Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Science Behind Cooking: What Actually Makes Food Brown?



Taken from Google Images


Ever wonder why your meat patties in your Ramly burgers taste charred and seared? Or the GSC popcorn you just bought have toasty, cracker-like flavors? Why does your cup of Starbucks hot coffee taste robust and aromatic?

Has it ever crossed your mind that what made these food taste out of the world? How do these food whose original forms aren’t that appetizing become so irresistible after being cooked? Where do they get the golden-brown like colour?

Turns out, it is all due to a certain chemical reaction recognized as Maillard reaction. Maillard reaction is named after the French chemist, Louis-Camille Maillard who discovered it in 1912. In layman terms, Maillard reaction is known as the browning reaction. Basically, it is a chemical reaction between amino acids and simple sugars in food which then leads to the formation of brown colour.

A photo of Louis-Camille Maillard
(Taken from Google Images)


During the process, simultaneous chemical reactions occur when amino acids and simple sugars in the food are transformed by the heat applied. Hence, the reaction forms brown pigments in a specific way where amino acids and simple sugars are arranged in rings. These rings reflect light in a way which gives the brown colour to the food.

The diagram above demonstrates the process of Maillard reaction 
(Taken from Google Images)


For Maillard reaction to occur, you need to apply high heat to the food. The heat required should be high enough (more than the boiling point of water, 100°C). High heat will dehydrate the surface and remove enough moisture to allow rapid Maillard reaction. Upon reaching more than 149°C, Maillard reaction starts to form the brown colours and emits nice aromas. 

Apart from that, water should be absent as water will not get hotter than the boiling point. Hence, this explains why food fried in oil are able to brown since oil has a higher boiling than water.
In the food industry, Maillard reaction is normally used in the browning of meats for steak and gives the umami taste in fried onions. It is also widely used in roasting coffee and creating crust in baked products such as bread, pies, and cookies. The process also takes place in making malted barley and chocolate. Without Maillard reaction, our favorite French fries and chips will not have the mouth-watering golden brown color and crunchy texture.

Before trying out the Maillard reaction, do remember that raising the temperature even higher than  180 °C will lead to the start of a completely different reaction which is pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is a dangerous reaction which causes food that is charred to be bitter and cancerous.

 So, the next time you dig into your food or begin cooking, say your thanks to Maillard reaction as without it, your food will never taste the same again!


COOKING TIPS!
To speed up Maillard reaction, do follow the tips below.

1. Dry the meat before cooking. 
You can either dab it with a towel or air-dry the meat. Or you can salt the meat in advance for more than 45 minutes or an hour. This is because salt draws out the moisture and salty brine is reabsorbed. Hence, the meat is more tender. 

This happens when meat has undergone Maillard reaction. It looks juicy and inviting
(Taken from Google Images)



2. Use fast heating 
If you are running out of time, you may opt for fast heating. Use deep fryers or blowtorches to speed up the Maillard reaction. 

3. Coat the food with flour
Maillard reaction requires simple sugar and starches break down in the presence of heat to simple sugar. Therefore, starches will be able to provide more materials (in this case, sugar) for the reaction to occur. 


References:

Nathan (March 20,2013) The Maillard Reaction. Retrieved from http://modernistcuisine.com/2013/03/the-maillard-reaction/

Schulze,E. (April 2017) What is Maillard Reaction. Retrieved from http://www.seriouseats.com/2017/04/what-is-maillard-reaction-cooking-science.html

Wikipedia (n.d) Maillard Reaction. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maillard_reaction#Foods_and_products_with_Maillard_reactions





Shared by Celine Woon
Guest Blogger


                            

Friday, 16 June 2017

Showers of Blessing


That feeling after drinking a glass of ice cold water on a hot day doesn’t just hit the spot but it also keeps you alive and allows your body to function regularly. With 70% of our body is made up of water, ensuring that one is hydrated all the time is important, especially in hot and humid countries. This fact is further emphasized by how a man can survive three weeks without food but only three days without water.

Much like us, plants need water to survive as well. But who gives them a drink? How do plants and crops which can grow in an area as big as twenty football fields acquire water without really moving? The answer to that is that it comes to them. 

When the sun warms up the waters from the lowliest puddles by the roadsides to the massive rivers, lakes, and oceans; it turns the water; which is in liquid form, into water vapor that rises into the air. That water vapour then forms clouds, which contain small drops of water or ice crystals. The clouds are formed way up in the sky which can stretch be as high as three thousand meters (which is the distance between KLCC and KL Tower) up to eighteen thousand meters.


As clouds rise higher and higher, the air gets colder and colder. This causes the water vapor to condense into liquid form. When the water in the cloud becomes too heavy, gravity causes it to fall back to the ground as rain or snow. This entire process is known as precipitation. Rain is important to keep our farmlands, jungles, and flora healthy and It also cleans the air of dust and keeps the air cool.



