Dragon’s breath is the new fad in Bengaluru. Beware!
As internet food trends go, this one checks all the boxes. It’s visual, it’s dramatic and it’s made-for-Instagram. (Isn’t everything today?) And it can also send you to ER. The Dragon Breath, a frozen dessert, can leave you smoking like a dragon, only here, your breath is as cold as Jon Snow’s in the Game of Thrones. The ice cream that is infused with liquid nitrogen, however, can sometimes cause injuries like a burnt tongue, oesophagus and stomach lining, if not consumed carefully.
Most desserts are dangerous only to your waistline, like Death by Chocolate. But Dragon Breath can leave you with a singed tongue. As it becomes popular among street food fans and those dining in rarefied restaurants dishing out ‘molecular gastronomy /deconstructivist cooking’, doctors are seeing a rise in cases of burns by Dragon Breath. Says a doctor in the city, “I have seen over 10 burn cases due to Dragon Breath in the last two and a half months. The most commonly reported symptoms are burnt tongues and numbness in the mouth.’’
Liquid nitrogen starts evaporating the moment it comes to room temperature. “It’s the opposite of fire,’’ says chef Abhijit Saha of Caperberry and Fava, who introduced liquid nitrogen-infused desserts about 10 years ago in Caperberry and a few years ago at his restaurant Fava, in Bengaluru. “We also serve a dessert similar to Dragon Breath called Minus 196. It’s liquid nitrogen whipped with dairy ingredients. No enzymes or eggs are used in it. When it is served, you should allow the vapour to die down, if not, it can bruise and burn your tongue or if you handle it, you can also suffer burns on your hands.’’
Saha agrees that it requires careful consumption. “Dragon Breath gets its name because the cereal balls dipped in liquid nitrogen start smoking when they are at room temperature. Since it looks like those eating it are letting out smoke through their nose and mouth, thus the name,” says a culinary expert.
Explains Dr. Poornachandra KS, Consultant Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist at Fortis Hospitals, “Normal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees, which is enough to boil the liquid nitrogen and turn it into a gaseous state. This causes the dragon breath effect. This liquid is used to create a smoky effect in the drink. So, upon consumption, it expands into a gas and the increase in volume can rupture organs.”
And this is why the internet food fad is worrying doctors.
Says Dr.Tallam Prem Kumar, Sr. Consultant Physician, Sagar Hospitals, “Liquid nitrogen exists in a liquid state at temperatures between minus 196 and minus 320 degrees, which is beyond the temperature tolerance levels of human beings. Due to its cryogenic features, it has been used in the packaged food industry. Also, it is not new in the culinary industry. Chefs have been using it to add some interest to their offerings. It is assumed that they take all precautions so that the consumer is not harmed.”
However, liquid nitrogen-infused desserts has to be consumed them with care, advise doctors. Says Dr Tallam Prem Kumar, “The ill effects of such desserts far outweigh the presumed novelty of it. Ingestion of liquid nitrogen can cause severe damage to the mouth, oesophagus, and stomach. If inhaled, it can cause asphyxiation. All those people who suffer from any form of asthma should avoid such fads.”
Liquid nitrogen can also cause frostbite and tissue damage.
Doctors warn that repeated consumption can lead to long-term repercussion on one’s health. “Liquid nitrogen cools whatever it comes in contact with and is used in medical practice to destroy tissues. When it comes in direct contact with tissues or is consumed in the liquid state, it can even burn one’s mouth,” adds Dr Sunil Christopher, consultant physician, Internal Medicine, Sagar Hospitals.
Doctors also say that liquid nitrogen is used by dermatologists for a variety of cosmetic purposes. Warns Dr Christopher said, “ It is advisable to avoid excessive consumption of such internet food fads.’’
Pavithra N Raj, chief dietician, Columbia Asia Referral hospital says, “ Liquid nitrogen can cause stomach perforation. The vapour of liquid nitrogen can immediately freeze skin tissues and cause cold burns. If a person swallows a little bit of it (less than a teaspoon), it may cause expansion of liquid nitrogen in the stomach which may lead it to burst. Liquid nitrogen should be consumed when it has fully evaporated.”
Dragon Breath may hit chia pudding out of the park on the hipster scale, but it would be more apt if this dessert were called Smoke and Mirrors.
Liquid nitrogen is dangerous if not handled properly. It can cause frostbite or cryogenic burns if used or spilled in a confined spaceIt can cause injury to body tissues due to exposure to extreme cold, typically affecting the nose, fingers, or toes and often resulting in gangrene.