Culinary innovation
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Culinary innovation

From vegan eggs to cricket-based delights, Thai researchers are providing alternative healthy food options

Culinary innovation
Assoc Prof Yupakanit Puangwerakul.

In today's digital age, a growing number of people are increasingly becoming concerned about their health and well-being. In response to these concerns, many researchers have developed functional foods which contain nutrients and other components beneficial to health. Researchers from Rangsit University, Suan Dusit University and Panyapiwat Institute of Management have dedicated their time and efforts to create innovative food products including vegan eggs, kaeng liang and tom kha gai instant soups along with cricket-based ice cream, cookies, pasta and jelly.

Here are some of the best examples.

Pen Egg's vegan eggs. Somchai Poomlard

Pen Egg (Vegan Egg)

Rangsit University

As a researcher, Assoc Prof Yupakanit Puangwerakul, lecturer at the Faculty of Food Technology, Rangsit University, discovered that many people are allergic to animal-based foods, including eggs. To offer an alternative food option, Assoc Prof Yupakanit created vegan eggs under the brand Pen Egg by Rangsit University. The main raw materials are leftovers from rice processing, such as malt and broken rice.

"I created this for people with food allergies. The protein in these vegan eggs comes from rice, which is hypoallergenic, so people who are allergic to soy and gluten can consume these eggs. Vegan eggs from the Pen Egg brand are highly nutritious, containing vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12. They are low in fat and sodium and have no cholesterol and no sugar," said Assoc Prof Yupakanit.

Unlike other vegan eggs which do not lend themselves to various forms of cooking, eggs produced by Pen Egg brand have a solid form and can be easily cooked in all kinds of ways -- frying, boiling, steaming or even heating up in a microwave. While other vegan eggs have to be stored in a refrigerator, Pen Egg's can be left at room temperature for up to eight months because they have been sterilised through food irradiation. "The vegan eggs are sterilised through low-dose irradiation of cobalt–60 and electron beams. While some people may have concerns about the irradiation, radiology technologists guarantee there is no residual radiation in these vegan eggs, making them safe for consumption," explained Assoc Prof Yupakanit.

Pen Egg's vegan eggs are available at the RSU store in Rangsit University for 20 baht per egg. The product has been well received by vegans and vegetarians, who are their target customers. However, Assoc Prof Yupakanit aims to expand the product to a wider range of consumers, so she has given away samples at several public events to gather feedback.

"Our customers who are vegan and vegetarian asked us to add more nutrition to the eggs which is something we can customise by order for individuals or groups. For example, we once received orders from restaurants to produce soft-boiled eggs. Before launching the vegan eggs, we improved the texture after some customers told us that it was not chewy. Vegans and vegetarians are accustomed to a bland flavour of food, so we need to listen to other groups to improve the taste."

Homkhajorn Instant Soup by Suan Dusit University.

Homkhajorn Instant Soup

Suan Dusit University

Many elderly people have chewing and swallowing problems and a reduced appetite due to declining physical health. To assist elderly people in improving their appetite, Asst Prof Varaporn Vittayaporn, a lecturer at the School of Culinary Arts, Suan Dusit University, collaborated with the Faculty of Science and Technology to create kaeng liang and tom kha gai instant soups under the brand Homkhajorn by Suan Dusit University.

"After conducting surveys, our team discovered that instant soups available in supermarkets and convenience stores are often Western-style soups such as thick chicken soup and mushroom soup. Some Thai-style soups can be found in online stores, but they are different from Homkhajorn Instant Soup," said Asst Prof Varaporn.

"Before launching kaeng liang and tom kha gai, we surveyed the types of soups that the elderly prefer. The results showed that kaeng liang, tom kha gai and tom yum are their top three favourites.

"Homkhajorn Instant Soup is unique because it contains natural fibres from rice bran, which help to absorb vitamin B12, iron and calcium. One of our team members created a powder emulsion encapsulated with vitamins B1, B2, B12 and folate. These instant soups are nutritious and do not contain preservatives and monosodium glutamate since they are produced using the dry freeze technique."

Elderly people or their caretakers can easily prepare these instant soups by mixing them in 200mm of hot water. Although the soups do not contain preservatives and MSG, Asst Prof Varaporn recommends the elderly not to consume Homkhajorn Instant Soup for all three meals.

"The soups are designed to be low in calories since some elderly people are overweight or have problems with high cholesterol. Elderly people should consume Homkhajorn Instant Soup as one meal and have other types of foods for the remaining meals. If they consume these soups for all three meals, they may not receive enough calories," she said.

Homkhajorn Instant Soups were introduced to the public for the first time at the Thailand Research Expo 2023. Some manufacturers and entrepreneurs are interested in the products and are currently undergoing discussions to manufacture them.

"Tom yum will be our next product. Since it is a famous Thai dish, we believe it will be well received by customers. We want to improve it to make it as perfect as possible," said Asst Prof Varaporn.

Peptide powders made from the crickets.

Cricket Based Ice Cream, Cookies, Pasta and Jelly

Panyapiwat Institute of Management

Pattraporn Sukkhown, lecturer of the Restaurant Business Management Program at the Faculty of Food Business Management, Panyapiwat Institute of Management, and her research team noticed that aside from fried crickets, there are no products produced from crickets which causes producers to have a low income.

Some years there is an oversupply of crickets, but the demand remains the same, causing farmers to lose money. To increase the value of crickets, Pattraporn put them through the process of protein hydrolysis. The result is a peptide which contains concentrated protein, antioxidants and essential amino acids which are easily absorbed. From 120 baht for 1kg of live crickets, peptide powders made from the crickets cost 1,000 baht per kilo. Farmers can increase their income with the assistance of researchers.

After that, Pattraporn and the researchers decided to use cricket peptide as a food ingredient. They challenged themselves by changing a sweet product like ice cream to be a healthier product.

"Most ice creams contain high levels of sugar and fat but have low protein content. We aimed to create a healthier dessert, so we developed an ice cream called Boosto+ which contains high protein and calcium but is low in fat and is lactose-free. Boosto+ in dark chocolate flavour is sweetened with a sugar substitute. Boosto+ is available at KetoHouse at Kasetnawamin for 89 baht per cup, as well as on Facebook at," said Pattraporn.

Another dessert is a cookie under the brand Rocko+, made from jasmine rice flour which is sugar-free and high in protein. Pasta is one of the most popular cricket-based products because customers do not have to add meat to a pasta dish since it already contains high protein.

Cricket jelly under the brand C Health is an award-winning product created for fitness enthusiasts. Buncha Limpabandhu, a lecturer at the Business Administration Innovation Center, explained that cricket jelly with carissa berries contains antioxidants and has a sour flavour. When comparing the cricket jelly to protein bars, it is easier to consume and swallow because protein bars are dry and can get stuck in people's throats.

"One challenge in selling cricket-based food is that people who do not eat crickets hesitate to try them. Hence, we have to provide free samples and encourage people to try them. After trying these products, they find that the cricket products taste good and have no smell. Then, they become our customers," said Pattraporn.\

Below From left, Auttapon Jiratassanakul, Buncha Limpabandhu, Pattraporn Sukkhown and Norarith Somsiri from Panyapiwat Institute of Management.

Cricket jelly.

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