Since The fat duck and El Bulli were announced “Best restaurant” in 2005 and 2006 respectively by Restaurant Magazine, molecular gastronomy has received increased attention. This has also resulted in a greater demand for the ingredients used, especially various thickeners, stabilizers and emulsifiers. In Europe, these have been given E-numbers ranging from E400-E499. The other ranges include colours (E100-199), preservatives (E200-E299), acidity regulators, anti-oxidants and anti cacking agents (E300-E399, E500-E599) and flavour enhancers (E600-E699). The European numbering is a sub-set of an international list of food additives, the Codex Alimentarius.
The Alchemist’s pantry – an early predecessor to that of the modern cook! (picture source)
Some of the most used ingredients in restaurant kitchens are listed below:
E327 Calcium lactate
E331 Sodium citrates
E400 Alginic acid
E401 Sodium alginate
E402 Potassium alginate
E403 Ammonium alginate
E404 Calcium alginate
E407a Processed eucheuma seaweed
E410 Locust bean gum (Carob gum)
E412 Guar gum
E414 Acacia gum
E415 Xanthan gum
E416 Karaya gum
E417 Tara gum
E418 Gellan gum
E461 Methyl cellulose
E463 Hydroxypropyl cellulose
E464 Hydroxy propyl methyl cellulose
E466 Carboxymethyl cellulose
E473 Sucrose esters of fatty acids
E621 Monosodium glutamate
E631 Disodium inosinate
Transglutaminase (no E-number as far as I know)
Unfortunately these ingredients are not available in normal stores (with one exception: gelatine). Of course they are readily available in large quantities to the food industry, but lately suppliers of sub-kilogram amounts have appeared. I have collected a list of these suppliers – if you’re not on the list, drop me a note at webmaster((a))khymos((dot))org). Recent additions to the list include Kalys, texturePro and DCDuby.
One challenge with the different shops is that some products come with little or no technical specification. For cellulose ethers for instance, Dow provides an extensive range to industrial customers (more on this in a previous blog post on cellulose ethers), just to give you an idea of the product range available.
I should also add a closing remark om tools: some companies sell syringes, measuring spoons etc in “nice boxes”. However, these tools can most often be obtained for a fraction of the price at any drug store, pharmacy or kitchen hardware store.
Once you have stocked up with your cooking chemicals, the next question is – how do you use them? I would recommend the information provided by INICON on molecular gastronomy and textures (MANY pdf’s to download). Also, many of the suppliers have recipes on their homepages.