Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Molecular Gastronomy

Hervé This, co-creator of molecular gastronomy, holds up one of his creations for inspection. This is ready for a challenging way of cooking. Image credit:
Do you know that molecular gastronomy is slowly but surely sweeping the world’s kitchens? Simply put, it is essentially the application of the scientific method to food preparation. 

The basic idea behind molecular gastronomy is to determine what happens when food cooks, how its physical and chemical properties change, how different methods modify its taste, smell, and texture, and then use this new understanding to create novel dishes. 

Dozens of high-end restaurants worldwide now serve innovative delicacies such as snail porridge, bacon-and-egg ice cream, and a wide range of edible foams, gels, and “spherificated” foods. 

But Hervé This (pronounced ‘Tees’), one of the key developers of molecular gastronomy, intends to push the envelope further. He wants not only to prepare meals inspired by chemical and physical insights, but “to make food directly from the basic constituent chemicals themselves – the individual flavor notes that comprise dishes. He calls this‘note-by-note cuisine’. 

The chefs who subscribe to molecular gastronomy don’t just chop and stir, they use tools such as siphons, water baths, liquid nitrogen, and rotary evaporators. Their ingredient lists sound like something out of a biochemistry textbook: sodium alginate, agar-agar and other plant gums, and enzymes such as transglutaminase. 

As French physical chemist Herve This says every foodstuff is made up of a basic chemical mixture – and so it's possible to create nutritious dishes from powders, oils and liquids that contain the building-blocks of food, rather than conventional raw ingredients. This Note by Note cuisine is best likened to a painter using primary colors, or a musician composing note by note. The result is food not as we know it, more like being given a chemistry set on your plate!

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