China experiments with molecular cuisine

Chinese cuisine, famous for dumplings steamed in bamboo baskets and Peking duck slow-cooked over wood from fruit trees, seems a far cry from the high-tech equipment used in so-called molecular cuisine.

But Dong Zhenxiang, owner of the Da Dong restaurant in Beijing which is a leader of the trendy culinary movement here, says fresh techniques can only improve traditional Chinese cooking.

"Importing new cooking skills is aimed at improving, enriching and promoting Chinese cuisine. Molecular gastronomy is only one of those skills," said Dong, whose establishment also serves platter upon platter of classic roast duck.

Molecular cuisine, a phrase ascribed to a scientific approach to gastronomy, seeks to investigate and explain the chemical reasons behind the transformation of ingredients.

The trend was on full view when hundreds crammed into a chic Beijing art gallery for demonstrations given by chef Albert Adria of elBulli, the Spanish restaurant seen as the world leader in the molecular cuisine movement.

"It is amazing. We got 13,000 emails for this event," said Irish chef Brian McKenna, who organised the two classes in Beijing's trendy 798 district, as well as a dinner staged by Da Dong which wrapped up at the weekend.

Adria, brother of the restaurant's head chef Ferran, whipped up "magical chocolate ice powder", a white caramel dessert in the shape of a thin maple leaf and a layered green tea and mango cookie for the spellbound foodies.

"There is a passion for cooking here that is incredible," Adria told AFP.

He said at one class he had "made 12 dishes and improvised with a few things -- a bit of a Chinese-Spanish mix", calling the huge turnout "a major surprise". Each participant paid about 100 dollars to attend the event.

Fu Yongjun, a cooking consultant for Unilever Foodsolutions who was one of the hundreds to see Adria in action in Beijing, eagerly snapped photos of his kitchen acrobatics.

"I am very interested in molecular gastronomy. I think this is a high standard in Western food -- very fresh and secret," Fu told AFP.

"Maybe Chinese chefs will want to learn something from this."

But Adria, whose Costa Brava restaurant in April was crowned best in the world for the fourth year running by Restaurant Magazine, bristled at the label "molecular cuisine" for his innovative work.

"That is a label they have stuck on me," he said. "I don't cook 'molecular' -- I know what I'm doing and I want to make wonderful dishes."

Last year, elBulli received two million reservation requests but served just 8,000 meals, made by a team of 40 chefs. The restaurant is only open for six months of the year; the other six months are dedicated to research.

Thermal lamps, silicon moulds and a vigorous use of blenders, freezers and desiccators are common at elBulli, but Adria says his kitchen is far from being a science lab.

"Some people say elBulli is pure technology, but if that were the case, why wouldn't I have 40 machines instead of 40 chefs?" he wondered aloud.

The restaurant has been criticised in some circles for its intensive use of potentially risky chemical ingredients but its chefs have repeatedly dismissed the claims as unfounded.

McKenna, who has worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants, is a firm elBulli fan, and said Adria's demonstrations might inspire a boost in the level of Western food in Beijing.

"Everything that happens in food today in every restaurant in the world -- they have had an influence on it!" he said.

"They were the first people to put food in a Martini glass, and even Chinese restaurants all over now put food on black stone or brick -- it's all from them," McKenna said.

"They have massively changed what we do inside of restaurants -- it is phenomenal," he added,

As for the Chinese capital's Western restaurant scene, he said: "It is all grey... there are cooks in Beijing, chefs I am not sure -- all this has to change."

When asked if elBulli's brand of molecular cuisine could take off here, McKenna replied: "Absolutely! The Chinese are the most food-knowledgeable people in the world."

Da Dong, which has reportedly invested tens of thousands of dollars in high-tech equipment, now offers more than a dozen "molecular" dishes , some of them based on seafood or goose liver.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum