The Common Ingredient in Delicious Food

The Common Ingredient in Delicious Food

It was in 1917 when the first oil palm tree was planted in British Malaya. 72 years later, in 1989, palm oil surpassed rubber as Malaysia’s number one commodity. It was sometime in 2005 when palm oil surpassed soybean oil in becoming the world’s main vegetable oil. Three years later in 2008, Malaysia became the first country to produce certified sustainable palm oil. Today, it is the second largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil in the world after Indonesia. Last year alone, the local palm oil industry generated 63.7 billion Ringgit in export earnings and created more than 2 million jobs nationwide. Palm oil is now the most important vegetable oil in the world with some 85% making its way into the food industry. Palm oil is consumed by 3 billion people globally, and not everybody has it as their preferred cooking oil. So, how else is MPO consumed?

billion-RM

Export earnings of MPO in 2019

3-million

The number of consumers of 
palm oil globally

2008

The year Malaysia became the first country
to produce certified sustainable palm oil

MPO’s versatility in the food industry is especially impressive, from foods dry to wet and creamy to crispy, you can find this product in more than 50% of packaged goods in any supermarket (Green Palm, n.d.). MPO is widely used in chocolate making as it is an affordable alternative to cocoa butter. It can imitate cocoa butter so well and also do three things cocoa butter can’t do;

  • MPO as cocoa butter alternatives do not melt as easily as cocoa butter does. This is especially useful in warmer climates (Afoakwa, 2016).

  • MPO cocoa butter alternatives enhance the fat stability profile and stability of chocolates. It is especially ideal in layered chocolates as it prevents fat migration (Wang, et al., 2010).

  • Chocolate made from MPO as cocoa butter replacers and cocoa butter substitutes do not require tempering, whereas chocolate made from cocoa butter does (Afoakwa, 2016).

Tempering chocolate is important for a smooth, glossy, and even composition product. It also contributes to the snap quality of chocolate. The snap quality of a chocolate suggests its quality (Afoakwa, 2016). A sharp snap usually indicates good quality chocolate. Chocolates that bend on the other hand, do not necessarily indicate low quality – it could simply mean that there is a high sugar and milk content, such as that in white and milk chocolate. Lower quality chocolates bend and at times simply crumble all together. MPO’s talent in chocolate making, coupled with its affordability and sustainability is the reason many celebrated brands carry this ingredient in their products. Examples of this include the favourites of many, such as Kinder, Nestlé, and Mars.

This next MPO food wonder is the staple food for college and university students. Yes, it is instant ramen noodles. Invented in Japan, in 1958, instant noodles was known as ‘Magic Ramen’ as it required only boiling water for preparation. The convenience of this instant meal owes its readiness to being pre-cooked by frying in palm oil.

MPO is widely chosen for this highly crucial process mainly because of the qualities of the oil, which will directly influence the taste, stability, and texture of the overall product. MPO is commonly known to be a bland oil – it does not contribute its own flavour and instead allows target ingredients to shine. This makes it perfect for making instant noodles where other flavours like chicken, tom yum, or curry are required to stand out.

“The
convenience
of this instant
meal owes its
readiness to
being pre-cooked
by frying
in palm oil.”

Instant noodles are designed to be kept on the shelf for a long period of time, without the need for refrigeration. This signature feature demands exceptional ingredient stability, which in the frying oil is influenced by its fatty acid composition. A stable fatty acid profile leads to a high oxidative stability, which in turn results in a lengthened shelf life. The high oxidative stability in MPO is not only due to its lipid profile, but also due to the presence of natural antioxidants, particularly carotenoids and Vitamin E Tocotrienols, which fight oxidation.

Tocotrienols are known to be 40-60 times more potent in its antioxidant strength than the more widely-known Vitamin E, Tocopherols. Palm oil is the only known source to contain a complete spectrum of this powerful antioxidant. In its entire Vitamin E pool, the majority 75% of it is Tocotrienols. Because of this, cost-effective MPO is the choice of many food manufacturers, not only of instant noodle makers.

The crispy and crunchy textures of instant noodles are also owed to MPO. When the noodles are soaked in boiling water, the soft texture is retained and revived. When eaten directly, you get the crisp and the crunch – this is signatory of all foods fried in MPO.

“Malaysian Palm Oil adds and
retains moisture in baked goods”

MPO is commonly used in baking in many, many ways. MPO’s almost equivalent saturated to unsaturated fatty acid distribution makes it unnecessary for it to be hydrogenated, saving cost to the food manufacturer. Hydrogenated fats result in trans-fat, which has been linked to heart disease. MPO is also the preferred choice in margarine for the very same reason, as it naturally becomes solid at room temperature.

In place of butter, MPO margarine can be used in the doughs and batters of cookies, cakes, breads, pastries, and more. It also adds and retains moisture in these baked goods. MPO as a shortening also functions as a flavour carrier since it does not interfere with the overall flavour of the product. Storage-wise, it can be stored between 25°C to 35°C. Hence, it does not require refrigeration, and can be transported at below 40°C (Sivaruby, Isa, Miskandar, & Fairus, 2006).

MPO can be used in icing or as a releasing agent between the doughs or batters and the pan. It makes icing glossy, smooth and does not add flavour to doughs and batters when used as a releasing agent.

Because MPO is of plant origin, it is halal, kosher, and may also be claimed as vegan friendly. It is also suitable for those with lactose intolerance. MPO is used in many other food and non-food items. Being the most efficient oil crop in the world, this certified sustainable harvest will continue to ensure food security globally for years to come. MPO is the common ingredient in delicious food.

BY PUTERI NOR ZULAIKHA BINTI MEGAT MOHAMED ABDUL WAHAB

References

Afoakwa, E. O. (2016). Chocolate Science and Technology. John Wiley & Sons.

Green Palm. (n.d.). What is palm oil used for? Retrieved from Green Palm:
https://greenpalm.org/about-palm-oil/what-is-palm-oil/what-is-palm-oil-used-for

Sivaruby, K., Isa, M., Miskandar, M., & Fairus, H. (2006, June). Palm-Based Shortening for Multi-Layer Bread. MPOB Information Series.

Wang, F., Liu, Y., Shan, L., Jin, Q., Wang, X., & Li, L. (2010). Blooming in Cocoa Butter Substitutes Based Compound Chocolate: Investigations on Composition, Morphology and Melting Behavior. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’s Society, 1137-1143.