Exotic smell key to greasy chip's success

A portion of traditional English cod and chips are served wrapped in paper in central London in an undated file photo. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Scientists say they may have found out why the great British chip smells so irresistible: a complex blend of scents that includes butterscotch, cocoa, cheese and flowers.

The aroma has been unpicked by food scientists at Leeds University.

“Whether oven-cooked or fried, the humble chip doesn’t smell of just chips -- the aroma is much more complex and probably explains why chips are everyone’s favorite,” said Dr. Graham Clayton, who led the research for Britain’s National Chip Week which started on Monday.

“Aromas including butterscotch, cocoa, onion, cheese and would you believe ...ironing boards, all combine to help make chips one of Britain’s iconic dishes,” he said.

The Leeds scientists collected the aroma from cooked chips, then separated the different compounds for analysis by an “aroma-meter” machine.

Those that could be detected by the human nose were sniffed, and the type and strength of smell recorded.

The findings showed that chips that are cooked twice have more complex aromas, comprising bitter cocoa, butterscotch, cheese, earthy potatoes, onions, and flowers.

“Perhaps these findings will see chips treated like wine in the future -- with chip fans turning into buffs as they impress their friends with eloquent descriptions of their favorite fries,” Clayton said.

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato