Molecular gastronomy can be a bad word these days. The days of Ferran Adria and his contemporaries are still highly regarded, but cooking around the world seems to have taken an approach entirely different to the old guard of fine dining chefs. What’s left of molecular gastronomy these days are used to highlight incredibly down-to-earth dishes, and are set in restaurants where shirt and tie aren’t necessary. Still however, there is magic in the world that Adria introduced us to, that Blumenthal propagated, and Redzepi cemented. Adria gave us a tiny green sphere that tasted like the very essence of olive, but was texturally like caviar, bursting of juice when your teeth grazed the thin, transparent skin. Blumenthal’s meat fruit, seen all over on his whimsical and hedonistic cooking shows, had all the trickery that even children would love; a perfectly shaped orange, betrayed by the slice of a knife, which revealed its soft, melting interior of chicken parfait.
Back home, we never really saw the rise of anything molecular especially when the trend was at its peak, and it never seemed to raise the interest of diners then. Now, when everyone is well-informed and eating out, there are a few who are using similar techniques to enhance their menus, rather than making it the star of the show. Rob Pengson’s menu at The Goose Station for example, is heavily inspired by his European counterparts, with a beet garden of textures that recalls molecular cooking before him.
Today at Pepper, we introduce a recipe that has all the magic this cooking movement represented. Vask Gallery’s chef Jose Luis Gonzalez, who once spent months in the kitchen of Ferran Adria and Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, showed us a dish that is yet to make it to his menu, which pays homage to his mentors and their strokes of molecular genius. He’s created something that isn’t exactly like what it seems, the way Blumenthal fooled people into believing a mandarin was what was before them. Inspired by one of the most basic staples in the Philippines, he creates a new version of pandesal, which will surprise you in one tiny, spectacular bite.
Although he won’t share his recipe with us, this particular course is part of a tasting menu dedicated to Filipino cuisine, and the ingredients are all local. The “pan de sal” is made out of black and white glutinous rice and local queso rustico, and science turns it into a thin sphere that can crack like glass. It is filled with an adobo mousse, and when you pop the whole thing into your mouth, it shatters, releasing that very savory mousse. The idea behind it is an immediate sell, nostalgic and tasting exactly like the filled adobo pandesals you used to love as a kid, but in an entirely new experience.