Science + cooking = molecular gastronomy

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Have you ever wondered what is that chef doing with scientific kits on TV or websites like YouTube? Why is he pouring gas-like substance on the dish? Why is that chef telling people that powder is the sauce? Today, I would like to introduce the idea of molecular gastronomy, marriage of science and cooking.

Molecular gastronomy was introduced as scientists wanted to discover the science behind why dishes reacted certain ways. For example, why a souffle swells or why mayonnaise becomes firm. Scientists and chefs got more and more experimental and began to manipulate foods and adding chemicals to create things that had never been created before.

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There were two scientists who loved to cook; Nicholas Kurti and Herve This.
Nicholas Kurti was born in May 14th, 1908 at Budapest, Hungary. His main study was ultra-low temperature physics. Herve This was born in 1955 at France. His main area in science was molecular chemistry.

It all started from a sweet dessert called souffle. In 1980, Herve This was cooking cheese souffle in his own kitchen. The recipe he was following gave strict instructions to add the egg yolks two at a time. However, Herve This added in all of the yolks together and suffered the consequences of failure. Instead of giving up on souffles, This started stuyding them, analyzing and experimenting to see what worked and what did not. Soon, he was collecting cooking precision. As This had more and more experiments, he realized that a systematic and scientific study of food preparation had largely been ignored.

Herve This partenered with Nicholas Kurti who was a physics professor at Oxford University at the time and two scientists launched a new discipline of molecular gastronomy. Some chefs disagree and call it such as the modernist cuisine or experimental cuisine but they all mean same, referring to a new approach to cooking. At first, the field attracted small amounts of devotees then as This and Kurti demonstrated the understanding the science of cooking could lead to amazing creations, cooks and people began to salivate.

Today, many renowned chefs have embraced molecular gastronomy to create bizarre dishes that are impressive in looks and taste. If Kurti and This did not innovate the idea of molecular gastronomy, field of culinary would be one dimensional. Because we have the innovative idea of molecular gastronomy, there are new cooks who wants to focus on the idea and more ideas to learn for experienced chefs.

Molecular gastronomy consists many ways to cook but mainly used are:

  • foam-like foods using an immersion blender
  • dehydration and changing the state by using chemicals such as carbon dioxide and liquid nitrogen
  • spherification; method of making liquids look like jelled balls caviar
  • sous-vide; method of cooking food by sealing it in an airtight bag and cooking in a low temperature water bath for a long time.

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I believe the idea of molecular gastronomy is important as the new ideas introduced to the culinary field, more people who are interested will follow and join to increase the popularity of the career. Also, with the molecular gastronomy active on the field, renowned chefs will be working on the other ideas as well and when those ideas are introduced to people, it will be easier to approach to chefs because of what happened when molecular gastronomy was introduced.

To me, the idea of molecular gastronomy is not just a shocking idea of culinary skills but it brought me to the field. I was a chemistry student at University of Western Ontario before coming to George Brown. I was invited to get to see a chef introducing what and how science effected culinary and that amazed me. 3 years after, when I wanted to study different path, the idea of molecular gastronomy came to me and it affected how I love cooking and maybe after studying at George Brown, I will be able to do the molecular gastronomy too. So far, I love my choice to come to Toronto to study culinary and I enjoy day by day cooking and studying the field.

 

<References>

http://www.molecularrecipes.com/molecular-gastronomy/

http://www.nndb.com/people/034/000170521/

http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/molecular-gastronomy1.htm

http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/what-is-molecular-gastronomy

Gluten free diet

One of the diets I have wanted to try from times ago was the gluten-free diet.

Its one of the Korea’s hottest diet since last year and I always had a look at the news or blogs about that but never tried it because I love foods that has flour such as pizza, pasta, cookies and breads.

When you consume flour based products, the carbohydrates in flour makes a substance called serotonin, which makes you or make you feel happy and consume more and more. These carbohydrates in flour based products with high calories do not have good nutrients and make you feel hungry faster than other substances.

It is apparently much more effective to Asians due to disability to digest gluten; most of Asians are not able to digest gluten and when gluten is stored in stomach and liver, it creates toxins which damage blood vessels, bones and various stomach problems.

