Science & Food

Science & Food at UCLA Promoting knowledge of science through food, and food through science

Last update
2018-06-05 18:00:12

    Fresh Made Pasta

    Paste, the Latin Late antiquity translation for the word Pasta. [3] Eating spaghetti and meatballs today typically involves boiling some dried spaghetti pasta and pouring on some pasta sauce from a jar. But have you ever wondered how to make these golden silky strands of noodles? To start off, we have to sail to China with Marco Polo and learn about the origins of Bing. Read more..

    Liquid Nitrogen Gastronomy

    Creamistry – n.  the science of creating ice cream using Liquid Nitrogen and not to be confused by the Ice Cream shop with the same name [4]. Ice cream does not seem complicated to make, but contrary to popular belief it is not as simple as just freezing cream and sugar; rather, this complex process requires slowly freezing cream to allow for small ice crystals to form, which results in a creamy ice cream texture.   While the ice cream making process can be long and arduous, liquid nitrogen can enable similar creamy results at a much faster rate.

    Photo Credit: Alpha Chi Sigma & Explore Your Universe at UCLA

    Maillard Reaction

    The flavor reaction.  What makes bread crust brown and tasty? What makes the smell of searing meat so savory and delicious? How can grill marks and black crust on meats, supply such a flavor punch?

    Three words: the Maillard reaction.  This simple reaction leads to thousands of flavonoids that impart food with flavors that make us come back for more every time.  The essential components of the Maillard reaction are protein and sugars that lead to flavonoids that make food delicious. Read more...

    Photo Credit: Steven Du

    The Vegan Way

    If you’re living in Los Angeles, there is no doubt that you have noticed the surging popularity of plant-based foods in the dining landscape. Not only are restaurants blooming with new vegan menu options, but there is also a burgeoning growth of plant-based food products emerging in the food industry. Notable newcomers include veggie burgers and dairy-free products including milk, yogurt, and even cheese! We are now welcoming the age of the plant butchers: a group of creative and enterprising culinary geniuses and food scientists who are passionate to develop more sustainable and healthy forms of meat by exploring the world of plant proteins. A new generation of cheesemakers is also emerging, who experiment with using bacteria to develop plant-based ‘dairy’ products. Here, we will debunk how these passionate individuals come up with these creative food innovations. Read more...

    Photo Credit: Impossible Foods

    We All Scream for...Ice Cream!

    As the peak of summer approaches, we here at Science & Food love to reach for one of our favorite frosty treats: the ice cream sandwich. Being true Science & Foodies, we started to wonder about this amazing composite material- how do you get the coexisting chewy cookie yet firm ice cream? We began to search for answers by turning to Natasha Case, founder of the Los Angeles favorite “Coolhaus” which serves gourmet ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. Trained as an architect at both UC Berkeley and UCLA, Natasha merged her experience as an architect with her passion for food in the ideation of Coolhaus. Starting with food trucks and storefronts in LA, Coolhaus is now sold in nationwide grocery stores such as Whole Foods. Read more...

    The Science of Yogurt

    Yogurt is an ancient food that has been around for several millennia. One theory of the discovery of yogurt is that during 10,000 - 5,000 BC, when Herdsmen began the practice of milking their animals, they stored their milk in bags made of the intestinal gut of the animals. The intestines contain natural enzymes that cause the milk to curdle and sour. The herdsmen noticed that this method of storing milk extends its shelf life and preserves it. When they consumed the fermented milk, they enjoyed it and so they continued making it. Whether or not this theory is true, the consumption of fermented milk has survived into modern times, and spread throughout the world. Read more...

    Why Do Onions Make Us Cry?

    We all know that feeling: the burning sensation as we slice into a fresh onion, eyes watering and wincing to relieve the stinging. There are claims that home remedies can solve this problem, including burning a candle, putting the onion in the freezer before chopping, or cutting the onion underwater. In this article we will investigate the culprit behind our onion tears and a possible scientific resolution that has emerged in the 21st century. Read more...

    Photo Credit: Tastyart Ltd Rob White/Getty Images

    Instant Noodles

    Instant noodles are delicious, cheap, and easy prepare. This combination of traits make instant noodles a seemingly perfect solution for college students’ hectic schedules and depleted bank accounts. Let us take a moment to appreciate what made instant noodles possible - let us savor the science behind this culinary delicacy. Read more...

