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Eating Liquid Nitrogen Desserts in Penang | Ummi Goes Where?

Eating Liquid Nitrogen Desserts in Penang

Those people in food business seem to spend all their waking hours trying to outdo each other in coming up with the weirdest, most mind-blowing food inventions.

And similarly, we — the foodies/food bloggers/Instagrammers — are constantly competing over who gets to try it first. But how far are we willing to go? Would we risk our lives for it?

What is a Liquid-Nitrogen Dessert?

Not too long ago, somebody came up with a dessert they trademarked the “Dragon’s Breath”.

It has been replicated all over the world by now and called different names — from Heaven Breath to nitro puffs to snow balls — but it usually consists of bright, colorful rice or corn puffs.

File:Dragon's Breath (12073).jpg
Credit: Rhododendrites / Wikimedia Commons

The secret to this is liquid nitrogen. It is a really cold substance that is used to make something freeze instantly. When in contact with air, it turns into fog. So, to create the smoky effect, liquid nitrogen is poured over the puffs, freezing them immediately, and creating a fog as the liquid evaporates.

When you eat something that has been frozen with liquid nitrogen, the cold condenses the moisture in your exhaled breath and makes it look as though you’re breathing out smoke — like a dragon — hence the name Dragon’s Breath.

Is Liquid Nitrogen Safe for Consumption?

Liquid nitrogen is odorless, colorless, non-toxic and non-flammable. Sounds harmless enough, but beware, it can be extremely dangerous when not handled properly.

Doctors have been known to use liquid nitrogen to dry out unwanted tissue — like warts — and let it fall off. Just imagine what it could do to your innards if you were to accidentally ingest it in its liquid form.

In 2017, a man in India drank a cocktail containing liquid nitrogen, which — due to improper consumption — burned a hole in his stomach.

The following year, in South Korea, a 13-year-old boy who consumed a liquid-nitrogen dessert started developing symptoms such as shortness of breath and a severely distended stomach. He had to undergo an emergency operation that left him with a 20-cm scar on his abdomen.

dragon's breath liquid nitrogen dessert
Credit: Sarah_Ackerman / Wikimedia Commons

To understand how that happened, you must first understand the properties of nitrogen.

Nitrogen is a gas at room temperature, but becomes liquid when compressed and cooled. In its liquid form, nitrogen is very, very cold and will cause frostbite when it comes in contact with skin.

However, when this liquid reaches its boiling point (-195.8 degree Celcius), it evaporates and turns rapidly back into a gas, expanding almost 700 times in size.

Therefore, if you accidentally ingest nitrogen that is still in its liquid form, not only will it burn your mouth/throat/stomach, your stomach will also quickly fill up with gas to the point that it might burst from the pressure.

On top of that, nitrogen also displaces oxygen, which was why the Korean boy had difficulty breathing.

How to Consume Liquid Nitrogen Safely

The usage of liquid nitrogen in the food industry is not something new. Liquid nitrogen has often been used in the manufacturing of beer and ice cream to add froth to the products.

The problem starts when the food sellers or the consumers are not well informed about the proper handling of liquid nitrogen. It is important to ensure that no liquid is left behind in the bottom of the bowl or dish that the food is served in.

To do this, the food and the liquid nitrogen have to be mixed together thoroughly so that all of the liquid nitrogen evaporates. After the food is ready, consumers should be advised to wait for a few minutes before digging in.

Blowing on food may not be the best of table manners in other circumstances, but in this case, it can help ensure that no liquid nitrogen remains in that spoonful of dessert you’re about to take.

Eating Liquid-Nitrogen Desserts at The Safe Room, Penang

The Safe Room, Penang | Ummi Goes Where?The Safe Room is located on Campbell Street in Georgetown, Penang. Established in 2013, it is an award-winning cafe and restaurant, pioneering in liquid nitrogen and molecular gastronomy in Malaysia. 

Some of the awards they have won include the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for three years running (2016, 2017 & 2018) and INPenang Best Cafe Award (2017 & 2018).

The Safe Room serves only halal food and is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 12:00 to 23:00. It also boasts the world’s first love-lock tree inside a safe room.

Plus, the name should assure you that you won’t be leaving the restaurant with a hole in your esophagus.

My Thoughts on Liquid-Nitrogen Desserts at The Safe Room, Penang

I ordered the Dragon’s Breath, which was liquid nitrogen popcorn. Priced at RM9.90 per bowl, it was quite a bargain because the portion was generous and you’d certainly be paying more than that at the movies.

It tasted similar to regular sweet popcorn, but cold. I personally like my popcorn warm, but this was acceptable because at least it wasn’t cold and soggy.

Coffee and liquid nitrogen Dragon's Breath at the Safe Room, Penang
Coffee and Dragon’s Breath

I also tried their dragon fruit liquid nitrogen ice cream topped with cotton candy.

What makes nitrogen ice cream special is that it is supposedly denser and creamier, as it has no trapped air bubbles inside and the ice crystals are much smaller. It is also claimed to be healthier than your regular ice cream because it is made on the spot, therefore contains no preservatives.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to tell the difference. Sure, it was creamy, but then again, that was my first time trying dragon fruit ice cream. So, I don’t know how different it tastes from a traditional, air-bubbled, preservative-laden, non-nitrogen dragon fruit ice cream.

Liquid nitrogen ice cream Safe Room, Penang | Ummi Goes Where?

However, I must say that the presentation was quite impressive. The pink cotton candy seemed to be hovering above the ice cream like a pink cloud that dropped tiny little droplets of pink rain onto the plate.

Beware though that it can quickly turn into a sticky disaster, which is only made worse if you’re sitting outside on a windy day and wearing a white dress.

Have you tried anything with liquid nitrogen? Share your experience below.

Posted in Food & Drinks, Malaysia

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  1. ajumohit

    liquid nitrogen ni memang baru bagi akak, belum pernah try lagi. Memang bab pemakanan ni kena ambil tahu the ingredients yang kita ambil. kalau tak memang boleh memudaratkan

  2. Qeela

    Wow thanks for your thorough sharing regarding liquid nitrogen and it’s foodie! Lots that I learnt from this sharing and indeed the foodie looks yummy especially that ice cream! 😍

  3. Tekkaus

    I have tried eating this on 2 occasions previously in Perak. To be honest, though it might seem kind of interesting, it is not advisable to have this due to the chemical used.

    • ummi

      Yes, and they should know the proper handling of the food. That’s why I insisted on going to a proper, licensed place, for safety reasons 🙂

  4. Mahamahu

    Kita pernah makan aiskrim kat KL yang menggunakan teknologi Nitrogen ni hehehe masa makan tak fikir bahaya janji sedap wakakak tapi masa nak sediakan kena berhati-hati kalau tidak beku jari habis..

    • ummi

      Hehehe sama la saya. Masa buat, tak fikir bahaya. Eat first, worry later. 😀 Tapi tu la, kena pandai pilih tempat yang ada trained staff.

    • ummi

      Yup, I think as long as you go to reputable and licensed sellers, it should be ok. I’m sure they’ve gone through the necessary training and inspections.

  5. saidila

    Setakat hari ini memang belum cuba sebab tak berani , tapi one day nak cuba jugak …

    o yer kalau tak silap ada orang panggil dengan gula2 nafas naga ker apa , tak ingat . Hahahaha

  6. Madam B

    Aiskrim kah tu? Macam2 ya makanan makin pelik dan apa mungkin mengalami transformasi gitu. Sedap ke? Madam tak ada keberanian tuk ‘dare to eat’… Ini sangat ‘rare’. Cool.

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