By stop consuming flour products, you can lose weight because carbohydrates in flour-products are faster than other substances to turn in to fat. Also, it can help you get cleaner skin as flour takes moisture away from the cells.

Instead of noodles, white rice and bread, whole wheat bread and barley rice or brown rice is recommended during the diet, although the best would be not consuming at all.

Examples of typical daily menus would be:

For morning, yogurt + fruits or salad with boiled eggs + fruit juice (orange, grape etc.)

For lunch, cooked chicken breast or pork with green salads

For snacks, peanuts and dried fruits such as apricots or mango

For dinner, cod or seafood with roasted peppers and beans

What I ate was a bit more than the example, however I tried to eat less and not consume the flour based products.

Before going to GBC, for breakfast I ate a cup of plain yogurt with strawberries and banana.

For lunch, I am usually in campus and it is hard to not see a single product that does not have flour in student café or food court downstairs in building A so I skip lunch or drink coffee or tea from Tim Hortons.

For snacks, I bring some of the peanuts and dried banana chips which I purchased from Bulk Barn in a small plastic bag.

After class and when I am in home, I cooked proteins like meat or chicken with my favourite vegetable, bean sprouts and onions for dinner.

Without a doubt, I can say that a week of gluten free diet was one of the hardest challenges I have tried. It was hard to find something to eat outside that is gluten free. Even if there is a menu that is gluten-free, it is expensive than a normal menu and not many restaurants had it. Also by limiting what to eat myself, the daily meal plans were repeating even though it was only seven days.

First day was a bit of surprising day as I felt like it is not that hard and actually can go further than a week. The first problem I encountered was Wednesday evening when I had work and there were no place to eat nearby. The food court downstairs had MacDonald’s, Subway, Manchu Wok, Edo and many more but all these shops had either bread or flour-based products for main ingredients. I had to make a salad in kitchen and ate however, eating salads for 3 days made me feel sick and threw out the rest because I felt like I would rather stay hungry than eat grass.
Thursday, I had a full day schedule from 7am to 6pm in class so I was prepared and brought lunch box and snacks however I found myself not eating as I felt I am not hungry as normal.
The last day of the week, I was so happy that it is over and all I ate was a box of clementine lying down on my bed and nothing else. I could find myself eat less and less throughout the diet and was amused of how it actually worked out.

To maintain this diet, you really have to prepare yourself mentally. There are so many things I wanted to eat during the week; tangy tomato sauce spaghetti, cheesy slice of pizza, sweet cookies and soft delicate breads, especially the ones I baked in baking classes and gave it to my roommate because I couldn’t eat.

As a chef, to support gluten free diet, one interesting recipe I found online was the zucchini noodle recipe as I missed pasta so much during the diet. This recipe is zucchini pad thai as the noodle is thinly sliced zucchini and only takes about half an hour to cook this dish.

Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai (for 2)

>>Ingredients

2 whole eggs

¼ cup roasted peanuts

½ tbsp. vegetable oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1 tbsp. coconut flour

1 tbsp. chopped cilantro

2 zucchini

>For Sauce

2 tbsp. lime juice

½ tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. chili sauce or garlic sauce

1 tsp honey

>>Instructions

  1. Scramble eggs and set aside, lightly ground peanuts
  2. Place all ingredients for the sauce into a bowl and whisk together
  3. Place a large pan over medium heat; add in oil, garlic and shallots. Cook until translucent then add in the sauce until flour is cooked.
  4. Once sauce is thick, add in zucchini noodles and cilantro and stir to combine thoroughly.
  5. Cook for about 3 minutes or until noodles soften and then add in eggs and peanuts.
  6. Plate with lime wedges
  7. Bon appetit

Would I continue the gluten free diet? As a college student with low income, there is no chance I would. However, when I earn a stable income and prepared myself for long-term diet to change my lifestyle then I will try this again. As a student with low income, one important thing to do daily is managing food budget and lettuce is not cheap. Also, I do not want to get stressed out other than work and school. Eating food I enjoy and cooking that dish was one of the reasons why I came to George Brown and this diet did not help at all.

