Few days ago I came across the best Ice cream parlor in town that plays with the diatomic gas with atomic number 7! This place was in my wishlist for a long time but since I do not frequent these places much somehow it never happened to me unless I received an invitation from the management few days back. I was pleasantly surprised when I visited their ‘Lab’ at Hungerford Street. Now why is it called a lab and why am I keener to call it a lab rather than an ordinary ice cream parlor? Here playing with the diatomic liquid is very common, people are so used to juggle with this cryogenic liquid day in and day out, hope by now you have guessed the liquid right, it is LN2 or Liquid Nitrogen that still retains the diatomic character of the nitrogen gas even after liquefaction.
LN2 is used for rapid freezing and as a refrigerant that is even used for cryocoservation cells, tissues, blood, etc. It is used as a coolant in several fields like spacecrafts, computer hardware, astronomy, and in food science. The last topic interests us most, isn’t it? Food science or molecular gastronomy is the hot topic nowadays in the city. It is one modern or rather urbane style of cooking or preparation of dishes that utilizes the scientific innovations. With reference to Mumble’s lab let us only discuss about use of LN2 in preparation of ice creams here, since the branch of molecular gastronomy is really vast; and maybe we can discuss about some other branch of it in another blog post of mine 🙂
As we were discussing, LN2 is used for preparing ultra smooth ice creams that differs a lot from the regular ice creams that we have. Not only you enjoy these liquid nitrogen ice creams, but it’s a pure joy to watch them being prepared in front of you, and there you will feel as if you are standing in a Chemistry lab! I will talk a little about history before discussing more on today’s Mumble’s Lab since that will help us understand this stuffs a bit better. We always think this is a new-age stuff of using LN2 in preparation of food and ice creams, but in reality we got a reference of use of LN2 in the food preparation back in 1890. It’s one recipe book called ‘Fancy Ices’ written by celebrity cook Agnes Marshall, who was also a writer and entrepreneur working with frozen desserts, LN2 ice creams, edible ice cream cones and modern ice cream machines and freezers and her cookery school. She was very keen to adopt new technologies and was very popular in the culinary scenes of Victorian period. She was also called the ‘Queen of Ices’, which was pretty apt for all her contributions in this field. But later in 1904 she suffered a nasty fall from a horse and died the following year in 1905.
All the rights of her books were sold and very soon somehow she got washed out from public memory. She has always been neglected by historians and today no one remembers her. So this is the sad story of the person who conceptualized and first worked with LN2 ice creams over a century back.
Anyway, moving on from this sad history let’s now discuss more about the science behind this after which we can just discuss about the flavors we tried at Mumbles’ Lab (Kolkata). As already said, LN2 is actually nitrogen in liquid state (odorless, tasteless and colorless) which is at a very low temperature. It has a boiling point of approximately -195.8 degree Celsius. And because of its extremely low temperature it should actually be handled very carefully. Do we know why? Have you heard of frostbite or cold burns? If handled without care LN2 will give you these cold burns. So you will find people working with LN2 wearing gloves, though you won’t get burns if you touch it for a fraction of a second or so.
Preparation of LN2 ice cream has a little science behind it as well. It has a reason why to opt for LN2 ice creams. For these kinds of ice creams since LN2 evaporates very rapidly, the temperature dip is drastic and the speed of chilling leads to formation of much smaller or no ice crystals what in turn provides a smoother texture to the dessert compared to other ordinary ice creams. At Mumble’s lab you will find the magic liquid is stored in Liquid nitrogen dewars or cylindrical flasks from which the liquid is taken out and poured in the blenders having the mixture or batter which is being prepared with all the ingredients and flavors; and then again it is given a swirl which results in formation of the ice cream which is later scrapped out and served in a paper cup.
The place is very spacious and in no way you can just call it an ice cream parlour, it has got enough seating arrangements and free uncovered floor area that divides the seating area from the lab area or the place where the ice creams are prepared and people keeps playing with LN2. The lighting is just perfect and the place has got beakers and flasks hanging from the ceiling and funky ice cream flavor periodic tables adorning the walls. The Mumble penguin is all over the walls who is in mad love with ice cream and has decided to put Nitrogen that fills up 78% of Earth’s atmosphere into good use by preparing LN2 ice creams for us 🙂 Thanks to Mumble’s penguin for that noble thought!
a) Orange Caramel – This was actually the best flavor that we tried during this tasting session and it was served in the very beginning. It had a wonderful intermingling of Orange and Caramel flavors that was very soothing and refreshing. It had a deceiving brown color to it and you can never guess it will taste so orangish by looking at it. So there is surely an element of surprise in store here for everyone. If you visit Mumbles, you should try out this flavor. And yes, the quantity served in that little cup was somewhat huge, which also pleasantly surprised us.
e) Thandai – Quite loved this Thandai flavor that is so homely. This was probably introduced during the Holi season. And they are now continuing this flavor since it received such a good response. It was just yum with the dash of flavors from fennel seeds, almonds, etc and was super smooth with crushed pista sprinkled on top.
f) Kairi Pudina – It felt as if I was having molten ‘Pulse’ mango candies in an ice cream cup. It was an amazing tangy ice cream that we tried which had the basic essence of kachhi Aam, kairi and pudina and was spiced up to another level with crushed mango candies and chaat masalas. In the end the result was overtly tangy and very unique. Worth a try!
i) Strawberry – Nothing extraordinary, but it delivered the mildly sweet strawberry flavors as expected. The smoothness of LN2 ice creams only elevated the richness to another level.
j) Dragon Balls – This was an item which they are still experimenting and haven’t yet launched. These are Marshmallows dipped in LN2. Once you dip it in LN2 that gives it a nice crunchy exterior but it’s still soft mushy from inside. Then when you bite into it, bit of smoke comes out and that’s why they prefer to call these dragon balls.
(2) Krishna nagar’s Shorbhaja – When we were busy in our lab session one of our blogger friends walked in with few boxes of Shorbhaja from Krishna nagar, she had no clue what’s going to happen next with those amazing stuffs caged in sweet boxes! Those rich and milky sweets were put into the blender along with vanilla base and we gave it a swirl. It was an amazing twist in the tale, quite literally. We were overjoyed with the end result. It tasted just heavenly. And due to the LN2 effect it was quite gooey and smooth as well.
We were extremely filled just by having all these ice creams! It was an amazing evening and we were overjoyed when we received that awesome gift basket from the management while we were leaving. That added more to our joy, we were anyway super happy after that tasting session! Guys, I will keep this last note very short – if you haven’t yet tried LN2 ice creams at Mumbles, you are surely missing out on something. Just make a move and grab your own cup of creamy, smooth LN2 wonders!
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