Thursday, August 18, 2011


• By Rupali Dean

When I bumped into my favourite food science writer Harold Mc Gee in Bruges (Belgium), I simply could not believe my luck. For those who don’t know Harold has authored many books on the chemistry and history of food and the best being, “On Food and cooking; the science and Lore of the kitchen” which explains the connection of food with science b...eautifully and simply. Among other things, McGee explains how egg whites stiffen when beaten, why fish gets mushy if you overcook it and how to make soy sauce.

Upon hearing this term I instantly conjured an image of some sort of a laboratory experiment. And to my surprise it actually was plus of course the dining experience. The labs here are the modern kitchens with high tech equipment. In simple words molecular Gastronomy (also known as avante-garde or hyper modern) is chemistry cuisine wherein chefs create dishes using in-depth knowledge of the science, behind cooking, textures, flavours and taste. This allows a chef to be more creative and the customer gets a “wow” experience as the focus is the food! Chefs are embracing technology as a tool to help them cook more creatively.

The chefs use interesting techniques to change familiar dishes to unfamiliar forms. The most popular one is “spherification” in which the chefs make tiny or large balls of liquid inside a thin gel wall. For example a dish may be shaped like Penne but is actually chicken consommé or caviar but is actually something else. Let me explain, watermelon caviar for example is the epicurean apogee of molecular cooking, delicate and wobbly and they pop like balloons in your mouth to reveal a juicy center - intense, fruity and the type you may drink directly from the fruit. Many chefs go for “Sous vide” (literal meaning is under pressure), where the cooking is done at low temperatures in vacuum-packed plastic bags in order to get the utmost flavor and this is actually quite an age old practice. All in all chefs are intrigued by the science behind cooking and are happy to explore …who’s complaining?

Recipes with molecular cuisine elements by Chef Carl Middleton, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.
Incorporating exciting and colorful tastes from working in restaurants around the world, Carl’s take on modern Australian cuisine is married with French technique!

Seared Scallops, Toro Tataki, Pickled Ginger Caviar & Ponzu

Coriander Cress, Powdered Sesame Oil (Scallop)

This dish contains Harvey bay Scallops, Toro (Tuna Belly), the Ponzu is made into a gel using kappa and the pickled ginger caviar is made from pickled ginger juice using a technique called Specification, the sesame oil powder is made from sesame oil and malt dextrin

Baby Beets, Goats Curd & Fizzy Blood Oranges (Beets)

The salad part of the dish is made with fresh goats curd, roast baby beets, gold beets, and asparagus baby Basil, and the Salad is served with fizzy oranges & blood orange sorbet

The oranges are made in a siphon with co2 charges. The goats curd is from Jannei (farm), in the Blue Mountains

• “Agar Agar”, derived from seaweed has got interesting properties for jellification.

• “Sodium Alginate”, used in Spherification once gelled stays solid when introduced to calcium chloride solution.

• “Lecithin” when mixed with a liquid agitates the surface to create stable bubbles which collect as foam.

• “Liquid Nitrogen”, freezes anything in seconds.

• “Centrifuges” create a sphere out of juice

• “Cryovac machine” is used for vacuum sealing food in plastic.

• “Xantana” is a great thickening agent basically a gum obtained from the fermentation of corn starch with bacteria found in cabbage.

• “Paperbark” is used as a food wrap to impart flavour

This cuisine was first made popular by Spanish culinary genius Ferran Adria, who concocted dishes that surprised yet pleased diners with his unique combinations of flavors and textures at his restaurant “El Bulli” near Barcelona (supposed to be the world’s best). Grant Achatz chef and owner of “Alinea restaurant” in Chicago has been equally imaginative with interesting food which can be smelt, for example cinnamon skewers, coffee scented pillows etc. The other restaurants famed for this cuisine are “The Fat Duck” in Bray, Berkshire U.K, “The French Laundry” in the Napa Valley in California and “Tetsuya’s “in Sydney.