 

References

Gluten free food list, http://www.drperlmutter.com/eat/list-of-gluten-free-foods/

Zucchini noodle recipe, http://inspiralized.com/2014/05/05/vegetarian-zucchini-noodle-pad-thai/

Gluten free recipes from Jamie Oliver, http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/category/special-diets/gluten-free/

To the Wychwood Barns

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Last Saturday, I went to the Wychwood Barn’s Farmer’s Market located on Christie and Benson.

I’ve always went to either St.Lawrence market or Kensington Market if I wanted to go to a local market however I found Wychwood from online and it was really interesting trip as I enjoyed and came home with way more food than I expected.

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There were a lot of people and from what I have seen, the Bizjak farms had number of customers lining up for fresh vegetables on the table. I had to try few times to have a chance to talk about their “story” and how they are operating the farm.
I could not hear well because of all the noises, but from what I have wrote on my phone about the “story”, Bizjak Farm is one of the first and the original store that came to Wychwood for at least 20 years. They are family owned business and came to Canada from Europe 40 years ago. The Bizjak family bought home nearby Niagara and they started the farm business with the fruits such as peaches, apples and pears.

Bizjak Farm’s goal is to provide high quality and sustainable local produce to customers like us. They are not fully organic farm however, kind and friendly guy named Jeff, explained to me about their low-spray philosophy; which essentially means that their farming practices focus on soil integrity, using reduced amount of fertilizers and sprays only when absolutely necessary, and even then, using as little and as natural as possible.

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From this experience, I learned that even in winter, there are lots of farmers and food producer who works hard to provide us healthy yet delicious items. As I was raised in Korea, I have always thought the winter vegetables are either full of pesticides and gross chemicals or tiny vegetables which could not grow fully due to the weather. However, from this trip, I learned that hard working and never giving up pays off a beautiful outcome.

Their delicious and fresh product comes from Niagara region to Wychwood every Saturday so you, the reader of this blog should try out some time.

Thank you for reading this post!

 

To the P&F meat shop

 

Last Friday after class, my friends (Anthony and Dale) and I decided to go on an adventure to find a retail butcher rather than going to nearby St. Lawrence market. We had a great fish and chips for lunch and found out P & F meat shop around the Finch area and decided to go and visit. The place was quite larger than I thought as the butchers were working at the right next building connected to the shop.

We started look for a specific cut for the blog then all three of us caught eyes at the osso bucco. (I believe other two guys are writing blogs using the osso bucco.) I looked around for unique cut and found out the goat stew meat. I asked one of the sales person about the cut and she told me they always use the shoulder cuts. Since they only use goat shoulder for the package, I decided to use this for my blog.

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I chose the goat shoulder meat because of two reasons:
first, as I said previously, I wanted to do the blog about the osso bucco but since we all had eyes on the meat, I decided to do something else and the goat meat was the most unique on I could find at the butcher shop.
Second, my grandfather loved Korean style goat stew which is more of soup rather than normal stew dish. Whenever I was sick, he told me to have a goat stew, not medicine. When I go and visit Korea this summer for my grandfather’s birthday, I would like to cook the stew for him.

Goat meat can be found normally in Africa and Asia markets. The cuisines best known for goat dishes are Middle Eastern, Caribbean and African. Goat meat was not available in common markets in America and Europe but has become popular as immigrants from Africa and Asia demanded. In 2012, the number of goats slaughtered in US has doubled every 10 years for thirty years, rising up to million annually. Goat meat is known for its strong and game flavour but can be mild on how the animal is raised and prepared. The best goat meat comes from the younger goats around 6 to 9 months old; ribs, loins, and tenderloin meat are suitable for quick cooking however other parts are the best for long braising.

My chosen cut is the goat shoulder cut. The goat shoulder cut is usually cooked using braising and roasting which takes long time due to the texture and to preserve tenderness and moisture of the meat itself. The reason why I said the goat shoulder cut is suitable for braising and roasting is due to the characteristics of the meat itself. If the meat is not cooked properly then eating a piece of rubber would be much better for your teeth. It needs to contain its moisture and tenderness from braising.

As you can see it from the picture above, the goat stew (shoulder) cut was 3.99 dollars per pound and was about 7 dollars for what I have bought. Since the package was frozen and already cut into bite size for the stew, I would say the best way to utilize this cut is to cook goat stew or curry.

