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

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Food Texture around the World

Gristly, gelatinous, bony textures, say in pig's ears or bird's feet, are usually shunned in the UK, whilst goose intestines, sea cucumbers, chickens' feet and ducks' tongues are just some of the fiddly, gelatinous, gristly dishes that are regarded as delicacies. 

In China, kou gan (meaning "mouth-feel") is highly celebrated and texture in these dishes means everything. In Victorian cookery books, whole birds and the feet of animals were celebrated with relish, while in other parts of the world, such as China, foods enjoyed purely for their challenging textural pleasure are highly prized.
Chinese food expert, author of Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper and BBC journalist Fuchsia Dunlop says texture is at the heart of enjoying Chinese food.

The most sought-after food textures in the UK, the enticing words that appear in Michelin-starred restaurant menus, TV chef's recipes or multi-national products are silky, smooth, unctuous, creamy or tender.  


H
owever, crispy pigs' tails and other types of offal are appearing on gastropub menus, suggesting that people are becoming more adventurous when it comes to texture. Slithery, slimy, bouncy, crunchy, squelchy, gristly, gloopy. Certainly not words often used to whet the appetite, at least not on British menus. But is there another level of food texture to discover in the UK?


Fuchsia Dunlop says texture is the "last frontier for Westerners learning to appreciate Chinese food. There's no equivalent to eating rubbery or slithery things in European cooking, which (in China) are deliberately cleansed of all innate flavour before they're dressed up in soups and sauces. This just doesn't make any sense unless you enjoy the texture," says Fuchsia.

  • Chicken or duck feet are fiddly to eat with not much return in meat. What meat you do find is mainly skin and is therefore gelatinous; the remainder is crunchy cartilage and bone. 
  • Sea cucumber is a sea animal with a slippery texture that can be eaten fresh or dried. It is considered a delicacy in many cultures in Southeast Asia and China.  
  • Shark's fin is used in Chinese soup to provide a rubbery texture. Shark's fin soup has come under much scrutiny due to environmental and animal welfare concerns.  
  • Balut are duck eggs that have been incubated so that they are made up of embryo, feathers and crunchy bones. Eaten in The Philippines, they are boiled and eaten out of the shell.  
  • Natto has a slimy texture and smell of pungent cheese, making this Japanese breakfast dish of fermented soybeans an acquired taste. 
  • Pigs' ears can be found in the cuisines of many countries, from Bulgaria, to China, to the soul food of the US South. They combine a gelatinous and a crunchy (cartilage) texture.
Could there be other factors at play that stop us from embracing chickens' feet or other such foods? Dominique Valentin from Dijon's Le Centre des Sciences du Gout (The European Centre for Taste Sciences) has analysed the effects of culture on food perception.

"People do not simply eat what is available. They eat what they consider to be edible. What we eat and how we prepare it reflects our individual cultural heritage. When we talk about liking food it's about the sensation, but also the association," she explains. 


However, even though European cuisine is not as focussed on texture as Chinese food, the texture needs to be perceived as right. 


"Mostly when people in France talk about texture it's in a negative way, to complain about it. You don't often hear it [talked about] in an approving way," says Dominique Valentin.

This article is inspired by an article originally written by Ramona Andrews:


Food texture's forgotten pleasures (BBC Food website)


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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