Recently fellow brethren Guerry (deguerre) posted a thread titled "SPAM and Peanut Butter" about Hormel's recent acquisition of Unilever, bringing together two food staples; SPAM and Skippy.
Of course many readers saw the thread title and instantly vomited, while others commented on various savory foods they enjoyed with peanut butter, so why not SPAM.
One comment that really piqued my curiosity was the mention of peanut butter and sardines, or even kipper snacks. This post somehow got my brain juices flowing ever so slowly enough to realize that what sardines or kippers were essentially bringing is a savory umami flavor to peanut butter, which when I thought about it, was a flavor combo already used and enjoyed by many (Kung Pao Chicken anyone?).
So I decided I should try this. Worst case scenario, I wouldn't like it and had to wash the taste out with vast quantities of alcohol.
I had no kipper snacks (I love kipper), and due to a number of factors would not be going to the store...but I was going to Walgreens! They happened to have one kind of sardines, as shown below with a smallish container of peanut butter.
I opened the containers and prepared to deliver the goods.
I figured I would start with one sardine and little over one glop of peanut butter.
I took one piece from the sardine with an approximately equal sized blob of peanut butter.
The taste was as I suspected! Not gross at all, but a savory umami peanut flavor combination. However, it was not balanced and could be improved. The peanut butter was too forward, and the umami from the sardines was a little flat and could use another umami complement.
For those who don't know, umami is a powerful savory flavor that people naturally love and even crave. It also comes in different forms which when combined actually multiply the savory goodness instead of simply adding to the flavor. For example, combining two umami flavors like tomato and parmesan delivers more "wow" to your taste receptors than simply twice the tomato or parmesan. In some case combining two or more umami flavors can deliver tens to hundreds of times the savory flavor than just one of the ingredients alone.
So why did I explain that? Because as I mentioned the umami flavor of the sardines with peanut butter was a little flat and could definitely benefit from adding another umami flavor.
My first thought was soy sauce, then Worcestershire sauce. I was out of soy sauce but had some fish sauce!
I started by blending peanut butter and sardines together into an ugly looking paste which could easily take on the liquid flavors of these two sauces.
First I put Worcestershire sauce on a sample.
That was really good! Things were going in the right direction!
Next I tried fish sauce.
This was also an improvement, but more so from added salt than umami. So this flavor combo of sardine and pb likes added salt obviously.
Next I did both sauces at the same time. This was to get both an umami and a salt boost simultaneously.
This was another very significant improvement.
I think that this mix, pb, sardine, fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce would be off the hook good if topped with Sriracha or a relish made of pickled garlic, onion and peppers.
So there you have it. It may sound gross, but the science of flavors proves it can actually make something much better than either pb or sardines alone.