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Seaweed powder could give noodles formulation boost

By Stephen Daniells , 22-Sep-2008

Powder from green seaweed may offer the growing noodle market a new avenue for formulation, according to a new study from Taiwan.

Researchers from the National Penghu University report that an incorporation of the powder from green seaweed may increase cooking yields, but some weakening of the noodles did occur. Such weakening could be minimised or negated by adding other functional proteins, they said.

“This study offers an opportunity to efficiently use seaweeds in noodle manufacturing,” wrote H.C. Chang and L.-C. Wu in the Journal of Food Science.

“Consumer acceptance studies should evaluate whether fresh noodles made with green seaweed (Monostroma nitidum) powder will ultimately be welcomed in the market place,” they added.

The instant noodle market is growing. According to a US Department of Agriculture emerging market project proposal, manufacturers of instant noodles are searching for “a new formula for the next noodle generation that can be higher in protein, better quality, and yet cheaper”.

The green seaweed powder appears to tap into this search.

Study details

Chang and Wu formulated fresh Chinese noodles with 4, 6, and 8 per cent green seaweed powder with or without additional eggs. They report that the cooking yields increased in the seaweed-containing noodles, “due to water absorption during cooking by the fibres and polysaccharides in the seaweed”.

On the flip side, the higher water absorption led to textural changes, including making the noodles softer and spongier.

Addition of the eggs was in combination with the seaweed was found to improve the textural properties of the finished noodles.

“The results indicate that additional seaweed powder can significantly affect the quality of fresh Chinese noodles either with or without the addition of eggs,” wrote the researchers.

“The weakening effects on textural attributes did occur with additional seaweed powder; however, these effects may be minimized or negated by reducing the level of seaweed powder, employing other functional proteins, or applying other wheat flours that produce strong dough,” they added.

While the physical and chemical characteristics appear promising the researchers noted that tasting tests of the resultant noodles are still required.

Supply issues

Seaweed is already used in a range of products, including noodles. Indeed, according to Leatherhead Food International, carrageenan from seaweed, for example, is used mainly in dairy products (milks, creams and desserts), jellies, ham and chicken products, and bakery glazes; agar is used as a gelling agent in a range of products, including jams, confectionery goods, meats and noodles; and the broader category of alginates are used in bakery creams, glazes and fillings, ice creams, jams, and some beverages.

However, seaweed shortages from Asia Pacific is having a serious affect on supply and pricing in the hydrocolloids market, and may ultimately prompt some users to reconsider formulations or seek new assurances from their suppliers.

Source: Journal of Food Science Published online ahead of print, Early View, 4th September 2008, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2008.00912.x“Texture and Quality Properties of Chinese Fresh Egg Noodles Formulated with Green Seaweed (Monostroma nitidum) Powder”Authors: H.C. Chang, L.-C. Wu

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