At our 2014 Science of Sushi event, Dr. Ole Mouritsen and Chef Morihiro Onodera illuminated the science underlying some of our favorite components of sushi. In case you still haven’t had your fill, here are 10 scientific facts related to sushi:
About the author: Liz Roth-Johnson received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at UCLA. If she’s not in the lab, you can usually find her experimenting in the kitchen.
Can you explain why isothiocyanates are water soluble? I would think they would be more fat soluble as there appears to be a lot of hydrocarbons and a dearth of oxygen and other hydrogen bonding molecules (except Nitrogen). Also, can you relate this to the spiciness in many peppers capsaicin? (which in my understanding is very hydrophobic and thus its burn is not easily remedied by a glass of water)
Great question! And we apologize for taking so long to reply to this. This video may answer your question in part: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD0_yWgifDM
If we may first take a look at capsaicin: capsaicin has a (hydrophobic) phenyl group and a very long (and also hydrophobic) hydrocarbon tail attached to the phenyl group. Both the phenyl group and long hydrocarbon tail contribute to capsaicin’s lipid solubility. Thus, drinking a glass of water after eating something doused in Tapatio just won’t cut it; something rich in fat like ice cream or milk would help tame the heat better. In comparison, isohiocyanates are a much, much smaller molecule compared to capsaicin. While they do contain hydrocarbons, it’s not nearly as much as the phenyl group & aliphatic tail of capsaicin. Due to their small size & much fewer number of hydrocarbons, isothiocyanates are not hydrophobic like capsaicin. Further, isothiocyanates contain sulfur and oxygen, electron-rich atoms which assist in increasing water solubility.
Hope that helps!
Thanks for sharing these interesting facts about sushi. As a sushi lover, I love to know about some amazing facts and sushi world.