Gong Xi Fa Cai, readers! First of all, here’s a lovely infographic (as always) from Compound Interest!
CNY is almost over, but due to the binge eating of ‘heaty’ foods (hmm, we really should have some medical articles regarding the Chinese ‘heaty’ phenomenon), quite a number of people have sore throats, upset tummies, etc. Porridge becomes a staple for the duration! Now, making porridge is pretty easy. Add more water, heat, stir, heat stir, season, heat, stir. The more care you’ve put into the cooking, the better the texture and taste (as with most cooking). But it can be challenging to make it Porridge Perfect. So how can you make it better? Science, of course!
Oats are around 40-60% starch, which is a carbohydrate which forms granules made up of amylose and amylopectin. These are long molecules made up of glucose units. Amylose chains are linear, and tightly packed, whereas amylopectin is highly branched. This branching makes it more soluble than amylose.
So, when we heat our porridge, the starch granules absorb water, disrupting the hydrogen bonds between their chemical components. This causes the granules to swell. Over time, this swelling of granules causes the porridge to thicken. This process is starch gelatinisation.
As gelatinisation proceeds, the porridge gets thicker and thicker. This thickening is known as ‘pasting’. Now, here is where it becomes crucial for the cook. STIR the porridge! Do you want your porridge clumpy and lumpy (porridge cake facepalm), or do you want it finely distributed and seasoned evenly throughout?
Now, once the temperature gets high enough, the porridge thickness reaches its peak. Heating further only breaks down (slowly) the starch and lowers the thickness of the porridge. This is because the amylose starts leaking out of the starch granules.
So how do we prevent making poor porridge?
- Heat the porridge to high enough temperatures to gelatinise
- Stir the porridge at intervals
- Stop heating when it goes over around 95 degrees Celcius
Seasoning, adding other ingredients, garnishing, plating; all that adds value to the meal, but the gist of making good porridge is the balance between gelatinisation & pasting.
I personally use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice to make porridge. Sometimes, I even add a bit of Jasmine tea to disrupt the intermolecular forces further ^_^
Many say that porridge keeps you feeling fuller for longer after breakfast… sorry not in my case as someone with an OMEGA level Metabolic Rate. I feel weak in about 1-2 hours and I will need more ‘solid’ foods to satiate my hunger. But then again… if the porridge is ‘porridge cake’, I’d probably feel fuller for longer, BUT, it would be poor porridge!