A new kind of culinary hype is conquering European cities. “Black Food” has arrived in Europe’s trendiest eateries. The visual enchantment of charcoal-colored sausages, served in black buns or pitch black vanilla ice cream is undeniable.
Even fast food chains are picking up the trend and pressing their burgers between soot-colored buns. Why has the popularity of black food suddenly appeared and what is behind this trend?
Pitch-black food is fairly new on the culinary scene in western culture, however, it has long been a staple in the diets of people in the Far East. Black gastronomy is aesthetically bold, but don’t get lost solely in the lure of its uniqueness. These dishes are not just for visual stimulation, they are nutritionally rich as well. The dark tone in the food comes from natural ingredients, not artificial or chemical mixtures. Black sesame, sepia ink, as well as algae, coconut ash and even grated bamboo charcoal are used to enrich the food with color. China and Korea have embraced black dishes as part of their food culture for centuries by using natural ingredients found in beans and algae. With this in mind we can understand why East Asians associate the tone white with brevity and corruption, while connecting black with positivity and good health.
Anthocyanins give plant based food their darker hues. The black-brown dyes are hidden in the outer skin of plants, absorbing the penetrating light and transforming it into warmth. Black berries, black lentils, cherries, red cabbage and Açaí berries are particularly rich in anthocyanins. Most of these foods have reached superfood status due to the facts that anthocyanins protect the body against free radicals and have an anti-inflammatory effect. In Chinese medicine they are considered to be an important element. There are other black dyes that also exude soothing effects. When active carbon is used as a food color it has a detoxifying effect and sepia ink is rich in vital lipids, proteins and minerals.
Summing up: black food looks exciting and can also be healthy. Whether taste follows color is something each consumer has to decide for his or herself. The taste of the black ingredients is usually very distinct, so black food often looks better than it tastes, but that is no reason to reach for artificial dyes. All things considered, it is still the chef who creates the dish and controls the taste.
Cover: StockFood / Kristy Snell / #11967676