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Posted at: Sep 3, 2017, 1:55 AM; last updated: Sep 3, 2017, 1:55 AM (IST)

The dark side of food

The anti-trend Goth food, which uses activated charcoal as its main ingredient, could be the next big thing in gourmet

Protima Tiwary

The unicorn food revolution briefly took over our lives last year; with unicorn-coloured cakes to ice-creams and noodles, the multi-coloured food trend was quickly taking over Instagram. Aquamarine-coloured toasts and ice-cream followed next, but the rainbow-coloured foods still stayed our favourite. What came next caught us by surprise. A change from the pleasant, happy posts, when we expected a new colourful food trend to rule Instagram, we saw black-coloured food taking over. Goth food seemed like the perfect anti-unicorn trend, but has now made its way to being the next big thing. If a little black dress is a fashion staple, then it seems a little black dish is a culinary must-have today. 

A trend that started in the United States has made its way to the desi kitchens today. This pitch black food that employs charcoal as its main ingredient served as the perfect antidote to the plethora of edible techni-colour. Black ice-cream, cupcakes, crepes and pastas soon made their way into our Instagram feeds.

Morgenstern, an ice cream parlour in New York City, and Little Damage, an ice-cream shop based in LA, made black ice-cream go viral. Before you know it, black lattes started popping up in New York, Jakarta, Australia, and even the UK! Charcoal also made its way to the recipes of some home bakers in the United States.

Black-coloured food was available in India back in 2015 too, with black burgers and black pav bhaaji making an appearance in the menus of some esteemed Delhi and Mumbai establishments. The colour black is courtesy the use of activated charcoal, an ingredient that has been used in food previously for its health benefits. 

A long way to go

The trend has got people noticing new foods, but there is a long way before it becomes a mainstream trend in India. There are a lot of improvements to be made in terms of presentation. Since this largely plays on aesthetics, it is imperative that the end product look worthy of an Instagram post. 

Chef Tushar Deshpande from Indigo Deli believes that quality will win in the end; “Always make sure you use the best product and not a cheap one. This trend completely depends on the likes of the people around and the capability of the chef who is delivering the product. We have come up with charcoal buns and charcoal tortellini in our day specials, and see that these are quite popular.”

In a world of unicorn croissants and lattes, you sometimes just need a black ice-cream to balance things out. Are you prepared to cross over to the dark side? 

Health benefits

Activated charcoal is a by-product of burning coconut shells, wood, or other plant materials. Activated charcoal can withstand high temperatures, and does not affect the end flavour of the dish. Research implies that activated charcoal has anti-inflammatory effects and can be used to treat gastrointestinal issues. It also has anti-aging benefits as it helps lower cholesterol and even helps in weight management! 

Before activated charcoal hit mainstream food culture, it was quite a popular choice for detox enthusiasts. It has also been popular as an ayurvedic ingredient as a detoxifying agent. 

What are the cons?

If used in extreme, activated charcoal can result in malnutrition as it absorbs calcium, potassium and other essential vitamins. Since it is an absorbent, it will negate the effects of prescription medicines if in case you are under treatment. It can also drastically decrease the effectiveness of contraceptives. 

Celebrity chefs, the likes of Kunal Kapur, strongly believe this is a trend that will slowly catch up. Chef Paul Kinny, culinary director of the Bellona Hospitality Services Limited, terms this as a superfood that is a great detoxifying agent. He believes that this ingredient has its roots in ancient Chinese medicine, and also celebrated this by curating a menu around it at Shizusan, Pune.

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