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dried food, greater flavor


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Good day Mr. Gee. Thank you for being here at eGullet. It's an honor to get to ask you a question.

I just read "Cod" by Mark Kurlansky (great book, by the way!). It got me wondering about dried foods such as salt cod or chinese mushrooms, and even tea. Why is the dried then re-hydrated food tastier than in it's original state?

Marc-André Cyr

Marc-André Cyr

Boulanger

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That's a great question. Mr. McGee, I too am interested in the answer. I grow a great many herbs and have been drying them as well as fruits and vegetables for years.

I know the basics about the herbs, some are stronger when dried because of the oils. However I do not understand how that applies to other foods that do not contain the essential oils common to herbs.

I know the effect by observation but would like to know the cause.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Thanks for your welcome! That’s a good question. It depends on the food, but drying can create flavor in a couple of ways. One is by enzyme action, something that happens in mushrooms. As the cellular structure is damaged by the drying, enzymes (protein catalysts that act on and change other molecules) come into contact with their targets and generate new molecules, some of which volatile and have aroma, some of which are pieces of proteins and have a savory taste. A second way that flavor is generated is by the reaction of all kinds of molecules in the food, enzymes or not, as they become more and more concentrated in the drying tissue. This is why drying often causes browning at low temperatures: the sugars and amino acids are so concentrated that they react even without the heat of cooking.

Tea is a somewhat different story: enzyme action takes place after the leaves are damaged by rolling but not reallyu during drying; and drying is often done at a high enough temperature to amount to a form of cooking.

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