Word Of The Day: Alginate

Alginate, or specifically, sodium alginate, is one of the secret ingredients behind molecular cuisine. Perhaps you've been wondering how chefs like Ferran Adria makes spherical ravioli that burst on the tongue — or caviar "pearls" out of fruit juice? It's not magic, just little ol' sodium alginate, extracted from brown algae.

Alginate mixed with calcium chloride makes liquid spheres which have the same structure as an egg yolk. The Chinese have reportedly created fake eggs using our algae-based friend. Other, more quotidian, uses for alginate include thickening soup and ice cream, making gel-like foods like pie filling, or processed (and usually canned) foods that come in chunks. You can also thank alginate for the pimento filling found in most cocktail olives, as if the classic martini couldn't get any more awesome. Mystery solved.

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