About Khymos

What is in the name khymos?
The name of this site, khymos (gr. χυμός), is Greek meaning “juice”. It is however related to al-kimiya, the Arabic word from which our word chemistry derives from. Other related words include Khemia, the old name of Egypt (meaning land of black earth) and the Greek khein and khymatos meaning “to pour” and “that which is poured out” respectively. So in a sense, the word khymos provides a link between chemistry and food! I therefore thought it would be a suitable name for a site dealing with molecular gastronomy and related subjects.

What is molecular gastronomy after all?
Harold McGee used to define molecular gastronomy as “The scientific study of deliciousness”. Check out the Definitions, History and Examples pages for more information. Also check out the different collections of links and the books about molecular gastronomy.

Who am I?
My name is Martin Lersch, I live in Norway and have a PhD in organometallic chemistry. I have been studying platinum complexes which perhaps one day will be used to convert natural gas to value added products such as methanol. My involvement with molecular gastronomy has been a spare time activity besides my research. Currently I’m working as a research scientist in a privately owned industrial company.

When I first became interested in the connection between food and chemistry in the late 90’s, I searched the Internet without finding much information. I did however find some very interesting books in the faculty library, including Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen”. In the last couple of years a large number of books have appeared about molecular gastronomy and related subjects. Having found books about the subject, I soon started to give popular science presentations. In 2004 I was invited to attend the “International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy” in Erice, Sicily. This was a great experience and I enjoyed meeting many of the scientists, writers and chefs involved with molcular gastronomy. The material found on this page originally started of as a collection of books and links related to my popular science lectures. After I left the University of Oslo, the page was moved to it’s present location at khymos.org. I believe the collected information is of interest to anyone interested in molecular gastronomy and the science of food and cooking. In many ways the pages represent what I whould liked to find at the time I became interested in the subject.

What is my motivation?
Part of my motivation for giving popular science lectures and also setting up this site, is the popular notion that chemistry is dangerous. This picture of a soda can I bought in London a couple of years ago exemplifies this:

The producers of this soda can of ginger ale state that they have avoided “obscure and weird chemicals”. What they forget is that food is chemistry!

A part from that, being a scientist, I’m very curious. And since I enjoy cooking and eating, this naturally led me to ask many questions in the kitchen. Why didn’t that recipe work? Do I really have to mix the ingredients in the given order? What happens if I heat this a little more? Luckily, being a chemist, I could also answer some of questions. A number of great books have appeared and I have no doubt learned a lot from them.

Feedback
Have you made any strange observations in your kitchen? Or do you know about other books or weblinks on molecular gastronomy, kitchen chemistry or everyday chemistry that should be added to the site? Feedback is welcome to webmaster at khymos dot org. You can also use the contact form.

Comments

  1. TGRWT - they go really well together « okej Says:

    […] — Steffen @ 16:31 Tags: englisch, Essen, Küche, Rezept Bei lamiacucina gelernt, dass ein norwegischer Doktor der Chemie an der Universität Oslo Blogging-Events veranstaltet, bei denen ungewöhnliche Rezepte […]

  2. Food pairing i Brügge, del 1 — Matmolekyler på Taffel.se Says:

    […] på Albert Adria med familj och väntade på att få ta en öl med molekylärgastronomibloggande Khymos-Martin. Själva dagen D började med att vi brottade oss igenom folkmassan (av dryga 1000 kockar, […]

  3. John Placko Says:

    Congratulations. Norway wins the Bocuse d’Or today.
    results at -http://www.bocusedor.com/2009/en/presse/index.php

    See photos at http://joomeo.com/sirha/index.php?fl=1
    username- sirha
    password- photos

  4. Mark Says:

    Cooking eggs: The article at http://khymos.org/eggs.php was very interesting.

    Another way to control the temperature of the water: Add cooking alcohol??

    Don’t know what it would do to the flavor of the eggs. See http://physics.msuiit.edu.ph/spvm/papers/2006/2006%20Dugang%20MN.pdf for mention of the fact that adding alcohol to water reduces boiling temperature.

  5. jcb Says:

    Great site! Great information! And great photo quality – how do you do that?

  6. Valeriana Says:

    What a great site! Wow I am impressed. I produce snacks and looking for some inspiration for new flavours.

  7. Ken Says:

    Hi Martin,
    As a bartender, I really appreciate what you’re doing here.
    Today, I was going to re-read the mixology article on
    ice and dilution but could not find it. Is this temporary?

    Again, thanks very much for all you are doing.
    Ken

  8. Martin Lersch Says:

    Ken,

    I believe you’re thinking about this one:

    http://blog.khymos.org/2007/06/03/new-perspectives-on-whisky-and-water/

  9. Curtis Says:

    I was hoped you could help me pursue now 6 year pursuit to discover how to make a specific cheese dip/sauce that I stumbled on to!

