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The term ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ was coined in 1988 by Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti, and French physical chemist Hervé This. It refers to both the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking. Although it is a scientific discipline, Molecular Gastronomy is a largely creative and artistic way of cooking that produces some awe-inspiring effects. Bubbles, foam, interesting shapes, colours, and textures can result from this science-based way of cooking. Here, we talk about some of the popular techniques in Molecular Cuisine, and outline how it may be a way forward for a sustainable future.
Molecular cuisine refers to the implementation of Molecular Gastronomy techniques in the kitchen. It turns traditional cooking on its head, instead opting for a science-based approach to creating dishes. Modern, experimental, and innovative, Molecular Cuisine is fairly new in the cooking world.
Molecular Cuisine is all about showcasing textures and flavours that could not have been achieved using traditional methods. It is a precise art. Molecular Cuisine often consists of several small, refined, unique dishes. They are each intended to be an experience in their own right. Often, restaurants that practice Molecular Gastronomy techniques serve around ten dishes in a set menu.
You might be wondering what these Molecular Gastronomy techniques are, and what they entail. Some examples of them are:
Spherification, as the word suggests, is the creation of spherically shaped food. It is one of the most commonly used Molecular Gastronomy techniques. Through chemical reaction, liquid ingredients are trapped in a clear, tasteless membrane. Thus, a sphere is formed. These edible beads can be flavoured in many ways, and are, for Molecular Gastronomy, fairly easy to make (if you have the right equipment). Find out more about water spherification here.
Sous-Vide is French for ‘under vacuum’ - describing exactly what this Molecular Gastronomy technique involves. Food is cooked at a low temperature in a vacuum sealed bag, which is submerged in water. Cooking times are usually longer using this technique than cooking using traditional methods. The idea is that food cooked this way will be juicy, evenly cooked, and tender.
Gelification is the process of turning liquids into gelatinous forms. This Molecular Gastronomy technique is scientifically possible as large amounts of water bond with macromolecules, and when chilled, gelatinous forms are the result. Gelling agents help convert liquids into solids. Typically, these gelling agents come from natural sources. Examples of such agents are agar-agar, gellan gum, and carrageenan. Gelification can make for an exciting dining experience, introducing interesting textures and shapes to a dish, without compromising on taste.
As a result of the precision of Molecular Gastronomy techniques, waste is minimal. The scientific approach opts for using creativity to make meals taste and look interesting. Dishes are specially made sizes, expertly measured to avoid waste. In addition to the exact nature of measurements and ingredients needed in a scientific approach to food, seasonal menus are often used in Molecular Kitchens. These menus rely on seasonal and locally sourced foods. This is a much more sustainable practice than its alternative. Menus are often updated and adapted in line with the seasons.
Why not give Molecular Kitchen a try at a restaurant, or alternatively try out some Molecular Gastronomy techniques yourself at home. Combine art and science with food, and think about how exciting dishes can be!