Molecular gastronomy is the process of using science and chemistry to prepare food. It's a modern movement of cooking that often changes the physical makeup of cuisine by using ultra creativity to come up with completely new and often abstract dishes and flavors. I recently had the opportunity to enjoy a Thai fusion meal where a molecular gastronomy chef cooked up a series of fusion Thai dishes for us to sample. Our meal, which was served in courses dish by dish, was a creative modern take on Thai cuisine.
We started off with a tom yum shrimp cocktail. Now as you probably know, tom yum shrimp is one of Thailand's most famous soups, but serving it as a cocktail beverage, laced with alcohol, is a completely different twist to the dish (now drink). Just like a normal bowl of tom yum soup, the cocktail was full of lime juice, but that's where the similarities ended. The cocktail included a splash of gin, soup stock, and for the shrimp, rather than being added to the cocktail, it was grilled on a bamboo skewer and used as the mixing stick for the beverage. The chef taught us to give the drink a whirling stir with the shrimp skewer, eat the shrimp in a single bite, and then sip down the cocktail as we pleased. While it indeed reminded me of any Thai tom yum soup, it was so contrastingly different at the same time.
After the cocktail, we had foie gras red curry. The foie gras, being typical of French cuisine, while the curry flavors and spices were influenced by Thai food. This was a fusion Thai dish, meaning ingredients were certainly not typical of traditional Thai food but a merger of two different cuisines. The creamy foie gras paired with the spicy flavors of typical Thai food, and a lovely hint of basil, made the dish rich and melt in your mouth. Again, it was an idea and mingling of flavors that I had never experienced before, and it was extremely delightful.
To round out the main courses we then had green curry. But instead of being served temperature hot as a normal Thai curry, the chef decided to completely change the makeup of the dish by serving it frozen. After the blend of green curry was cooked with coconut milk and reduced so the flavors were condensed, it was then frozen frozen into a thin bowl like structure. The green curry had to be ateen quickly to maintain the modern molecular composition, so it would still be frozen solid when eating. The result was very interesting yet again. When I closed my eyes, I tasted all the normal components of a Thai green curry, yet there was a slight crunch from the frozenness, and the creamy cold sensation was more similar to a creamsicle than a plate of green curry and rice. It sort of reminded me of eating an Indian kulfi, an ice cream that's made with thick cream and flavored with cardamom, but instead of cream it was coconut milk and instead of cardamom it was the range of spices in the green curry paste that created the attractive flavor.
Finally for dessert we finished things with mango sticky rice, which is one of Thailand's most well known and loved sweets. But while a normal mango sticky rice is a pile of sweet coconut sticky rice paired with a slab of perfectly ripened mango, this was a foamy dessert that looked like a pile of soap suds. In this example of Thai molecular gastronomy, the chef completely changed the physical structure and appearance while maintaining a surprisingly similar flavor. Each bite of the light bubbles produced a mango and powerful rice flavor in my mouth.
While I would not want to eat Thai food that's been altered molecularly too often, it was a really fun treat. I was amazed at both the creativity, the accurate cooking, and the thought behind the display of all the dishes. Also, it was incredible how the dishes looked Absolutely nothing like they normally do, yet after tasting them, I could have undetected detect the dish it represented or was inspired by.