I found the recipe for Korean style goat stew or “goat-tang or goat jeon-gol” from Korean blog and I would love to share it if any people want to try it out.

Korean style goat stew (recipe for 2)

ingredients:
3 lb goat stew cuts (or shoulder, shank cuts)
2 tbsp ground perilla seed
1 package or 8 perilla leaves, chiffonade
2 tbsp of mirin or soju
4 tbsp soybean paste
1 tbsp chili paste (gochujang)
1 bunch of chives, cut to 2 cm
2 tbsp minced ginger and garlic
1/3 bunch of green onion, cut to 2 cm
extra 1 tbsp of chili paste, soy sauce, chili powder for seasoning

  1.  Add goat meat in a pot then pout water until the meat is covered up. Bring up to boil and remove the liquid from the pot.
  2. Add goat meat, mirin, 1 tbsp of soybean paste, garlic and ginger into a pot. Pour clean and cold water until the meat is covered up. Boil for approx. 40 minutes then simmer until the meat is tender.
  3. Remove the meat from the pot when it is tender.
  4. In a separate bowl, add 3 tbsp of soybean paste, 1 tbsp of chili paste, 1 tbsp of minced ginger and garlic and mix. Add 1 tbsp of ground perilla seed if you like the aroma and taste of the perilla seed.
  5. Add the mixture to the pot and bring up to boil.
  6. Add the goat meat, perilla leaf, chive, and green onion to the pot.
  7. Add 1 tbsp of minced garlic, 1 tbsp of chili powder and salt for seasoning.
    (If you prefer hot, add more chili paste or powder.)
  8. serve it on a bowl and add 1 tbsp of ground perilla seed on the bowl.
  9. ready to eat.

Reference:
goat stew recipe (in korean)
http://blog.koreadaily.com/view/myhome.html?fod_style=B&med_usrid=jdkim1207&cid=590498&fod_no=10

 

Yoo Family Soup

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<Ta-Daa- Let me introduce to you, the “Yoo” soup>

This soup goes way back when I was 12 years old. My family and I just immigrated to Canada and just moved to a new house at Fredericton, New Brunswick. Fredericton is the capital of New Brunswick and is pretty big town however, there was no Asian market nor restaurant so we had hard time to settle in.

My parents and I had to go out for meal since the first day because our luggage sent from Korea had not arrived for a long time. When we were living in Korea, the basic meal contains rice, soup and other side dishes. However, in Canada, meals contain a lot of flour and meat and we were quite tired of those.

After few days, we found a small convenience store run by Chinese and there were limited number of ingredients we could’ve use to make a soup to eat with rice.

As soon as we came back to home, my mother made this soup with carrot, onion, penne, chicken broth and leftover grilled chicken breast from Swiss Chalet.
It does not look like gourmet nor taste like one however, it has our memory when my family came to Canada.

Last year was my family’s 10th anniversary in Canada and I made the soup to my parents to celebrate ourselves. We named it the “Yoo family soup”.

Ingredients for the “Yoo” soup:

  • 1/2 diced carrot
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 cup of spinach
  • 1 cup of pasta (I used farfalle but my mother used penne)
  • 750 mL of chicken broth
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 Tsp of soy sauce
  • 1 Tsp of mirin
  • Any topping you would like: I used the fish cakes but chicken breast or beef is fine. (my mother used chicken breast)

Real simple recipe:

  1. Dice onion and carrot
  2. Wash spinach with cold water
  3. Roughly chop or crush two cloves of garlic
  4. Pour 750 mL of chicken broth to a pot and bring it up to boi
  5. When it boils, add onion, carrot, spinach and a cup of pasta
  6. Add soy sauce, mirin, and the fish cake
  7. When the pasta is cooked, simmer for about 10 min and add seasoning if needed.
  8. Enjoy while its hot

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<I used fish cakes instead of chicken breast because I like the flavour of fish cake that absorbed warm soup and when you bite it, the soup bursts >

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<750 mL of chicken broth + 2 Tsp of Soy sauce + 1 Tsp of mirin >

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<my mother added some mushroom but I omitted it because I do not like the texture of mushroom>

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<add all the ingredients and boil>

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<When the pasta is cooked, it is ready to eat>

 

Sensory Evaluation:

Sweetness from diced carrot and onion absorbed to the chicken broth on entry.
Saltiness from the soy sauce and little bit of salt from seasoning kicks in.
Bitterness, sourness nor umami was found while consuming the soup.

