Chefs all over the world are always scratching their heads trying to figure out the next best thing in gastronomy and it seems like right now black foods is where it’s all at.
In the never-ending race for innovation, specialty restaurants, independent chefs and big food chains are all experimenting with the colour of food in order to attract new audiences and add the coveted “wow” factor to their products.
These days, Oreo crumbs, squid ink and activated charcoal are among the ingredients used to give a goth-like appearance to traditional meals without altering their flavour or nutritional qualities.
Last year, IKEA Japan used edible bamboo charcoal to create all-black “Ninja hot dogs” that were offered as part of the company’s celebrations of their 10th anniversary in the country. German sausage makers have also made pitch-black versions of their products, using squid ink to tint their famous Weiners and Frankfurters.
The curious trend isn’t exclusive to specialty markets or audacious chefs. Since last year, huge British supermarket chain Waitrose have been offering black dough pizza topped with salami, marinated artichokes, porchetta, soaked tomatoes, and olives.
Activated carbon, also known as activated charcoal is one of the most popular ingredients in this new trend. This dark powder is a form of processed carbon with high micro-porosity. The substance has been widely used for industrial purposes, like removing organic impurities from bright nickel plating. In the medical field it’s often administered to patients to manage poisoning or drug overdose.
Informally, activated charcoal is used as a remedy for hangovers, as a teeth whitener, to prevent gas and to reduce high cholesterol, but there isn’t enough research to prove its actual effectiveness for those particular cases.
If you want to try the trend yourself, you can prepare a black lemonade at home. Just make an ordinary lemonade, and break two capsules of activated charcoal in it. You can find capsules and tablets of activated charcoal in Amazon, or at any major supermarket or pharmacy.
Before giving into the dark side and trying this trend out, take into account that activated charcoal is a manufactured product not found naturally in any food and it can have side effects in some people, like vomiting and diarrhoea. It may also minimise or neutralise entirely the effect of certain medications like Acetaminophen and Tricyclic antidepressants. It can also reduce the absorption of certain nutrients or cause gastrointestinal blockages in more serious cases.
My advice? Just dust off your old The Cure albums and have a cup of coffee instead.