Happy April! I hope this month will be joyous to all of us. So, let me get going to start this month with a sticky information about a sticky science beyond a sticky food: Dodol.
The idea of picking dodol as main topic popped when I was chatting with my friend this morning. We were likely having a silly conversation until the word “Dodol!” come out as my response to a dumb act of her. Yes, somehow Indonesian, especially the youngsters, usually use the dodol word to express how silly a person can be. Too bad, this writing would not be fulfilling your curiousness toward the reason why and what is the ultimate connection between the dodol word and dodol as food. So, let us just start.
Dodol , as food, is a toffee-like confection, popular in some Southeast Asian countries, especially Indonesia and Malaysia. This sticky and sweet food is basically made of coconut milk, glutinous rice flour, regular rice flour, palm sugar, and pandan leaves. Dodol making is actually simple but a time consuming process. It can be up to 6 hours. Just relax, it would be worth it. The good news is that not only time, but also energy consuming. It would be a lot of work to do. Go fight win!
Instead of fussing on how tired I would be to make one, I’d tend to talk about the sticky science of dodol by examining the role of each ingredient to the physical characteristic.
The major constituent of rice flour is starch. The starch itself mainly consists of two polymers: amylose and amylopectin within certain ratio in total starch. Amylopectin is a waxy starch. When amylopectin won over amylose, the cooked starch will be strangy and of course as its name implies: waxy. Meanwhile, amylose gives a gelling or compact characteristic.
Glutinous rice flour is dominated by amylopectin, while regular rice flour on the other hand, rich in amylose. You guess, what will happen next? Exactly. As dodol is expected to be elastic and chewy, the ratio between glutinous and regular rice flour used is approximately 6:1. The regular rice flour is there just to make sure that dodol won’t be too sticky and too despicable to be eaten.
At an early phase, the rice flour will be slurry as it is mixed with water. Gradually, the thickness will be increasing within an excess water and certain high temperature. This processed is called as gelatinization. Empirically, can be proven through a microscopic vision. We won’t be that far.
Palm sugar is brown in visual. Not only imparts to give sweetness, it also gives dark brown color and flavor. Palm sugar consists of glucose, fructose, and sucrose. These sugar, mainly glucose and fructose play an important role in color development. The series of chemical reactions in dodol making summed up as Maillard reaction and caramelization which end up giving myriad compounds to develop color and flavor. Technically, Maillard reaction occurs between reducing sugar and amino acid groups provided by protein. The protein comes from rice flour and coconut milk. While caramelization occurs between the sugars on dry heating. Both happening on high temperature.
This one is typically a Southeast Asian favorite ingredient. I bet. The milk is extracted from mature coconut meat. The fat component plays some important functional roles in dodol making, they are:
- The formation of fatty acid-amylose complex reduces the retrogradation of starch. This modulates the hardness and elasticity of dodol.
- The coconut fat imparts on making the dodol shiny, mouthful, and too beautiful to resist.
What is so important than the ability to give fragrant aroma? Well, it also creates a flavor. We all do agree on this, don’t we?
Well well well, afterall, dodol is the final product of the whole compounds get together. The fact that science is too sticky to be apart from dodol making has made me impressed just more and more toward this universe. LOL. Too much, but really, it is not surreal.
Happy living your April!
Karim AA, et al. 2012. The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science and Cooking. New York(US): Columbia University Press