• Orecchiette with cime di rapa and pangrattato (Cook like an Italian)Source: Cook like an Italian
It ultimately comes down to science.
By
Michelle Tchea

10 Jun 2021 - 1:15 PM  UPDATED 10 Jun 2021 - 1:25 PM

Does the texture of your food determine how much you enjoy it? I bet that it does. Mushy food may not be so magnetic because we associate it with the food we eat after a trip to the dentist or a fad diet. But we do love a good old crispy potato cake or lightly battered fish.

When it comes to food, crunch matters. A perfect dish is determined by the way you assemble it in that final 30 seconds.

Texture is the name of the game with these breadcrumb-crusted popsicles.

Rather than just drizzling olive oil over pasta, have you ever wondered why your local trattoria makes such memorable spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic oil)? The reason might be down to the final finish of crunchy breadcrumbs.

There's a recipe for that...
Spaghetti aglio e olio

This dish is a great example of Italian cooking philosophy. Just a few simple, good-quality ingredients can create something truly unforgettable.

Orecchiette with cime di rapa and pangrattato

Orecchiette is an ear-shaped pasta and it's served here with pangrattato, which are essentially fancy breadcrumbs to give it a nice crunch.

And what about in the US where junk food is king? Have you ever had mac 'n' cheese with a crunchy layer of breadcrumbs on top? If not, try it and you will never make a boring pasta bake again. 

The very same crunchy breadcrumbs can be added to mussels cooked in beer to add crunch, texture and more substance to what would be just another bowl of wet seafood soup.

"The world is much better with crispy, crunchy bits and even scientists believe food texture ultimately dictates how much you enjoy a dish."

Yes, the world is much better with crispy, crunchy bits and even scientists believe food texture ultimately dictates how much you enjoy a dish. And who are we to argue with science?  

I remember travelling through Japan a few years ago and wondering why a simple broth of udon noodles was so damn good. After grilling my friends about it for days and numerous trips back to the udon shop (for... research purposes), we concluded it came down to the fact that the crispy tempura batter bits heightened the dish.

The perfect meal has crunch.

And what about that rather heavenly Brussels sprouts salad I had on the US east coast, which was brought to life with fried bacon and double-fried corn kernels. It was the best 'dirty' salad I have ever had and I blame the porky goodness for making me a better salad maker.

There are even desserts that wouldn't necessarily garner a second glance if served by its lonesome self. Imagine an apple crumble without the crumble, or perhaps a raspberry parfait without the crunchy granola. Where would we be if we didn't have crunchy bacon over salad or even the crispy bits of pavlova to counteract and ultimately complement the richness of the cream? 

What would apple crumble even be without its topping?

In Southeast Asia, Malaysians, Indonesians and Vietnamese home cooks sprinkle lots of fried shallots into bowls of soup, stir-fry noodles and even over fried rice.

I'm reminded of a recent conversation with Persian-Australian chef Hamed Allahyari. 

MEET HAMED ALLAHYARI
A fragrant Persian dish that bridges generations
This dish is best enjoyed with your hands and family over the Persian New Year.

Allahyari told me that his family would often fight for the crispy bread bottom, known as tahdig, of his mother's sabzi recipe. I have many Persian friends who agree that this is the best part of the symbolic dish.

Much like Hamed, my family would also have "chopstick wars" at the table to get the crunchy parts of my grandfather's dumplings when turned into potstickers. However, dishes with crunch really are worth losing the rights to the TV control for the night. 


DIY breadcrumbs

Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 30 g butter
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, optional

Method

  1. Heat oil and butter in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat until butter melts.
  2. Add breadcrumbs and garlic if using and stir quickly to coat all the crumbs in the fat.
  3. Stir until golden brown and serve with noodles as a topping. 

Want more breadcrumb numbers in your life? Check out our recipe collection here.

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