Published: 20 Feb 2018

An appetite for gold

Edible gold & its role in modern cuisine

Indians are known to take their food seriously and take it seriously enough they do! The age-old practice of covering food in silver foil also known as ‘varak’ has over time, given way to a new form of luxury in food leading to the use of golden foil or ‘varak’.

Gold is considered biologically inert - it passes through the digestive tract without being absorbed. When selecting gold, make sure to get gold that is as pure as possible--this means 22-24 carats. Gold leaf with a smaller carat value has more impurities and is less safe to eat. If you are careful and buy gold leaf that is clearly labeled as "edible" and has 22-24 carats, eating gold leaf is harmless.

Just 10 grams of edible gold can get as costly as INR 30,000 and is understandably affordable to only a few. This gold is food-grade friendly, edible and non-toxic. It is beaten and flattened to extremely fine sheets of paper and kept in between sheets of greaseproof paper to preserve the quality. It is mostly flavorless and is used primarily to denote a perception of being high end or an item associated with luxury. When used as an additive to food, gold has the E-number E175 (food additive). Although eating gold sounds like the ultimate in gourmet luxury, it has no taste, no texture and does not add any value to a meal or dish.

Edible gold is not exactly a recent trend as it was originally introduced as a concept by the Egyptians. In Ancient Egypt, gold leaf was used to decorate the tombs of Pharaohs, as well as sarcophagi because it was considered to be a sacred food by the Egyptians, ensuring favour with and being closer to the gods. The first use of gold has been traced to Alexandria, Egypt over 5,000 years ago.

In the current day scenario abroad, gold seems to have taken over as a fancy food trend used especially in high-end, Michelin starred restaurants. From risottos specked with gold leaves, fruits laden with gold dust to burgers packed in 6 layers of edible gold, this food trend is all over the global gourmet space. There is also a widespread usage in alcohol, found in liqueur made in Germany such as Goldschlager, in a sparkling wine from Spain and in molecular mixology in the form of caviar made with Cointreau and gold flakes. In Continental Europe, liquors with tiny floating pieces of gold leaf are known of since the late 16th century but originally the practice was regarded as medicinal.

Though the adaption of edible gold in Indian cuisine hasn’t seen too much of an innovation except sweets, it leaves a large scope for this trend to pick up pace and prove to be a hit with the advent of the new, luxury fine dining. There is absolutely nothing as striking as the glitz and glamour of real gold. And the best part is, if you use edible gold, you can actually consume these gorgeous gold decorations!