Tweak and twist for that smoky, spooky effect

Modern cooking

Restaurants and cafes in Delhi are by and large offering everything to make the guests visit memorable and different. From offering exquisite interiors to constantly innovating with their services, food and drinks, one can always head towards an entirely new experience from whichever cafe or restaurant they choose to dine in.

So when Metrolife was in The Vault Cafe in Connaught Place, we were served our drinks with an additional smoky gas called coconut gas along with the Mai Tai cocktail. Served in separate ‘tequila shot glass’ along with our cocktail, the bartender advised us to keep the gas alongside our drink, so that the aroma stays for long.

Well, to our complete surprise, the gas did much more than just the aroma.
“This is one of the ways of applying molecular gastronomy,” says Piyush Jain, corporate chef, Mia Bella.

It is a technique which involves blending science with basic cooking. According to some chefs, it is about cooking with unusual ingredients and still handling food with the usual care. A basic knowledge of food preparation combined with the physical and biochemical aspect, paired with a philosophical touch, is what makes molecular gastronomy special. It is not purely artistic and is only out for special effects. As a consequence there are no creations that have not been carefully planned.

Along with cocktails and mocktails, the technique is also applied to regular food items which can be made much more fancy and appealing than they usually are.

“An egg cooked in a pan on open fire will be different than an egg which is cooked in a microwave or oven in terms of texture, taste, flavour and even in the way it looks. The final flavour and texture will be different when cooked at different temperatures, could be hot or cold, could be fast or slow as different temperatures affect food differently. This is the science behind cooking and that’s what molecular gastronomy aims at,” says chef Karan Talwar from Kitchen Karft Catering Co.

Similarly, the popular Indian dish Palak Paneer can be tweaked to spinach and cheese quenelle, by using different cooking equipments and science to prepare an absolutely different form, shape and texture whilst keeping in mind the traditional flavours, through molecular gastronomy. Thus, where we have people getting easily bored by the monotony of the eating their favourite items, cooked in the same way by chefs, who also suffer from the same monotony, a technique like this offers a lot on the table.

Elucidating on the increasing popularity of the technique, chef Aman Puri, cuisine innovationist at Lights Camera Action, tells Metrolife, “With the availability of restaurant quality cookware at every mall, outlet, market, or unmarked van in the back of a parking lot, it’s no longer amazing that someone can perfectly make a better butter chicken without culinary school training. Chefs want to dazzle patrons. They want to have the feeling of being magicians and having their guests leave with amazed looks of disbelief and whispering, ‘How the hell did he do that?’”

However, will the advent of such techniques and innovations, affect the traditional Indian ways of cooking? Where we have increasing electronic appliances and technology overpowering the entire kitchen, what happens to the roots of our cooking?

Chef Talwar has something positive to say. “I would say that this type of cooking methodology cannot be applied to traditional Indian, but rather to what we today call ‘progressive Indian cuisine and Indo-Western fusion cuisine’ which allows the usage of such ingredients and cooking methods. There are numerous ways you can apply it to Indian cuisines and come up with astonishing products.”

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