23 November 2011

Beijing Restaurant & Spherification

I have been here to get bubble tea, twice, and this time, I was here for lunch with my Advanced Genetics/Molecular Bio professor and 4 other students, at Beijing Restaurant. Penn has some sort of program that dishes out money to professors so that they can take students out to lunch, in order to know students better. It's pretty nice because in a class of 6, 40, or 200, it's really difficult to actually know your professor (and vice versa) if you only get to see him/her for 3 hours a week for some 14 weeks. Since I've been busy for the whole semester so far, I chose to have lunch after class on Tuesday (before the Thanksgiving break) since the only homework I have is programming (well, okay I have studying... but I'm not thinking about that right now)
So, I got a brown rice + vegetables + mushroom + tofu dish which had the name "Buddha" in it (I forgot the name on the menu) and we all talked about biology classes, graduate school, and hobbies. Quite pertinent to me, as I'm interested in grad school... and I never knew that the Rockefeller University was top-notch in the biological sciences! There are just so many possibilities in "food science"...
1. Research genetics of flavour/taste/receptors
2. Molecular gastronomy
3. Food engineering
4. Flavour creating
5. Food safety
6. Food policy
7. Nutrition/research/obesity...
8. Food-related diseases
9. Food companies.

Um, anyway, the rice and shiny glutinous vegetables were pretty nice.

In addition, I found out what the bubbles-filled-with-mango-goo is, in the "poppy soda"  from the Cube Cafe, where I visited this summer. There is a process called "spherification" in molecular gastronomy... in which sodium alginate is mixed with the liquid (mango pulp/juice in this case?) and calcium carbonate or calcium chloride is added to it, to form some sort of outer membrane. Alginate comes from brown algae, and calcium, chloride, and sodium ions are pretty safe at this amount, so I don't see anything wrong with poppy soda at the moment. Either way, I haven't researched this enough and this is a reason for pursuing food science. Not sure where the computer science falls in, though.

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