Durian Chips

Durian chips. I am expecting a foul smell, but there is nothing. There must be something in the process which gets rid of the unwanted odor. Just like how the common durian pastillas is. Strawberry taste is sour while the processed spread is very pleasant. The pure cocoa is too bitter while most of grocery shelf chocolates are mouth watering. Food techniques are really wonderful. Should I say it the other way around? Tricky, instead!

durian chips

It is crunchy. Taste a bit sweet, salty, oily and a sharp aftertaste that I cannot described further. It could be the expected flavor when fried. Oily is attributed to absorption of too much oil during frying or failure to use paper towel when cooling. I enjoyed it primarily because of the first mentioned attribute. As for the taste comparison against original fruit, it is no where near. None of the fried or roasted food taste like the original though. Coffee, cacao, fish and meat, even the other chips variants never taste like their origin.

Uneven sizes and slice thickness. The color is yellow to dark brown. Some are crunchy and some are soft. There is one slice, half yellow, half brown. Suggesting it was fried with insufficient amount of oil. We encounter this a lot in frying of fish at home. It is only half submerged that it needs turning to cook the other half. Uneven is often the result . Another factor that might contribute to this is the uneven ripeness of durian.

Achieving even thickness, sizes and flavor. This will compete well with the others, potato, camote, banana and cassava. Never mind the flavor comparison with the original fruit.

Chiton Chicharon

Four hundred fifty pesos for a pack of 70 grams Chiton Chicharon. Do I heard the lady right? Or it was three packs for that price. Whatever, price for one was too expensive. Three packs were still too costly for the food that I was not familiar with.

It is chiton chicharon. Base on their display, it is a sea creature. A mollusc. It crawl on rocks and somewhat resemble a species of leech. I am very sorry for my comparison. It was the first thing that popped out of my mind.

I used to love pork chicharon. It was irresistible. However, health problem is preventing me from doing the old habit. Maybe chiton chicharon is a healthier alternative. Maybe!

Chiton and pork back-fat to skin must have similar makeup. Frying make both pop and crisp. In case the package is not labeled properly, I would have thought of it as the usual pork.

I have one pack sponsored to me for testing. I’ll update once done.

chiton chicharon

Experiment done.  It worked out well. I cannot reveal the specifics, though. You’ll know soon enough if the guy push through with the project.

While working, I set aside few for taste test. It is good. I could taste better if explored more.  There could be a more flavorful species or other cooking trick that may improve it. Partnering it with balsamic or chili vinegar is one of the simplest example.

Seeing  in my mind how it crawl still give me creeps. I am pretty sure there are more of me with the same feeling. Not wanting to eat insects because it is not usually eaten.  Worms on food is disgusting so how on earth someone can easily eat mealworms. Makers of these products should focus on changing the mindset of customers. Change their perception on edible insects. See them as casual everyday meal or healthier alternative.

Plant Based Cracker/Chips Making

Clients request was making mushroom chips. Prior to this, several persons were asking me if they can make crackling or chips out of vegetables. Teach them the trick in case.

First we analyze. Starting with the meat and fish. Every time mom ask us to fry some fresh fish, we set aside some to fry it to brittleness. Basically, after the fish is done and the cooking is continued, more and more water is driven out until it turn brown and brittle. Fish and meat seem to be more enjoyable when it crack in between teeth. The fatty meat portion, the popular pork back-fat, tends to bubble that gives chicharon its characteristic looks.

Now we go on plant-based. The popular for this are corn, rice, potato, banana and cassava. Potato, banana and cassava can be sliced thinly and fried to achieved the desired crisp. The same commodities together with the rest can be ground, reformed and mixed with flavors to create variants. Veggies and fish crackers are made by grinding, mixing with powder (the previous I’ve mentioned) drying, then frying. It may imitate the appearance of pork chicharon depending on trick employed.

The first requirement is obvious. It must be dry. All moisture must be driven out. The covering of chicken leg and nugget can be made crispy but it won’t last long because the inside moisture will sip out and the outside air moisture will come in. The reason why french fries only last for few minutes and one must consume a bag of potato chips immediately after opening. Refrigeration keeps the crisp longer because the equipment sucks away moisture.

The second requirement is starch. All the popular chips have this in common. They are all rich in starch. Rolling chicken leg and shrimp in cornstarch or all purpose flour make them crispy on the outside while maintaining inside juiciness. For just money sake, one can make very cheap cracker by mixing flour, cornstarch, rice powder and flavorings.