The soup taste like udon noodle soup little bit; if I included mushroom, it would taste much like it.
I liked how tender vegetables and bow-tie pasta worked well together with the mouthful of fish cake.

The soup mainly smells like the chicken broth and small amount of soy sauce.

The texture of vegetables are tender soft yet not mushy, soft fish cakes and pasta was cooked al dente.

I did enjoy the soup but I would not have another bowl in same seating because I can eat once with all those memories but second serving is just too much; there are a lot of better foods to eat.

In my opinion, there were no challenges while making the soup because it is so easy to make. The soup was quite close to what my mother made first time and when I made it last year. However if I was to cook this soup again, I will definitely try with the chicken breast or other protein because it will have more dense flavour in the soup rather than pre-cooked fish cake that does not have much of flavour than the texture.

Other than the Yoo family, no one else tried the soup because I would not really make this soup to other guests; they would not have the memory nor I believe the soup does not fit in the table full of guests.

Throughout making this “documentary” of Yoo soup, I realized food can be meaningful to people. Not just eating a dish but one dish can have a memory of something special like this soup to me is the hard settlement in Canada. I believe by working on this, I will be able to apply this to cook with heart; rather than cooking for money and to show off with beautiful decorations, but one simple dish can attract with the memory and a meaning to someone.

 

No More Coleslaw (for now that is)

Being a culinary student at George Brown College, I have always felt I am behind fellow students.
Before coming here and cooking in my home, I thought I was pretty good with the cuts and cooking, man I was dumb.
Each and every week ever since I came to Toronto, I have been buying a cabbage when I go grocery shopping to practice cuts. After the practice, leftover cuts becomes a problem for me and usually I make a jar of coleslaw.

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As I get tired of making and eating coleslaw, this assignment came up.
I turned on the internet right away to search what can I do with the cabbage fermentation and the sauerkraut came up.
Personally, I do not like the hot dog bun and have not eaten much of it. However, I did remember the pickled cabbage on the bins next to the hot dog carts.
Right now for me, anything made with the cabbage except the coleslaw is good thus I researched the recipe for the sauerkraut and tried making it.

Method:

Wash and drain the water from the cabbage. Make sure the jar is washed as well.
Cut off the core of the cabbage and discard the outer leaves and wilted leaves out of the way.
Slice the whole cabbage into quarters and slice into thin julienne.

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Transfer the cabbage to a big stainless bowl and sprinkle the kosher salt over the top.
Massage the salt into the cabbage. I did it twice just to cover all the cabbage.

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Transfer the salted cabbage into the jar and tamp down the cabbage in the jar with fist or heavy jar often. Also, pour any liquid released while cabbage was massaged with the kosher salt.

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Cover the jar and tamp down the cabbage every few hours. (I did it around each 6 hours)
Ferment the cabbage at a cool room temperature and check it daily for about 5 ~ 10 days.

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Fermentation:

As the cabbage begins its fermentation, I checked daily to tamp down the cabbage and tried eating one piece of the cabbage. The recipe also said to add fluid if it was needed but mine released quite a lot of fluid so I did not.

On the fourth day, when I tried the piece of cabbage, it still had hard texture so I moved the jars near the window. However, the recipe stated it should not see the sunlight which I forgot and I believe that is the reason why my result ended terrible.

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Sensory Evaluation:

After the tenth day of the fermentation, I opened up the jar and tasted few pieces of the cabbage.
It was really salty; I did the salt massage twice and I believe that is the reason why it was too salty.
Not as sweet as I thought; I thought the sweet taste of cabbage itself would elevate after the fermentation but did not change much.
A bit sour however did not taste bitterness nor umami.

