If there’s one thing I take issue with in the vast world of Kosher food, it’s the fact that we’re usually so far behind the rest of the world with regards to technique, style, and flavor. Do I need to offer any proof to this, other than the sushi-sold-in-90%-of-all-kosher-food-establishments phenomenon? With regards to us as a nation of prepared-food consumers, we tend to find one trend to stick with for about a decade or so, and that trend has usually been out of fashion with the rest of the world for at least two decades.
Part of this problem, I assume, lies with the actual kosher barrier. As much as I’d like to, I cannot attend a non-Kosher culinary school, or visit a non-Kosher restaurant, whether to eat there, or to even intern in the kitchen. This limits the scope with which I, and those observant Jews like myself, can access the new discoveries in the culinary arts that are happening more and more, every day.
A larger part of the problem, IMHO, is the fact that, with regards to new cuisines, we are not a very adventurous people. In my years of cooking for others, I’ve come across way too many people who won’t try new things, no matter how appetizing they may be to me. Some recent examples: Beef cheek, oxtail, duck (!), or even medium rare steak! (I’m lookin at you, K!) I feel kinda embarrassed just writing out that list for the whole world to see…
As I mentioned in my previous post, maybe this last factor has more to do with upbringing than anything else. Radishes, artichokes, fennel, chicken gizzards, and fish roe were all a staples of my diet by the time I was five. (No, not at the same time. The weirdest combinations growing up were more along the lines of scrambled eggs and peas. More on that another time…) I get it, though. Especially in households where both parents have full time jobs, making something like onion soup is much less time consuming when using soup mix, than cutting up and caramelizing a giant batch of onions. And when kids are brought up on these tastes, they really end up knowing no better. The tinokos she’nishbu of the culinary world…
Right now, the culinary world is going through a Modernist renaissance. Once referred to as “Molecular Gastronomy,” the methods and benefits of using “high tech” ingredients and cooking techniques, are being recognized in kitchens all over the world. There have been some truly incredible and creative pioneers in this realm, made up of restaurants, research facilities, and even home cooks/pro-bloggers–ElBulli, Alinea, Nathan Myhrvold/Modernist Cuisine and even the great blog, Ideas in Food, to name a few well-knowns. Some of the ingredients and instruments they use are hard to come by, but for the most part, the same stuff can be done in your average home kitchen, with new ingredients that now can be found easily, online.
But where does that leave the Kosher culinary world? With a new list of exotic ingredients whose Kosher status in unknown? Absolutely not! A surprising amount of these science-lab sounding ingredients are already widely used by kosher manufacturers, and all it takes is a small amount of research to determine which are already kosher.
So for all of you adventurous Kosher cooks, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve already done a good deal of that research for you. With the help of a great customer service rep from ModernistPantry.com, Chris Anderson, and the always reliable Star-K kosher certification agency, I’ve compiled a thorough, but somewhat incomplete list of the ingredients in their inventory, and their Kosher status.
I do not claim to speak on an official capacity on behalf of the Star-K, or ModernistPantry.com. This list is only intended as a beginning reference point. As always, contact your local Kosher authority with any questions.
The inventory can be broken into three categories: Those ingredients which can be used without any kosher certification, those which come from manufacturers that already have certification, but the status of said ingredient is unknown, but is likely not non-kosher, and those which unless they have explicit certification, are probably not kosher.
Like I said, this is an incomplete list. I’m hoping that some of you, my dear readers, may have a little more time and resourcefulness than I, and will be able to help in this public service to the Kosher culinary world, in finding out more about these new ingredients, both in their kosher status, and their many exciting uses.
All the best!
Can be used without Kosher certification:
Arabic Gum/Acacia Gum
Carrageenan – Iota
Carrageenan – Kappa
Carrageenan – Lambda
Locust Bean Gum
Methylcellulose HV (High Viscosity)
Methylcellulose LV (Low Viscosity)
N-Zorbit M – Tapioca Maltodextrin
Methocel® E4M FG
Methocel® F50 FG
Methocel® A15C FG
Methocel® E19 FG
Methocel® SGA7C FG
Carboxymethyl Cellulose (CMC)
Liquid Soy Lecithin
Sodium Hydroxide (food grade)
Soy Lecithin Powder
Further investigation required:
Kelcogel F – Low Acyl Gellan Gum
Kelcogel LT100 – High Acyl Gellan Gum
Activa GS Transglutaminase Preparation
Activa RM Transglutaminase Preparation
Activa TI Transglutaminase Preparation
Activa YG Transglutaminase Preparation
Pectinex Ultra SP-L
Tate & Lyle:
Calcium Lactate Gluconate
Probably not Kosher if no certification:
Egg White Powder – AAA
Glycerol Monostearate (40%)
And here’s a link to the Kosher certification statement from TIC Gums, the manufacturer of most of ModernistPantry’s hydrocolloids.