    Photo Credit: Huffington Post

    Science & Food UCLA 2017 Public Lecture Series

    FOOD WASTE: Solutions Informed by Science (and what to do with your leftovers)

    Tuesday, May 2nd
    7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
    Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall

    World-renowned chef Massimo Bottura, UCLA professor Jenny Jay, Zero Waste Consultant and “Waste Warrior” Amy Hammes will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Evan Kleiman on “Food waste: solutions informed by science,” hosted by Dr. Amy Rowat, Science and Food, and the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. The discussion will focus on measuring the environmental effects of food waste, how policy influences food waste and its relationship to hunger and the environment. Read more...

    A Primer on Sake

    The origins of sake are largely unknown, but some historians guess that like many fermented foods, its origins arose spontaneously. One such theory suggests that cooked rice was left out in the open, and spaces between the grains harbored hungry molds that fed on the starches. Over time, this leftover rice became alcoholic, and hus sake was born (1). Read more...

    Unique Health Benefits of Winter Produce

    Winter season is when comfort food seems to take priority over fresh produce. But eating local during winter season is easy! There are plenty of produce that are rich in nutrients and flavor during this time of the year. Winter produce can also be just as tasty and nutritious with some creativity and a little twist. Read on to learn about how these three winter vegetables. Read more...

    The Secret in Your Sushi

    Dining out or shopping in a grocery store are seemingly straightforward: as the consumer, you make your selection and exchange money for goods. These interactions are based on an implicit trust that you get what you paid for. However, in recent years consumers have begun to demand more transparency with reports of mislabeled seafood at retailers and restaurants being greater than 70% in some instances [1]. Seafood is one of the most traded food items in the world, with approximately 4.5 billion people consuming fish as at least 15% of their source of animal protein [2]. The U.S. is the second largest consumer of seafood in the world behind China and with the recent health recommendations from the American Heart Association elucidating the benefits of fish consumption, sales of this commodity have reached an all-time high [3]. Increased awareness of the environmental burdens of the meat industry have further contributed to this move towards more seafood proteins [4]. The opportunities for seafood mislabeling have consequently increased. Read more...

    Photo Credit: Oceana/Jenn Hueting


    Whether it is adding chili flakes to top off your pizza, Tabasco to your omelet, chili oil to your ramen, there’s no doubt adding these condiments can add flavor intensity to all our dishes. Interestingly, the burning sensation is actually not a taste, since the sensation does not arise from taste buds. Capsaicin stimulates nerves that respond only to mild increases in temperature, the ones that give the sensation of moderate warmth [1]. Capsaicin sends two messages to the brain – intense stimulus and warmth. The burning sensation you feel when eating spicy food is due to the combination of these two messages. Read more...

    Photo Credit: Essential Oil

    What is the Flavor of Los Angeles?

    When thinking of an airy, sugary meringue, baked Alaska or pavlova may be the first words to come to mind, but smog? Not quite.

    You may have heard of the term terroir which explores changes in flavors based on differences in geographical locale, but aeroir is a rather new phenomenon. How can one possibly explore the tastes of air-- or rather air pollution? At the Center for Genomic Gastronomy, food scientist Nicola Twilley whipped up a simple solution for this fascinating question. Why not make smog-flavored meringues! Read more...

    Photo Credit: Edible Geography

    Citrus Suprême

    “Suprême” refers to the classic culinary technique of removing the flesh of citrus from the pith, or the white spongy layer in between citrus segments composed mainly of pectin and cellulose. Removing the pith, which is characterized by a distinctly bitter flavor, enhances the perceived sweetness in citrus fruit [1]. Though “suprême” may sound like a fancy-schmancy technique reserved for the finest of dining, citrus suprême can be found in common everyday foods such as mandarin orange slices on salads and garnishes in cocktails. Classic citrus suprême is made by cutting off the top and bottom of the fruit, removing the pith with a knife, and cutting each segment out from between the membrane. However, this produces a lot of waste, as it is not possible to completely clean the pith of the fruit. It is also not efficient for large-scale industrial processing. Solution: pectinase. Read more...

    Photo Credit: Catie Baumer Schwalb (Pitchfork Diaries)

    Turkeys: To brine or not to brine?

    Amidst the assortment of homemade pies and pillowy mashed potatoes, a moist, flavorful turkey is the hallmark of any traditional Thanksgiving. We’ve all been guilty of it though—feigning enjoyment while choking down tough, dry turkey that can’t be salvaged with even the most decadent of gravies. Brining offers a magic solution to your Thanksgiving turkey woes. Read more...

    Photo credit: Flickr user camknows