There might be other things to consider in meat fatty tissues. However, we are focus on plant-based products at the moment. We will forget about the meat thing.

I observed the mushroom chips in supermarket and grocery stores. All of them are covered with cornstarch. The basic is this. First, the mushroom is dried, then dipped in beaten egg, rolled on cornstarch (or maybe tapioca), then lastly, fried. It might be the only way. But, the roasted peanut seller can make the garlic crispy without adding anything.

I tried series of trial and error and came up with few acceptable results. In the end, they choose the trial covered with egg and starch.

mushroom chicharon

Working With Sugar

I get it, sugar is not healthy. It is harmful. It is toxic. A slow acting poison. Can cause variety of diseases especially the ever popular diabetes. However, we can’t help ourselves. We eat it and keep craving for more. If we go back to the statement, too much of everything is bad. Then anything we eat in excess is bad. Alcohol in moderation is recommended, as well as coffee. Too much is discourage though. Sugar can make almost anything taste great and it is a good energy source. The bad side manifest when we start to consume to much. Ultimately, sugar is not to blame. It is the one who consume it in excess.

Why do producers add sugar? First, it is an essential component. Ice cream is not it is without. Candy, marshmallows, fudge, toffee and caramel are sugar based. Most fruit extract are sweet and sour by nature. Processors role is to keep or improve its taste. More often than not, sugar is added for the sake of consumer preference and standardization.

Sugar is a natural preservative, like salt. The two act by holding water in food rendering it unavailable for microbial use. This action can be observed by scrubbing fish with salt, or placing a fruit slice in plate of sugar. After few minutes, water can be seen oozing out.

The sugar itself and its product rarely need preservative.

Sugar is not bad at all. Let us free ourselves from guilt and start learning sugar science. The teacher is not me, but you. There is no better learning experience than doing it yourself.

Lately, I got interested in brittle making. The flat variegated shape sweet filled with nuts. I noted down several recipes and watched couple of YouTube videos. Gathered all the ingredients and tools. Failed about three times before finally got a good result. Few days later, I repeated what I did, but again, failed several times before getting a good result.

It brings me back to time when I was learning the art and science of chocolate tempering and molding. It took me about three months before getting my body to work with it comfortably. Then, more than a year to fix most of the loopholes. Sugar craft is no different. I have to master both art and science. Temperature is the key and what you do after reaching that temperature point will dictate the result.

Cashew, Pieces of Information

It was our second time in Palawan. Hello again kasuy!

Other than its main commodity, cacao is becoming popular crop in the province. Government authorities, NGOs and some big private sectors are joining together to populate Palawan and the whole country with the in-demand cacao tree.

cashew seeds

We did lecture and demo of cacao processing on the first day and participated in cashew processing on the second day.

When we said cashew, we often refer to nuts. The cashew apple is often neglected and it is indeed neglected in reality. Farmers harvest the seed (containing the nut) and leave the apple to rot. Mature cashew apple only last for few days. It is not a regular eat. It is edible but only few bother. In case, those can only consume a few. The seed on the other hand is longer lasting and commands a high price.

I was wrong. The seed is indeed longer lasting, but, the nut inside may not if improperly stored. Ants can pierce through a soft seed part and haul away the nut. The storage trick is not shared though. There was a story about this rich merchant who hauled a lot of seed during fruiting season. Off season came when he planned selling. All of his haul was infested.

The idea about seed broiling fumes being bad to native chicken is true. I thought it was superstition. The thick seed coat has toxic sap causing skin burns. I think, during broiling, this toxic substance evaporates and the chickens are very sensitive to it.

The seeds are steamed before nut extraction. Not sure why. The lecture and demo were focused on use of cashew apple. I got more information by asking them. Steaming may have something to do with removal of toxin.

Cashew nuts are divided to two categories. The halves and the whole kernel. The first is extracted by means of the traditional tool “kalukati”. It is basically a knife which the end is fixed to a fulcrum. A more appropriate description is a nut cracker which one lever is a wedge. It breaks the seeds to halves including the nut. Then it is force off the seed with a pointed tool.

The whole kernel need a different tool. The contraption compose of two wedges just enough to cut through the seed coat without damaging the nut. One wedge is then twisted to break it open revealing the whole nut. Another operation follows. The removal of hard testa covering.

The cashew nuts maybe sold as raw, roasted or fried. Others are preparing cashew brittle, panutsa and butter spread.

Cashew apple, which was the highlight of lecture and demo, can be processed to wine, vinegar, jams, prunes and cookies. They are promoting such to help increase farmer’s income.