The cuisine scene in India has been steadily shaking, or rather, smoking, over the past few years. Restaurants are bars have been setting a new trend, where not only is the food delectable, it is also visually stunning. A drink with a smoking top, dishes topped with airy foam, sheets and towers and pearls of the most improbable ingredients- all of this is the magic of molecular gastronomy.
A branch of food science, molecular gastronomy applies principles of Physics and Chemistry to give ordinary ingredients and dishes new textures, shapes and flavor. The most visible product of this is the ‘smoking drinks’ – cocktails and cocktails that are topped off with liquid nitrogen, which creates smoke that billows on top of the drink. The method of ‘spherification’ produces small pearls, another popular component of molecular gastronomy. It can even make spheres out of liquids, and involves a complex chemical process.Popping sugars, agar-agar, calcium salts, xanthan gum, smoke guns and foaming guns are just some of the chemicals and tools used to create the stunning dishes.
Talking to the Times of India, Neeraj Tyagi, Executive Chef at Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel says “Molecular gastronomy is a creative and experimental way of cooking and primarily depends upon the innovation of the chef. In this type of cooking technique, one can serve a very simple dish in more complex ways while keeping all the flavours intact. Whether it’s making powdered food, pearls out of simple ingredients, see-through pasta, a crunchy cocktail, or a savory gum, the possibilities are endless when it comes to experimenting with molecular gastronomy.”
The trend originated in luxury hotels of west, where food was elevated to an art form as chefs experimented with new ways to impress their patrons. It came to India around 2005-06, and many restaurants today make these fairy-tale dishes. As delightful this trend is however, it may be on decline, both globally and in India.
Recently, a case came up in Delhi where a man developed a hole in his stomach, after drinking a cocktail containing liquid nitrogen. While such cases are rare, they have highlighted to the public the possible health risks of molecular gastronomy. Like everything else, overuse of the techniques and chemicals can have certain health risk, though mostly minimal. There is also the fact that the public wants simplicity back again. “The epicentre of dining today for guests is its ultimate taste for which they could crave and return back. Simple white and black plate with natural garnishing, has taken the main stage today,” said Chef Nayyer of ‘Tourist’ to the Press Trust of India.
While the trend is dying, it is very much possible that brave chefs may revive it again. While it is here, however, you should enjoy it. Here are some restaurants and bars that whip up some great food using molecular gastronomy-
The Smoke House Room, Delhi
Farzi Cafe, Gurgaon, Pune, and Mumbai
Indian Accent, Delhi
Masala Library, Mumbai
Chemistry 101, Mumbai
Stone Water Grill, Pune
Of course, there are tons more all over India. Head to one, and let your eyes and mouth both enjoy the feast. Bon Apetit!