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  • The Palmgineer

From Tree to Our Kitchen Table

Palm oil is a big business—yet many people know nothing about this industry. They don’t know how versatile can palm oil be. Since we use most of the palm oil for food applications, let’s find out which products on our kitchen table contain palm oil.

Crude palm oil produced in palm oil mills has an intense orange colour due to the natural high levels of Vitamin A and E. It and can be further refined into refined, bleached and deodorized palm oil (RBD palm oil). RBD palm oil goes through the fractionation process to produce liquid oil, known as RBD olein, and a solid, known as RBD stearin.

RBD olein, commonly known as palm olein, is perfect for cooking, even frying. It can withstand repeated frying with minimum deterioration. Deep frying, for example, required cooking oil with a high smoke point so that the oil won’t easily oxidize, allowing for a longer usage life. The plain taste of palm oil does not affect the intended tastes of foods. You would enjoy cooking with Carotino, Chief, Camar or Saji, brands of cooking and frying oils made from palm olein, because they produce less excessive smoking and stickiness.

Palm oil is hidden in many everyday foods. RBD stearin, commonly known as palm stearin, is solid in nature and widely used to produce specialty fat products, such as margarine, vanaspati, shortenings, emulsifiers, and ice-cream.

Margarine and spreads were developed as an alternative to butter. The advantage of using palm oil in margarine and spreads is that it is semi solids, therefore requiring little or no hydrogenation. Without it, the soft oil would require hydrogenation to give stability to its flavour and longer shelf life. However, hydrogenation causes the products to have trans fatty acids that are detrimental to health. Palm-based margarine and spreads also remain in a smooth, spreadable form, whether kept in the fridge or outside. As such, they are the preferred choice for home users. Unilever’s Planta, Upfield’s Flora, and Goodman Fielder’s Meadow Lea are among the household brands containing this crucial ingredient.

Palm-based vanaspati, such as Delico, Golden Bridge, Vitas and Royal Chef, quickly replaces animal fat-based ghee because it is halal and cholesterol-free. Today, vanaspati is an essential ingredient in many foods, including Malaysian’s favourites such as roti canai, tosai and chapati. Do you like them as much as I do?

Biscuits, cakes, pastries, and creamy fillings require shortening (fat that is solid at room temperature) for their crumbly structure, moistness and overall structure. In short, it improves the texture of your baked goods. To produce the best bakery products, palm oil in combination with palm stearin is an excellent fat for baking mixes. Oreo, belVita, and Gardenia are bakery products that contain palm-based shortening.

Fat is one of the major ingredients in the production of ice cream. Next time you buy ice cream, consider what palm oil does for you. Palm oil, especially palm kernel oil, is an excellent dairy fat replacer for ice cream (also for milk and creamer). As an ingredient in ice cream, palm oil is suitable for people with lactose intolerance. Additionally, milk fat is an expensive ingredient in many parts of the world, hence palm-based fat is of great commercial interest to the ice cream industry.

Chocolate lovers should take note that palm fat is similar to cocoa butter and is used extensively at a more affordable cost. In fact, the cocoa butter equivalent is even better than real chocolate itself. It not only gives chocolates a smooth, shiny appearance, but also can be tailored to melt in our mouths very quickly, providing a delightful and cooling sensation.

Enough said, with more than half of the products on sale in supermarkets being made with palm oil, this nature gift is here to stay. Palm oil’s versatility and efficiency prevail.

Author: The Palmgineer


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