In my opinion, my sauerkraut did not taste similar to the market-sold products as it was too salty and some pieces were still hard parts.
Maybe it was not preserved long enough although I tried to not open more than once per day to tamp down the cabbage.
The smell from the jar was like the mixture of vinegar and grass smell when you step over the mowed lawn.
My finished product looked too yellow rather than white like it was sold in the market.

After eating my fermented cabbage, thick cut pieces tasted like a rubber glove with vinegar poured over. The thin cut pieces were too salty and I had to spit out.

However, I thought if the sauerkraut was finished right, the relatable flavor would be the white-kimchi which is a Korean dish that looks like kimchi but without the red chili flakes.

I tasted few more times however there were too much difference in taste and texture between the thick cut and thin cut. I would not eat it again however, i would try next time with more time to ferment and without showing it the sunlight.

Some of the recipe suggested try the sauerkraut with the mixture of cabbage and apple, also some added herbs and seasonings which sounded interesting.

References:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/fermenting/homemade-sauerkraut-zmaz06aszraw.aspx

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-in-a-mason-jar-193124

Nice to meet you, Granadilla

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This week, I’ve became a fruit hunter who is out on a trip to search for a fruit I have never tasted before. My feet brought me to the St. Lawrence Market located on Front and Jarvis.

Out of many local markets in Toronto, I went to St. Lawrence market because the market is very close to my campus and I’ve always had a thought to visit but I haven’t. When I lived in Fredericton, New Brunswick, I’ve went to the farmer’s market with my mother every week where I enjoyed the aroma of freshly baked bread swims around the air and the lively environment made by people gathered all around the city.
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There were different kinds of apples and grapes on the showcase. Some of the stores had rare ones such as papaya, figs and then I saw one store from base floor, Phil’s Place, where there were fruits I’ve never seen before. As a fruit hunter, I looked from quite close and one fruit definitely caught my eyes from many exotic fruits. The name is granadilla and it looks like a small orange or big clementine but when you touch it, it has hard shell. I personally loveclementines and all those fruits in orange family and when I saw granadilla, in my head, I was screaming like a kid; “I want that!”

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Apparently from searching internet, I found out granadilla is close to passionfruit family rather than orange. Granadilla belongs to the family of passifiora and grows to a climber. It is native to central Mexico and western South America and is a very popular fruit in these regions. It is tend to be available  all season with the help of greenhouse these years, however, generic fruiting time is around March and April. The market price of granadilla is around $1.80 to $2.99 where I got mine for $1.99 at the St. Lawrence market.

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I’ve cut into halves and tasted granadilla as soon as I’ve arrived home.
When I’ve tasted it, there were not much of fulfilling umami nor saltiness. However, the jelly inside was really sweet and those edible seeds had a bitterness and sourness at the end.
The taste of granadilla seems like melted lychee jelly with a kick of clementine aroma.
The shell had weak vibrant smell of orange, stronger inside the fruit.
My first thought of granadilla was shiny fruit that is a mixture of clementine and pear but when I touched it, the hardness of shell was like a pomegranate and passionfruit.
Because it has hard outer shell, when you cut the fruit, you can hear this cracking sound like a chick breaking out of the egg.
I did enjoy granadilla as I saw empty shells on my plate, except there were too much seeds for me. However the taste and aroma of granadilla attracted me and will do next time when I visit the market again.

If I was to cook this fruit or using this fruit on a dish, I would scoop out the inside jelly and add it to yogurt like the granola topping. The seed has crunchy taste like granola but the sweetness of jelly will amplify the flavour of yogurt. Personally, another way of using granadilla would be in kimchi. In Korea, some family uses natural sweetness of fruits into the kimchi and I believe the sweetness of granadilla is perfect fit as it is not too sweet but not too sour.

Throughout making this “documentary” of fruit hunter, I realized there are more fruits and ingredients out in this world. I was dumb as I thought the small amount of fruits on the showcase of markets like metro or sobeys were only ingredients I would see. However, those exotic fruits were quite close to my surrounding environment. Also, due to this activity, it made me want to try other fruits I have not tried and would like to make a unique dish one day.

References:

http://www.naturespride.eu/our-products/product-detail/granadilla/
http://www.edible.co.nz/fruits.php?fruitid=49_Passionfruit%20-%20Sweet%20Granadilla