"I've got the perfect book for this," says Leigh Hudson at Chef's Armoury.
It seems highly appropriate that The Big Fat Duck Cookbook by Heston Blumenthal is used to depress the plungers of nine loaded syringes in a molecular gastronomy cooking demonstration called Tokyo Food Trends held for SIFF.
Loading the syringe with red capsicum puree
Tonight Pig Flyin' and I are guests at the preview class of this event, a chance to run-through the entire demonstration before the following four days of paying customers.
Perspex tray with capsicum caviar pearls
A perspex stand with nine slots at the top takes pride of place on the demonstration counter. Leigh gets the class underway with little introduction.
He loads nine syringes with equal measures of capsicum puree, thickened with sodium alginate. As he pushes the book down onto the nine syringes, individual drops rain into a tray of calcium chloride solution. The calcium chloride sets each drop so it looks like caviar pearls.
Capsicum caviar pearls
The pearls set from the outside in, and should only be left briefly in the solution so its core is still in a liquid state. This means when a diner bites through the membrane, it imitates a caviar pearl, with a surprise burst of liquid in the middle.
Collecting the pearls
The pearls are collected and rinsed briefly in plain water to remove the calcium chloride.
Making white soy foam
Capsicum pearls on sushi rice with kingfish sashimi and white soy foam
Our first dish of the evening is a sashimi plate, the capsicum pearls spilling over a sailboat of sushi rice and nori seaweed, anchored by a pat of fiery wasabi.
Soy lecithin has been used to create the puff of white soy foam that sits on two firm fresh slices of kingfish.
Tomato jelly with sesame sand, fresh tomato with homemade Kewpie-style mayonnaise
A cube of tomato jelly served with sesame sand is one component of the next dish. The sesame sand is made by baking a flattened mixture of melted isomalt and sesame seeds on a Silpat baking sheet, and then blitzing the biscuit in a food processor to create granulated sand.
The second plate is a simple wedge of seasonal tomato, super ripe and sweet, accompanied with a swirl of Chef's Armoury own homemade Kewpie-style mayonnaise. This Japanese mayonnaise differs from European recipes with its inclusion of yuzu juice, dashi powder and rice vinegar instead of lemon juice.
Making miso soup balls using reverse spherification
The demonstration moves to the process of reverse spherification. Instead of incorporating sodium alginate into a mixture and setting it in a bath of calcium chloride, the mixture is thickened with calcium gluconate and set in a bath of sodium alginate.
Miso soup with scallion oil
A miso soup (made using red and white miso) is set into a lustrous yolk that sits in a puddle of scallion oil. We slip the miso yolks into our mouths and laugh when it explodes with a salty umami miso soup centre.
Clack egg cracker
The Clack egg cracker is the kind of contraption that makes every food geek sit up and take notice. The silver hat is rested on top of a boiled egg and the metal ball is lifted to the top of the pole and then allowed to descend at free speed until it hits the bottom with a "clack".
Egg shells with their tops cut off
What it does is cause a stress fracture at the base of the helmet, allowing the top of the egg to be removed cleanly for fancy egg shell presentations.
Spooning dashi stock over the 64-degree egg
Leigh slips out the wobble of soft-boiled egg, replacing with a bed of rice, onions cooked in dashi stock and then placing the egg on top.
Chicken kushikatsu, skewers of chicken fillet rolled in panko crumbs and deep-fried, arrive in miniature milk bottles. Leigh serves them with the egg, calling it his miniature oyakodon, a take on the traditional Japanese dish of simmered chicken, egg and onions served over a large bowl of rice. Oyakodon means "parent and child" and refers to the use of both the chicken and the egg in this dish.
Yuzu jelly with fizz
A palate cleanser of yuzu jelly sets our tongues tingling with fizzy citric acid and sugar.
Snapper with dashi, white soy and porcini soup
We move onto the elegant simplicity of snapper, a moist and buttery piece of fish resting in a dashi, white soy and porcini soup. Cubes of carrot and turnip are intensely concetrated, a characteristic explained when Leigh tells us each has been cooked sous vide, the vacuum-sealed bag eliminating any loss of flavour.
Yabbies in the frypan
A jostle of yabbies in the frypan look decidedly cute, even though Leigh had told us he'd bought them all live only that morning.
Yabbies lounging around
He perches the heads of the yabbies at the front of our plates, claws hanging over the sides as though they're escaping the steam from a relaxing soak in the bathtub.
Adding the mashed potato cream using an espuma gun
Yabbies cooked in miso butter with mashed potato cream
There is no hesitation not to use fingers when we're served our bowls of yabbies. After savouring the tail meat, we crack open the shells are prise the cavity and claws of their precious flesh. However the highlight is the mashed potato cream, a foamy puree that is lighter than air after being forced through an espuma gun, originally used to whip cream in the 1960s but now making a comeback as an indispensable device in the field of molecular gastronomy.
Green tea partfait with macadamia praline, green tea soil and red bean
Our first dessert is a wheel of smooth and airy green tea parfait rolled in a crunchy gravel of macadamia praline. Red beans are a little chewy but I don't mind the contrast in texture, and both the beans the green tea soil (mixed with isomalt and crushed) provide a welcome counterbalance to the sweetness of the ice cream and praline.
Make your own dessert
Our final activity is hands-on, an opportunity to construct our own version of black forest cake using ready-made ingredients.
Using the espuma gun
For the most part, our desserts look the same, an assembly of chocolate cake layers sandwiched with kirsch anglaise and chocolate mousse, but it does give each of us and opportunity to play with the espuma gun.
My black forest cake: chocolate cake and chocolate sponge layers
sandwiched with sour cherry gelatine disc, kirsch anglaise and chocolate mousse
topped with chocolate ganache, green tea soil and a toffeed maraschino cherry
A few towers topple before they make it back to the dining table but the components taste so good that presentation almost doesn't seem to matter. I'm intrigued by the use of charcoal powder in the chocolate cake. Leigh's assistant, Eddy, says it gives a natural black colour when baking, and is barely discernible in charcoal flavour.
It's an entertaining evening, and enlightening too. Maybe I should have paid more attention in high school chemistry all those years ago!
Grab Your Fork and Pig Flyin' attended the Tokyo Food Trends preview session as guests of Chef's Armoury. Tokyo Food Trends ran from Tuesday 19 October to Friday 22 October 2010.
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10/25/2010 02:21:00 a.m.