    I’ve been researching and trying to get a clue as to what cheese is used or if possible a recipe that can produce the quality I experienced.

    It sound funny but it is in fact a very simple appetizer found in Mexican restaurant, but it is also a very rare item to find! It is simply called white cheese dip.

    The first time I was introduced to it was in of all placed Lewisburg, WV and I don’t think the restaurant is still there.
    The last place I’ve seen something close to it was a place called Friacos Mexican Restaurant in Naperville, IL.

    Description of the dip.
    – Very white, with specs of green chili’s (not big), a distinctive taste of spiced and heat from the pepper, but not to spicy. The texture was what made it which was very fluid when hot (175F) and as it got cold it would just get thick but still spread about like Brie when at room temp. If you picked up some with a chip it would not be stringy like motz and it would have a smooth shiny surface and as you dipped it would go back to it’s smooth undisturbed look. Almost like a cross between thick cream and Velveeta.

    I have tried several different mexi cheeses and my closes success has been with skim milk base cheese, But I can never get the just right consistence or the taste. I’m told the chili was probably ashe chili but that is as fare as I have gotten.

    I found a blog a long time ago that a guy just like me was trying to find the secret behind this recipe.

    I would be very great full if you could assist with this and believe me you will be happy if we where able to produce it. It is amazingly addictive and a great product.

    Thanks

  10. Alex Greece Says:

    Hello Martin! I’ve been a fan of Khymos for over a year now but this is my first comment because I believe you are the only one who can help in this very dangerous question…

    I’ve been fascinated with Heston’s popping candy biscuit base and as I was trying to find some poppers for my own version, discovered that has been banned in Greece… On further research though found that there is a way to create some of my own… (http://science.howstuffworks.com/question114.htm ) But new problems have to be faced…
    Thought I could use an iSi Siphon with Soda chargers and a basic caramel recipe to start with but somehow I’ve managed to restrain myself due to the danger of the exploding gas!

    Now, I’m sure you have never tried this, but any advices could be very helpful!

  11. peter Says:

    Martin great web site! I’m relatively new to the molecular gastronomy and I have a question regarding the making and the storage of foams.

    I’m making Lychee foam and I was wondering, if I can prepare it in one day in advance, store it in a container, in the fridge, to be used on the following day. I will be using ISI canister charged with N20 cartridge to disperse the foam. Do I have to stir the foam prior to using it or do something else in order to have a nice and smooth foam.
    The foam should be layered on top of champagne and it consists of:
    Lychee juice
    Mango juice
    splash of grenadine
    .5% of Xanthan Gum

    Thank you

  12. Martin Lersch Says:

    Alex: Popping candies would be great, but the iSi canisters are not made to withstand the the CO2 pressure required. The link you provide mentions a pressure of 600 psi which is eqiuvalent to roughly 40 bar. One charger will yield a pressure of about 6 bars in an empty canister. The one I have is rated for two chargers, so with 12 bars there is still a good way to go. And – AFAIK the iSi canisters are only made to withstand this amount of gas up to a temperature of 70 °C (remember – pressures increases with temperature). So the simple advice is – do not attempt to make popping candies with your iSi canister!

    peter: From my experience I expect that you should be able to store your Lychee and Mango base stabilized with xanthan for several days under pressure in your iSi canister. Before dispensing, make sure to shake the canister a little, holding it upside down so that all of the base moves down to the nozzle.

  13. Alex Greece Says:

    Thank you for your answer Martin, I really couldn’t find it logical to do it but you know, I couldn’t also resist the whole innovation thing!

    Well thank you again.

  14. Jae Preme Says:

    I am traveling to europe this month. Can you recommend any good molecular gastronomy schools with 1 week courses i should look into. Or any places i can stage at. Any help is appreciated!!

    Jae

  15. Martin Says:

    Jae: I’m not aware of any such MG schools. Hervé This runs his monthly seminars in Paris – I guess that’s the closest you get.

  16. georgette Says:

    Reply to Curtis’ request on 2 June 2009: this dish is called queso fundido, if you google that you will find several good authentic recipes, if you are in the US, use Oaxacan or Mexican string cheese: basically, chop your fresh hot chilies into a small skillet and toast them lightly, then add chopped cheese to cover the bottom of the skillet and slowly melt it, if you are using a cast iron skillet, after the cheese is melted, put the skillet close to the flame of the broiler and let it brown slightly.

