make a distinction between sweet and savoury and depends on the individual’s taste and point of view. The key is often experimentation with frequent tasting during the creative phase. Both work equally well together and separately and allow cooks to produce a wide range of food that give maximum flavour and appeal.