Chocolate hummus, tofu vanilla ice cream? Why weird flavour combos work


You may have noticed an increasing number of unfamiliar dips appearing on the shelves of your local supermarket.Classic hummus now comes paired with everything from jalapenos, to capsicum, to rocket pesto. 

But hummus with chocolate and hazelnut is a new one. The odd pairing, released by Yumi’s in collaboration with Coles this month, hopes to intrigue customers by combining all the healthy characteristics of chickpeas with the indulgence of a nutty chocolate spread. 

“It’s quite a departure for us,” says Yumi’s head of product innovation Susan Booker.

Chocolate hummus, tofu vanilla ice cream? Why weird flavour combos work
Tucking into the chicken liver pate with potato chips and fish sauce caramel at Odd Culture in Newtown.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

“Some might baulk at the idea of chocolate and hummus, but it works remarkably well.”

The “unexpected, sensorially engaging combo” taps into a global trend of “people looking for playfulness and excitement from their food” after two years of COVID monotony, says Booker.

It follows in the footsteps of a similar dessert dip released by Aldi last year. The $3 “brownie batter” dip was made using aquafaba (otherwise known as chickpea water) and went viral after Sydney TikTok celebrity Adrian Widjy (@SydneyFoodBoy) raved about it online. 

Chicken liver pate with potato chips and fish sauce caramel from Odd Culture in Newtown.
Chicken liver pate with potato chips and fish sauce caramel from Odd Culture in Newtown.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

Adventurous flavour pairings continue to gain traction, however. TikTokers are mastering the art of culinary corruption by pairing everything from hot chips and maple syrup to pickles and Reese’s Pieces. 

TikToker and food science major Pedro Fernandez (@FoodTutor) has racked up more than 90,000 views on his videos, using computational gastronomy to demonstrate the method behind the madness.  

Computational gastronomy is a field of data science that analyses food’s molecular data and uses it to predict innovative, and sometimes delicious, food pairings.

One example is fish sauce and caramel which share flavour compounds diacetyl and guaiacol. It’s on the menu at Odd Culture in Newtown, where head chef Jesse Warkentin serves it with chicken liver pate and potato chips.

“I thought about how I enjoy pate the most, and that’s within a banh mi. And often you see a French-style pate with some sort of sweet wine jelly set over the top,” says Warkentin.

 “With those things in mind, I looked to southeast Asia for that sweet/aromatic component to complement the pate. I just thought a fish sauce caramel would fit the bill nicely.”

Weird flavour combos incl chocolate hazelnut hummus, kori vanilla tofu ice cream and cannoli beer
Weird flavour combos incl chocolate hazelnut hummus, kori vanilla tofu ice cream and cannoli beer Photo: Supplied

Professor Russell Keast is the director of the CASS Food Research Centre at Deakin University, where he studies taste and its influence on the consumption of foods. Keast tells me that, while flavour databases have managed to predict winning combinations like blue cheese and chocolate (yes, really), it was “luck rather than a scientific approach”.

“To me, pairing is an art, not a science,” Keast says.

“There are no absolute rules. You can have contrasts (salted caramel), dominant (lime and chilli), subtle (oysters and nori) and complementary (vanilla and sweet) combinations that work.”

In Melbourne, Hawthorn newcomer Kōri Ice Cream is a wonderland for adventurous diners, boasting more than 20 dairy and plant-based ice cream flavours to challenge the palate. The project is a collaboration between LuxBite co-founder and head chef Bernard Chu and Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year 2022 finalist Joane Yeoh.

Yeoh takes inspiration from her years working at the Chocolate Academy of Tokyo and acclaimed Tokyo restaurant Narisawa to create flavours such as tofu and vanilla, and nori and yuzu.

“I know it sounds a bit odd for an ice cream, but the flavours and textures work together brilliantly,” Yeoh says.

“I always encourage customers to give the less traditional ice creams a try.”

Feeling adventurous? Try these combinations

Fish bone cocktail (Oceans 10)

The brilliant bartenders at no-waste cocktail bar RE have upcycled fish bones to create an unusual whisky cocktail. Bring an open mind to fin-ish off your night with a concoction of Talisker 20, hibiscus, Irish moss, nasturtium flower and fish garum.

Shop 8/2 Locomotive St, Eveleigh, NSW; 02 8377 1877, wearere.com.au

Vanilla and tofu ice cream

Kōri Ice Cream has only been open for a few weeks, but customers have already identified the vanilla and tofu ice cream as a favourite on social media. Yeoh, who “spent countless hours perfecting each flavour”, says a “sure-fire choice” for the less adventurous is the Hokkaido cheesecake ice cream.

659 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, Victoria; 03 8394 7066; kori-icecream.com.au

Cannoli beer (Almighty Cannolo)

Moon Dog Craft Brewery has teamed up with Melbourne’s Cannoleria to concoct a limited edition cannoli-flavoured beer, using 1500kg of whey from That’s Amore! ricotta. The beer  “has a biscuit-y malt-y base, a creamy ricotta-like mouthfeel and a tart moreish finish”, according to the brewers.

300 cases available at bottle shops nationwide

Chicken liver pate with potato chips and fish sauce caramel

Liver pate gets a salty-sweet upgrade with the addition of potato chips and fish sauce caramel at Odd Culture in Newtown. Warkentin says the casual “chips and dip snack vibe” better suited the venue, while the addition of fish sauce pays homage to Sydney’s favourite sandwich, the banh mi. 

266 King Street, Newtown; 02 8317 3057; oddculture.group

Chocolate and hazelnut hummus 

While the thought of chickpeas with chocolate may raise some eyebrows, it turns out to be a winning combination. Booker says the Yumi’s chose sweet flavours that were familiar to Aussie families for the release of their first sweet dip. “We didn’t want to challenge people too much,” she says. 

The dip is available in almost 700 Coles stores nationwide  



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