  17. Michael Says:

    Sir,
    How can I sign up for your blog? I can not seem to find a sign up section any place on the site…your feedback is welcomed.
    CM

  18. Martin Lersch Says:

    Michael: You may want to try the RSS feed http://blog.khymos.org/feed/

  19. Fredrik Says:

    Something which you might find interesting: principles of molecuar gastronomy entering the world of coctail-making. How about making your next drink on the Schlenk line?

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427392.500-hightech-tipples-the-future-of-cocktails.html

    -F-

  20. Eirik Says:

    Hei!

    Jeg lurer på hvor du vil anbefale å kjøpe gellan og carragenan og denslags her i Oslo.

    Jeg har funnet Agar på helsekost.

    Takk for spennende lesning, og også for foredraget på Upopulær aften på Ch. Neuf for litt siden.

    Beste hilsner,
    Eirik

  21. Martin Lersch Says:

    Eirik: Gastronaut hadde/har Texturas produktene, men de har jo flyttet ut av byen nå. Ellers har du jo handberg.no som fører BioZoon/TexturePro produktene (men vær obs på at disse er blandet ut med maltodextrin – det gjør det lettere å få dispergert dem i vann, men til gjengjeld er det umulig å følge oppskriftene i “Texture” fordi mengden maltodextrin er ukjent). Jeg kjenner for tiden ikke til andre butikker i Oslo som fører gellan, karrageenan osv.

  22. Phuoc'n Delicious Says:

    Hi Martin!

    As a fellow scientist and food blogger, I really LOVE your blog! Molecular gastronomy is something I’ve always been curious about as it combines the two things I am most passionate about in life; however sadly I haven’t been able to experience it. By reading through some of your post it has encouraged me to start experimenting as well (only after I submit my Honours thesis of course – which is due in 3 weeks ARGH!)

    Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more :)

  23. “The Physicist in the Kitchen” « Memecree Says:

    […] perspective. Cooking is one of these things. I recently discovered the blog Khymos created by Dr. Martin Lersch, which offers a vast amount of information on all things science in the kitchen. Amongst other […]

  24. Charlotte Says:

    Thank you Dr. Lersch for doing the research and taking your time to record this information. I purchased a basic “starter” kit two years ago to make the “pearls” as an addition to my hors d’oeuvre garnishes and have had some success with that and have wanted to expand my molecular repertoire. I stumbled across your blog and have downloaded your 89 page recipe and information document.

    Please Dr. Write a book for the chefs out here who do not have the time to experiment! Your work is heaven sent!

  25. Elisa lissoni Says:

    Hi!!! i contact you from Phaidon, one of the leading publishers of books on the visual arts, including art, architecture, photography, and design worldwide. I’d want to know if you’re interest in some editorial proposals about F. Adrian or others arguments. Please, send me an email.

  26. Ammar Says:

    I am really impressed by what you are doing here Sir. For your information, I was brought up to this site because I was searching for the best timing for cooking a soft half-boiled egg. Well it was to my astonishment that I could find a thorough elaboration on this. What a great work down by you indeed Sir. I enjoy reading these informative and educational materials and really looking forward to produce my own research papers. I really am inspired by you Sir.

    Congratulations and all the best!

  27. Bokanmeldelse: Cooking for Geeks | Hobbykokken.no Says:

    […] som bl. a. Adam Savage, Harold McGee, Nathan Myhrvold, Hervé This, David Lebovitz og vår egen Martin Lersch som har bloggen […]

  28. Joyce Says:

    I have a question about sodium hexametaphosphate and low acyl gellan and someone told me you might know the answer. I was told that low acyl gellan was helpful in binding calcium in combination with shmp. They said that low acyl gellan would allow one to need much less shmp to bind calcium. I wonder if you know the mechanism for that?

    Also, I wonder if you know what else can be used to bind calcium besides shmp and sodium citrate?

    You have a great site. I really appreciate this area of research and feel that a greater knowledge of chemistry has a great deal to offer us all.

    thanks,
    Joyce

  29. Martin Lersch Says:

    Joyce: shmp and citrate will keep calcium in solution because of their chelating effect. Low acyl gellan on the other hand will form a gel in the presence of calcium ions, and as a consequence the viscosity will increase. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “binding” calcium though – perhaps you could rephrase your question?

  30. susie Says:

    Hi Martin: I’m a flavor chemist & food blogger searching for honey volatiles and ran across your site. Love it & love that you are Norwegian. I spent 1987-1988 in Flekkefjord Norway. A beautiful country that I’d love to come visit again.