Experiment: 
See how precipitation forms.

Materials: 
funnel, plastic bag, glass jar or container, hot and cold water, ice cubes.

Steps: 
1. Pour one cup of hot water into the jar or container.
2. Place the funnel in the jar or container and make sure the contact point between the rim of the jar and the funnel is airtight. You can use tape or Plasticine for this.
3. Put the plastic bag into the funnel.
4. Pour the cold water into the plastic bag and add the ice cubes.

5. Observe what is happening in the jar.




















Fact: 
The world’s water cycle is never ending. It travels on a journey from the sky to the land or sea and travels back up to the clouds again!


Glossary of terms:
Hydrate [hahy-dreyt] anything that is chemically combined with water
Crops [krop] products from the ground that is consumed by humans
Vapour [vey-per] gas that is suspended in the air
Liquid [lik-wid] molecules that move freely but are not separated
Precipitation [pri-sip-i-tey-shuhn] the process of water vapor condensing into liquid form and falling to Earth
Flora [flohr-uh] plant




Shared by Surain A. Victor
Guest Blogger

Thursday, 15 June 2017

What is Social Entrepreneurship?




Today, social entrepreneurship (SE) is one the rapidly developing fields worldwide. In the United States of America, 22% of the social enterprises have over $2 million in revenue while in Australia, an estimation of 20,000 social enterprises constitutes 2-3% of the country’s GDP. As for in Malaysia, the industry is still undergoing development and has increased in numbers steadily.

So what is social entrepreneurship? 

Social entrepreneurship is the act of combining innovation, resourcefulness, and opportunity to focus on critical social and environmental challenges. A social entrepreneur is able to generate innovative ideas to solve social, cultural or environmental-related issues through their enterprise. They act as independent changemakers that use entrepreneurship principles to develop and manage their businesses.


The best example to illustrate social entrepreneurship is Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank which is founded by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus. Grameen Bank provides loans to the rural poor to stimulate businesses and reduce rural poverty in Bangladesh. Another example is British celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Project. The project aims to help disadvantaged youths by creating better futures for themselves through the art of good food. 

In Malaysia, social entrepreneurship field is growing rapidly with the involvement of many Malaysians who wish to build businesses with the potential to impact the society positively. There are about 70 registered social enterprises in Malaysia which are mostly consumer-based associations, youth programs, animal protection bodies and publications. As social enterprises are mostly philanthropic, they grow rather slowly.





Hence, several bodies in Malaysia including Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and Genovasi are established to provide support to these social enterprises. The Malaysian Government has allocated RM20 million in the Malaysian Social Enterprise Blueprint 2015-2018 to support local social entrepreneurs.


Social Entrepreneurship in Gift Shops


In the Social Enterprise Corner of Petrosains’s XPLORASI Gift Shop and PETRONAS Twin Towers Gift Shop, we have been featuring several local products from social enterprises which are available to the public for purchases which are available to the public for purchase. The products are from, Simply Cookies (home-baked cookies), Earth Heir (jewelry, bags, and scarves) and Magicbird (children’s books).


Projek 57 (locally made cotton T-shirts and merchandises with meaning messages about Malaysia)

Green Yards (eco-cleaning products and eco-candles), Seven Tea One (chemical-free herbal infusion teas)


Biji-Biji Initiative (furniture made of recycled materials)

Social Enterprises’ Workshops


We, Petrosains supports social entrepreneurship by collaborating with social enterprises through our project, The GOOD Workshop series. The GOOD Workshop is an all-new after hour program to bring life-centric learning experiences to the socially conscious community. These workshops are held fortnightly on Wednesday evening. Petrosains had conducted several interesting workshops with several social entrepreneurship. For example, in collaboration with Biji-Biji Initiative, Petrosains had organized Mereka Workshop which focused on creating a motion sensing light with basic coding. Apart from that, along with Green Yards, Petrosains organized a DIY Eco-Soaps workshop where participants learned on making soaps made from used cooking oils. 






Shared by Celine Woon
Guest Blogger

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Foie Gras: A Mouthful of Cruelty?


Foie gras is a luxury food that is popular and well-known in French cuisine.  It’s not popular street food but fine dining only the well-heeled could afford.  What is it made of?  It’s liver of a duck or goose fattened by force-feeding corn with a feeding tube, a process also known as gavage.  Cruel?  You decide!

History.  Even though Foie gras is a protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France, its beginnings, at least gavage, is not French.  It owes its existence to the Egyptians, as far back as 2500 BC, who kept birds for food and deliberately fattened them through force-feeding. 


What is gavage?  It is forced feeding by means of a tube inserted into the stomach through the mouth.  In the laboratory, liquid compounds are administered directly into the stomach of mice and rats via a gastric gavage needle or a flexible tube attached to a syringe.  A similar technique is also used for babies - a tube carrying breast milk or formula to the stomach is placed through the baby’s nose.


