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.
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.
This dish is a great example of Italian cooking philosophy. Just a few simple, good-quality ingredients can create something truly unforgettable.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Makes 1 cup
- 1 tbsp oil
- 30 g butter
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 garlic cloves, optional
- Heat oil and butter in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat until butter melts.
- Add breadcrumbs and garlic if using and stir quickly to coat all the crumbs in the fat.
- Stir until golden brown and serve with noodles as a topping.
Want more breadcrumb numbers in your life? Check out our recipe collection here.
My kids eat this at least once a week! It’s delicious and quick, and a total family favourite. Get the fishmonger to fillet the fish while you wait – that way you’ll know it’s fresh.
This is the crumble I make every time a friend has a baby! I drop around a bag of the crumble topping, a tin of apple (or pear) and some delicious thick cream.
Cream cheese dotted on the top just before baking makes this a very special crumble.
A healthy salad packed with crunchy veg, rice noodle and topped off with a fresh tahini dressing. Keeps well in the fridge for an easy lunchbox filler.
You’ll find your friends clinging to these little cuties just as tightly as a koala clings to a gum tree!