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Food Photography: Reverse Engineering, the Search for Ingredients

Food Photography: Reverse Engineering, the Search for Ingredients

Using reverse engineering, you can find out the exact recipe of a dish just by looking at a photo, then publish it on Instagram.

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Sitting before a succulent dish of fondue chinoise, freshly served at a Chinese restaurant, we couldn’t resist taking a picture with a smartphone. Once filtered and shared on Instagram, perfectly following the “instafood” trend, we added all the requisite hashtags. But we diners aren’t alone: even the greatest chefs have jumped on the photo-sharing train, taking pictures of dishes they are particularly proud of. And we, after having satisfied our eyes and taste buds with the perfect balance of Asian sweet and sour, were wondering how we might one day recreate this dish at home. Brimming with complex ingredients like a mix of meat and spices, it would take some outside help.

Thank goodness that a special Instagram service was created in Sweden to help passionate diners and Asian food enthusiasts like ourselves. Whether it’s a Chinese fondue or a Japanese shabu shabu, a spicy Thai noodle dish or a plate of Terriyaki, a delicate tempura or a fried banana – the hunt for individual ingredients can be a real puzzle for the Western foodie who wants to try making the same dishes at home. But these same foodies are happy to share what they do know about Asian cooking – and thankfully, this Swedish service manages to mix Instagram photos with culinary tags and tips from chefs themselves.

So how does it work? The website is called Ask CT Food and while it’s Swedish it “speaks” in the international language of cooking. Run by a group of professionals – chefs and Asian cuisine experts – they guarantee a swift answer 24 hours a day, every day, for anyone who’s wondering what goes into the particular dish they are eating. The steps are simple: take a photo of the dish, share it on Instagram and remember to “tag” the professionals @askctfood. Once they’ve received the image, they begin the reverse engineering process: chefs identify the dish and repost the image with the official recipe as well as the list of ingredients.

This reverse engineering will provide users with ingredients that can be easily found in most Asian grocery stores worldwide, and many are even available in most large supermarket chains. And furthermore, the chefs at CTFood will helpfully point out other recipes that include the same ingredients. If a particular Instagram user is fond of curry or coriander, he or she can just follow the tags for those ingredients and find out what else features those flavors. The next logical step would be to browse through the kitchens of the world’s most famous chefs, right? Well if Instagram manages to pool together images of their own dishes, maybe these Swedish specialists – or some other expert tech foodie group – might be able to reveal some of their closely-guarded secrets.

* The service is currently on hold due to a new store opening in Stockholm. The service will reopen as soon as the office is established with a relaunch campaign.

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