I know I’m probably behind the times but recently I’ve taken greater interest in area of molecular gastronomy particularly after expanding my food adventures. The best thing I would imagine for a chef is seeing the element of surprise this art brings to their diners. Apart of the Crave festival, I attended an intimate class at the Chef’s Armoury playing around with Japanese flavours and molecular gastronomy.
First off the mark was a technique that I was particularly interested in learning how to do properly – having tried and sort of, succeeding, I wanted to know all the inside tricks and secrets. Sphereification is combining a flavoured liquid with sodium alginate and dripping this into a water bath of calcium chloride – then into some clean water to wash off the chloride. If they float, you know it’s not right as there is air trapped inside. And, it’s best to make them just before serving.
Capsicum caviar and kingfish sashimi with ponzu foam
As kingfish sashimi was on the menu, a sauce was in order. Ponzu, a light soy sauce commonly served with gyoza was made into a foam. And as water does not foam on its own, it’s crucial to add a emulsifier such as soy lecithin to the solution, hand blend, and viola! It’s as easy as scooping the flavoured foam onto the dish just before serving.
The dish was fantastic and something we could definitely replicate in our home labs – although, I would have loved to have a greater explosion in the mouth, with a more intense and surprising flavour in the caviar. It’d be interesting to try this with some crazy flavours.
Tomato agar jelly and sesame sand
Next up was sands and soils. A common purpose of sand and soils is the element of texture or to plant a protein on top. In this case, sesame was mixed with a sugar substitute like isomalt – the isomalt doesn’t absorb much moisture so it can be combined with flavours, melted and left on a silicon mat to cool, then grounded into powder. If you took this one step further, it would be baked in the oven and shaped – much like the one used for the Snow Egg (it would have been handy if we attended this class before we failed at Masterchef!)
This dish was definitely more intriguing than the first, with a cube of savoury jelly and very sandy sesame. It reminded me of the grounded peanut and sesame treats we would devour during Chinese New Year.
Another very commonly used method in the molecular gastronomy world is reverse sphereification – where calcium chloride is combined with the liquid and submerged into a water bath of sodium alginate (so the opposite to sphereification!). This allows larger spheres and greater bursts of flavour.
On the menu were spheres of miso soup that was taken down like a sake shot. Once bitten, the warm miso soup bursts into your mouth. It definitely drew a “wow”. To make spheres warm, submerge them into a warm water before serving.
Sous vide has been around for quite some time, and it can become quite a heated dinner table discussion amongst foodies – some love it and some hate it. It’s all a matter of preference, like how do you like em eggs? The concept is French meaning “under vacuum” and involves cooking proteins in a vacuum sealed bag submerged in a temperature controlled water bath. The argument for sous vide also dervives from the point that food is best cooked in their own juices to maximise and maintain the flavour. Chef Leigh makes the good point that when carrots are boiled, the water tastes like carrot water but the carrots then taste absolutely bland and unflavoursome.
Using the sous vide machine, Chef Leigh demonstrated how to cook the one ingredient that determines the skill of a chef, eggs. Using an egg clacker to remove the top of the eggs, the inside slipped out effortlessly leaving a clean empty shell. Eggs were cooked in the sous vide machine at 64 degrees for an hour.
Sous vided eggs, onions, rice and chicken oyakodon
The outcome was a take on the humble chicken oyakodon. At the bottom of the egg was a slightly runny yolk and white, topped with onions and sushi rice drenched in a absolutely addictive sauce of mirin and white soy, served with sticks of chicken. My favourite savoury dish of the night alongside the warm miso spheres.
Whitebait sous vided with parsnips and carrots with microherbs
Another sous vide dish is demonstrated using whitebait and good ol’ carrots and parsnips. The whitebait was delicious and perfectly cooked, falling apart as my fork sliced through and the vegetables did indeed taste like carrots and parsnips, although they’ve been cooking for an hour. The broth was a simple as white soy sauce, mirin and dashi – lightly flavoured so the fish and vegetables could be the stars of the dish.
Yappies with miso butter bathing in potato and yuzu foam
Chef Leigh explains how crucial for any cuisine it is, to cook with produce that is in season. With our luck, yappies are on the menu tonight – cooked with miso paste and butter in a iron caste pan and served with a potato, olive oil and yuzu flavoured foam. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that could be described as the baby of a lemon and a lime. Presentation for this dish was brilliant, humour is the best part of dinner. The yappies were delicious with a hint of the miso butter, although the foam was just a little too sour for my liking.
Green tea and honey parfait served with green tea soil and azuki beans
Onto dessert, Chef Eddie serves us a gorgeous dessert that leaves the table silent for a solid five minutes with the occasional hmm and aahh. A green tea soil served with a green tea and honey parfait rolled in a macadamia praline with a side of azuki beans. The best desserts have a balance of flavours and most importantly, textures! I love how the praline left a crunching sensation while the parfait was soft and just melted in the mouth.
Second dessert for the night was a DIY blackforest cake and being in a molecular gastronomy class, it was only fitting to ensure it was really a black cake… Eddie places plates of ingredients like charcoal cake bases, Chantilly creme, chocolate mousse, cherries, chocolate sauce and a sour cherry gel. The charcoal didn’t really taste like much, but entire cake had amazing flavours and it wasn’t as sweet as I had anticipated it to be – my favourite layer had to be the sour cherry gel which was amazing in texturally in the cake and flavour.
Amazing class, both entertaining and delicious!
Classes now ended, but keep checking Chef’s Armoury for any upcoming classes.
747 Botany Road