A man walks into a modern bar and orders an old fashioned martini. The bartender serves him a green globule in a bowl instead. This isn’t exactly a joke — it’s a welcome to the world of molecular gastronomy.
Pioneered by world-renowned chefs Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal, the techniques used in molecular gastronomy are more laboratory tactics than cooking styles. And this trend seems to have taken Mumbai by storm, with bars and restaurants across the city adding dishes created using scientific methods such as gelification, spherification, deep freezing and effervescence, to their menus.
Chef Mayank Tiwari of Olive is one such forerunner. “We’re adding elements of molecular gastronomy to our dishes, playing around with the textures while keeping the flavours and combinations intact,” says Tiwari. “We control the pressure and temperature in our kitchens and use food-grade chemicals to create these.”
The Eau Bar at the Oberoi has recently introduced cocktails using spherification. Some popular drinks on their menus are the Cosmolecular, which is a mix of vodka and cranberry juice with orange liqueur on the side; Strawberry Martini, made with vodka and served with a strawberry sphere and Champagne cocktails, served with either strawberry or almond pearls.
Ibar in Bandra has also just introduced new cocktails, which use the techniques while Wink at Vivanta by Taj in Cuffe Parade just wrapped up a special offer they had on cocktails made using molecular mixology.
Tiwari actually sources his raw materials from Spain. The ingredients are formulated by Adria himself. While Tiwari has no formal training in molecular gastronomy, his background in industrial chemistry helps him create the dishes. “I was set to take a course
in hydrochlorides at the Culinary Institute of America, but that didn’t work out,” he says. That, however, hasn’t stopped him from experimenting. “Mine is just a contemporary approach to traditional recipes. I’m playing around with the appearance of food and the plating,” he adds.
In case you’re wondering, you don’t need a Dexter-style laboratory in your basement to succeed at the techniques. “Spherification is the easiest. You can even stabilise emulsions at home,” says Tiwari. “Just be cautious and read up extensively before. For example, don’t derive foam from egg whites as there’s a Salmonella infection risk involved.”
Since gourmands the world over are turning to molecular gastronomy to impress their diners, ingredients and equipment too has become cheaper. “A 200 gm can of Soy Lecithin will set you back by roughly R2500,” says Tiwari. You can also buy your chemicals and equipment online and get them shipped. There are tutorials, blogs and communities dedicated to the art on YouTube, moleculargastronomynetwork.com, polyscience.com, albertyferranadria.com (in Spanish) and molecularrecipes.com; not to mention groups on social media networks that help you from burning the house down.
Red Wine Poached Pear And Cranberry Ravioli Salad With A Stuffing Of Blue Cheese Talc
Chef : Mayank Tiwari, Olive Bar And Kitchen, Mahalaxmi
Making Strawberry Agar Agar Pearls
Ingredients and equipment
You will need accurate scales and a plastic syringe
100 ml (3.4 fluid oz) strawberry juice or juice of choice
1 gm (0.035 oz) agar agar powder (China grass)
1 cup flavourless vegetable oil
Apple juice for storing the pearls in
In a small saucepan whisk together the juice and agar agar powder. Over medium heat, whisking constantly bring the mix to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the agar agar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let mix stand for four to five minutes. Fill your syringe with the juice mixture and add to the oil, drop by drop. Strain the pearls from the oil and transfer to apple juice until ready to use.
The apple juice washes away the oil residue and the leftover cup of oil can be reused for baking. Now you will have perfect small fruit pearls ready to top your cupcakes /in your martinis, desserts, salads etc.