Dragon's Breath: Liquid Nitrogen Is Cool, But Is It OK To Eat?
What started out an obscure and edgy treat in Koreatown a year or so ago has recently become a trendy dessert sweeping many corners of LA: Dragon's Breath. That's the name given to a frozen snack made by dipping some small, sweet bite (usually a cereal-like puff) into liquid nitrogen. If it sounds more like a science experiment than a dessert, it kind of is. But K-town's Chocolate Chair turned Dragon's Breath into a must-try confection on every tween and teen's to do list (not to mention their Snapchat and Instagram feeds). As the trend works its way down from big kids to little ones, and from obscure to mainstream, parents need to be in the know—and ready to answer the question, "Is it OK for my kid to eat liquid nitrogen?"
Photo courtesy of Chocolate Chair
In case high school chemistry isn't fresh on your mind, the basic premise Dragon's Breath depends upon is that nitrogen boils at -321 degrees. That means any food made with it is super cold and turns into a dramatic cloud as you eat it. The confection that Koreatown's Chocolate Chair made famous is a cup of liquid nitrogen, with a scoop of crunchy balls reminiscent of Kix cereal soaking in it. Place the cup on a table, and the tabletop instantly looks like a special effect from a scifi movie, turning icy with clouds of vapor clinging to it.
The treat is eaten by stabbing the balls with a toothpick (be careful, because touching the liquid nitrogen would cause severe burns). As the liquid turns to gas, the bites become safe to eat and magically dramatic: kids pop them into their mouths and breathe fog out their nostrils like dragons.
Other spots in town have begun to pick up the idea. Creams & Dreams in Santa Monica and Little Tokyo's Molecular Creamery were obvious spots to get on board the nitro train; both already have nitrogen tanks on hand for making their signature nitro ice cream (made to order by mixing ingredients with liquid nitrogen to instantly turn cream to ice cream). Nitro ice cream is tasty, but it doesn't cause clouds of steam to pour out of anyone's nose; for that you need to order the Dragon's Breath. We also spotted a Dragon's Breath stand at Descanso Gardens during the holidaytime Enchanted Forest of Light, so you really never know where these foggy little puffs might turn up.
LA is no stranger to bizarre frozen treat trends; charcoal ice cream also took tween Instagram feeds by storm over the summer. The difference with this one is that it leaves a concerned parent wondering if it's safe. And if you've googled that question, you know that it's a reasonable one to ask. Kids need to understand how important it is to leave the liquid in the cup, because touching liquid nitrogen directly burns, and drinking it could cause permanent internal damage. That said, the stuff is so dramatic that most kids instinctivley treat it with respect. Dipping the balls, letting the liquid drip off, and then eating them while they pour fog is the safe approach, so as long as your kids are old enough to follow those directions, Dragon's Breath is an experience worth having. Bigger kids, from say 8 or 9 up, absolutely love it. That said, each time we've indulged, I've seen someone trying to experience it with a toddler, and that ended in tears. Dragon's Breath is not everyone's cup of, er, scary potion.
The flavor may not be as satisfying as a good ice cream cone, and as a snack it's not especially filling, but if you're ready to be the coolest parent on the block today, you can't get much cooler than filling your kids with liquid nitrogen.
Photos by author unless otherwise noted