Nanyang Poly lecturer helps students turn waste into food

WONG PEI TING Today Online 15 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — Consumers may soon be able to get healthier bak kwa (dried barbecued meat) and fish luncheon meat made with recycled food waste such as soya pulp.

Nanyang Polytechnic students came up with these food innovations, guided by their lecturer Lina Tan, who sees food waste as raw materials that can literally put food on the table. These innovations and more are on display at the inaugural three-day Tripartite Scientific Conference on food science that started on Wednesday (Sept 14).

Ms Tan had the idea eight years ago when an employee from Singapore-based sauce manufacturer Chng Kee said that it cost up to S$2,000 to dispose of coarse-textured soya bean pulp, a by-product from producing bean cakes and soya bean drinks.

The sum of money spent was “as good as hiring one more person”, Ms Tan said.

She saw that the pulp had good potential as homogeneous food waste because of its consistency.

Collectively, about 30 tonnes of soya pulp are produced daily by the 38 tofu and soya-bean milk companies in Singapore, she added — an amount that is enough to fill at least four garbage trucks.

The lecturer, 42, and her students Ng Soon Ming and Audrey Loh, both in their early 20s, embarked on the food project as part of their studies two years ago.

Collecting 10kg of soya pulp from tofu manufacturer Unicurd in Sembawang each time, they spent about six months devising recipes: Mr Ng made fibre-rich varieties of fish luncheon meat for fishball manufacturer Thong Siek, while Ms Loh experimented with the bak kwa.

They found that using 10 per cent of the pulp was best in terms of not creating a noticeable change in taste.

The bak kwa study was picked up by a well-known bak kwa company in Singapore for its entry in this year’s Food Innovation Product Award, in the hope that it would get some funding to develop it into a viable product. The judging will take place in October.

Ms Tan said: “My hope is that the product launches (happen) by next Chinese New Year, a time when tofu consumption goes up with steamboat (meals), and many tuck into their favourite bak kwa.”

In another of Ms Tan’s studies, unused cabbage cores were collected from restaurant Seoul Garden’s kimchi production and mixed with flour to produce edible bowls and spoons.

The idea was later adapted to create a cabbage snack, which won the honourable mention at the International Union of Food Science & Technology World Congress in Dublin, Ireland, in a competition on producing low-cost yet nutritious food innovations to fight hunger.

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