How to measure and analyse the texture of food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and adhesives.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Mysterious 'Q Texture' You Didn't Even Know Your Food Was Missing!

"Chewy. Gummy. Bouncy. Rubbery. These aren't typically flattering words when it comes to food. 

"That is, they're not traditionally complimentary in the United States or Europe. In Taiwan and often in other parts of East Asia, it's a different story. These adjectives describe a beloved texture – a food quality sought after, not shunned. It's called the "Q" texture, or the mystery food characteristic you didn't even know you were missing". 

These are words recently written by Alison Spiegel at the Huffington Post. Read on for more of her insight into Asian food textures...

 In her new book, The Food Of Taiwan, food writer Cathy Erway describes the "Q" texture amidst recipes for fish cakes and meatball mochi. "Taiwanese eaters are almost as concerned with texture as they are with taste," Erway writes. Think of the tapioca balls in bubble tea, for example. While there is a huge range of textures that are celebrated in Taiwan, Erway says springy is ideal in foods like fish cakes and mochi. A food with the right "Q" factor isn't too soft or bouncy, but rather slightly firm and a little springy. Chef Aida Mollenkamp likens the "Q" texture to "a marshmallow or a good-quality gummy worm." 

If you're scratching your head over the letter "Q" and its place among the Chinese characters, you're not alone. "Q" is something of a recent slang term, Erway told The Huffington Post. When and how the letter was adopted isn't entirely clear, but you'll see it today on packaged food, like noodles and mochi, on menus and even in shop names.

One popular food that embodies the texture is the fish cake. In Taiwan and other parts of East Asia, fish cakes are not the flaky or chunky ones Westerners picture when they think of crab cakes or salmon patties. They're smooth and chewy. If they're done well, they're "Q!" Getting the hang of it yet?

There are also fish balls, which can be similarly smooth and chewy. Both are made of fish-based pastes and sometimes a combination of meat- and fish-based pastes. The pastes consist of ground-up fresh, boneless fish fillets and scraps of meat and fish that would otherwise not be eaten. The paste is then structured into various shapes and sizes.

Bowl of fish balls with noodles
In Taiwanese cuisine you will find fish cakes and fish balls dropped into broth or a noodle soup, or fried and eaten with a sweet-and-sour sauce. Erway explains that the gummy textures are so popular among children that fish cakes are now sold in a variety of bright colours and shapes – a Hello Kitty fish cake, for instance. While you can purchase fish paste and mould your own fish balls, buying ready-made ones is common. "Much like hot dogs and sausages," Erway writes in her book, "these processed meats are complicated to produce in a home kitchen, but widely available in grocery stores."

If you're not up for trying your hand in the kitchen, check out your local Asian grocery store to explore the vast variety of these gummy treats, from mochi to packaged fish balls. And next time you're sipping bubble tea, call it "Q," like a boss.

For more information on how to measure texture, please visit the Texture Analysis Properties section on our website.

TA.XTplus texture analyser with bloom jar The
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