    Susie

  31. Rozelle Says:

    hello Martin, thank you for the site…
    I’m a novice breadmaker with a small, homely kitchen..
    I’d like to try to make Sourdough – the Apent bakery featured on UK tv last night.
    Their sourdough loaf looked straight forward and do-able.
    Can you suggest a simple recipe for someone like me to try on a small scale?
    I can ask a neighbor for a piece of ‘mother’ the yeast –
    Kind regards from London,
    Rozelle

  32. Terri Says:

    Hi Martin,
    Love your blog! So refreshing to have someone discuss “chemicals” appropriately. Interesting work with PGMs- I work at the other end of the spectrum- development drilling of an Mo deposit with possible byproduct rhenium.
    Terri

  33. Martin Lersch Says:

    Rozelle: Thank you for your comment. See my post here and here about sourdough bread. I recommend the sourdough calculator that I’ve linked to.

  34. Rozelle Says:

    dear Martin,
    thank you.
    So generous of you to share all you have learnt and write it up.
    If I’m feeling brave – I’ll have ago…
    Your bread looks delicious.
    Kind regards from London
    R

  35. enrique Says:

    About nocino.
    Here in argentina we´ve made some experiences sweetering nocino with grape juice concéntrate, and the result was interesting.

  36. Dr. Constipation Says:

    Hi Martin, the science of food has always fascinated me ever since I was in 7th grade and we made ice cream with just salt, cream, sugar, and a bag. Atleast I think that’s all we used… the details are a little fuzzy now. Maybe you are familiar with the process? It would be great if you made a post about that for nostalgia’s sake :-)

  37. Moscool Says:

    Salt lowers the freezing point of water, so a heavily salted broth with ice cubes added will create a liquid below 0 deg C (all the way down to nearly the deep freezer temp of about -18. This then creates the perfect vessel to freeze cream, and therefore make ice cream.

  38. Rich Hudson Says:

    What a fantastic blog you run here Martin. I take a keen interest in all things chemistry and agree wholeheartedly that people don’t usually grasp just how much chemistry is involved in our day-to-day lives when it comes to the food and drink we consume. Keep up the good work!

  39. Bobbie -"gorgonzolagirl" Says:

    Oh my goodness, thank you, Martin. I am so happy to discover someone with such exceptional knowledge and so willing to share it with everyone. I am someone who believes we can never stop learning as long as we have an open mind. I just discovered your site today and look forward to some delightful delicious discoveries to try in my own kitchen. Thank you for sharing your creativity with all of us.

  40. JOHN papakonstantinou Says:

    Hey Martin,congratulations on your great site! i was wondering if you can give me some tips on how to make a mojito sauce for a isi whipper ,,,i want to use it for chicken.any ideas?thanks!

  41. A. Rizudin Says:

    Greetings, Martin, from Malaysia!

    Came across your site while searching about just WHY lye gives pretzels and pretzel buns the best colour and texture. Not really much of a scientist or a chef, but I have been curious about the science of cooking for quite some time now. Also, unlike most of my countrymen, I enjoy bread a whole lot. :D

    The pretzel bun research started a few weeks back when I had a Wendy’s Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich. It tasted good, but the color and texture of their bread got me thinking, “How do you get that?”

    Smitten Kitchen provided the answer (a lye / baked baking soda dip) but you provided a great explanation on the science behind it. I really hope I can learn a whole lot more from you.

    Best site I ever came across in life. Just like the time one of my college lecturers showed me that chemistry was more than just boring formulae: there’s nothing more satisfactory than a visual (or explosive!) reaction when you get things right. ;)

  42. Martin Lersch Says:

    Thank you for the kind feedback – glad to hear that you enjoy the site!

  43. Philippe T. Says:

    Dear Martin
    Found your site searching for mineral water cloning, replication. I am impressed by you mineral water à la carte piece. Also thanks for the mineral content calculation sheet. I should start testing soon.
    I am a chemical engineer and work on industrial water desalination. Desalted drinking water is usually re-mineralized. Lime contact reactors are used and the number of minerals added are limited. I am also working on novel point of use water fountains that dispense hot, soda, chilled filtered water. We would like to improve end-user experience and provide tatsteful water. Should you be interested I should be happy to share my ideas with you. So please feel free to contact me by email. Best regards, Philippe

  44. Moscool Says:

    Martin, Philippe:

    Interesting to notice that Coca Cola is at it again! Having been laughed out of the UK market with their filtered water sold at a premium price, they have now relaunched Glaceau in this country:

    http://www.coca-cola.co.uk/about-us/glaceau-smartwater-launches-in-great-britain.html

    If I understand correctly what’s on the label, they distill tap water and then add back electrolytes. It’s one thing to do it on the back of desalinisation, it’s another to waste lots of energy distilling water for marketing purposes!

    I’d be curious to know about the ecological ‘footprint’ of this method compared to others.

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