How is Foie gras made or produced?  The common practice is having ducks or geese force fed with corn mush via a tube two or three times a day.  The objective is to produce fatty liver with a minimum weight of 300 grams.  A duck's liver weighs about 50 grams.  

According to advocates of Foie gras, the fattening of geese and ducks is based on the natural capacity of the liver of fat palmipeds to store large quantities of fat.  This process is reversible and when an animal is given moderate amounts of food, their liver gradually returns to its normal size.  Hence it does not harm the animal.  However, they fail to mention the harm caused to the animal’s esophagus and other parts of its body that could lead to a painful death.

There are also farms that do not practice forced feeding.  Hence the Foie gras produced is known as ‘ethical Foie gras’.  A farm in Spain allows his geese to eat what they want.  No force feeding.  They feed off the land. These type of farms are rare and the methods used is unconventional in this industry.


Gavage-based Foie gras production has attracted a lot of controversy due to animal welfare concerns about force-feeding, intensive housing and husbandry, and enlarging the liver. A number of countries and jurisdictions has developed laws against force-feeding, and the production, import or sale of Foie gras.  However, there are also a number of retailers who decline to stock it even though it’s legal.

Is it ethical for us to consume Foie gras?  You decide.  Do your research.  Are the methods practiced by farms ethical?  Finally, can you take that mouthful of Foie gras without feeling guilty? 



Shared by Azni Zainal Abidin
Guest Blogger

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Ramadan: Food edition

                                                          
The ninth month of the Muslim year has arrived and that marks the beginning of Ramadan, the holy fasting period for an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims throughout the world. Being in Malaysia, one has to know about Ramadan and the miles long bazaar that comes with it, which is just filled with the pleasant smells of a variety of freshly cooked food such as nasi lemak, sup ekor, sate, and so much more.

                                                                  Photo credit: assabile.com
                               
Aside from bazaars, the start of Ramadan also gives a chance for Muslims to increase their pahala; which can be roughly described as their heaven good points. The terms of conditions for those fasting during the holy festive are simple, aside from Sahur (Before Dawn) and Iftar (Sundown); Muslims are not allowed to have any food, water, sexual intercourse and even a puff of cigarette could nullify their efforts.

Photo credit: zafigo.com

The main problem of fasting is the inability to replenish one's hunger and thirst for long periods of time for those who are able and sane. So to ensure a relatively smooth sailing fasting month and the upkeep of one's health, adopting new positive habits and getting rid of a few bad ones is imperative. 


1) Eating too quickly 

Trust me, I know how it feels to gorge down every inch of food on the table with the speed of a roadrunner when the clock hits munching time. Even if you weren’t fasting it’s still going to be a bad idea by overworking your system with an excess amount of food which will only increase one’s weight, the chances of health complications and possibly the worst one of all: losing the pleasure of eating. So try the pleasure principle and learn the art of eating slowly especially during Iftar. 



2) Breaking with greasy food 

Research has shown that your body naturally craves food which is high in calories to stabilise the sugar level in your body during an empty stomach. This is not really surprising when you look at the majority's eating habits which usually include a large portion of fried and greasy food which just screams high blood pressure and regrets. Instead, why not follow the sunnah and break your fast with some dates and a glass of water? Dates are high in antioxidants, nutrients, easily digestible and it helps sate hunger. By easing into it, your stomach will definitely thank you. 



3) Having a balanced diet 

In general, one should always have the right portions for each respective food groups ranging from the most necessary such as carbohydrates to the least such as fats and oil. This is especially important during Ramadan to ensure that the energy gained is more than enough to last the long hours. 

Photo credit: Thinkstock/ elenabs


4) Do not skip Sahur(Pre-Dawn Meal)

Much like breakfast, it is one of the most important meals of the day. If one were to say, oversleep and skip out on, lasting the entire day can be rather difficult. During this period, it is important to include food rich in nutrients and energy providing which is high in complex carbohydrates, protein and fibre such as bread, spaghetti, grains, meat and your assorted vegetables. And for the love of god please do not dehydrate yourself by drinking caffeinated drinks such as coffee or carbonated drinks. Try opting for good ole h20 and see the difference yourself. 

Photo credit: pexels/ Julian Jagtenberg


5) Share your meal (Iftar)

The prophet Muhammad once said that "Whoever provides the food for a fasting person to break his fast with, then for his is the same reward as his, without anything being diminished from the reward of the fasting person." Not only do you rake in the rewards but eating together is that much more enjoyable and it evokes a sense of closeness which can help develop and deepen social bonds for all parties. 

Photo credit: The Star

With that, I end my article with a big thank you to everyone reading this and the internet because if not for it, this article would not have been created. May you all have a joyous 2017 Ramadan! 



Shared by David Mok
Guest Blogger