Researchers evaluate different mix for popular food
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The U.S. wheat industry hopes to decrease the volatility of club wheat prices by tapping into an expanding global market for Asian spring rolls.
U.S. Wheat Associates conducted a study in Portland to determine which wheat flour works best for spring roll wrappers and why.
Spring rolls are widely consumed around the world and have become a mass-produced, frozen and exportable product in the last decade, said U.S. Wheat bakery consultant Roy Chung of Singapore. Spring rolls consist of chopped vegetables or meat placed in a wheat wrapper and fried.
A good spring roll should be golden-brown, crispy and not oily, said Gary Hou, technical manager and Asian food specialist for the marketing center.
The researchers found that chlorination used in many commercial flours harmed spring roll wrappers, but soft white flours and club wheat flour had more positive results.
Medium-protein soft white wheat flour was the best, Hou said. It maintained a light color with a longer cooking time. Manufacturers want to try blends of club wheat and soft white wheat in future studies.
U.S. grain companies traditionally sell Western White wheat, usually a blend of 80 percent soft white wheat and 20 percent club wheat, to overseas customers.
U.S. soft white wheat makes better roll wrappers than Australian soft wheats, but still lags behind the quality of Western White wheat, Chung said.
Chung said the determination that Western White wheat makes the best spring roll wrappers supports the position of the blend as a premium sub-class of soft white wheat.
"It would be beneficial to find ways to stabilize club wheat premiums at a level that helps maintain a steady supply," Chung said. "This volatility in premium payment is the main reason many importing countries have switched over to just soft white imports."
The U.S. wheat industry is already selling 100 percent Western White wheat to a big wrapper manufacturer, Chung said.
Mychael Mai, president of Shin Shin Foods Inc., in Portland said he offered his facilities for the study because of past work with the wheat marketing center.
Mai's goal is to market spring rolls across the United States. He is interested in using Western White wheat, which would make his the first company to use the blend domestically.
Mai said he has had some difficulty in tracking down Western White wheat, since there aren't many mills blending it for domestic use.
U.S. Wheat Associates: www.uswheat.org
Wheat Marketing Center: www.wmcinc.org
Shin Shin Foods, Inc.: www.shinshinfoods.com
Spring rolls, egg rolls differ
Egg rolls are different from spring rolls, although many consumers probably get them confused, said Gary Hou, Wheat Marketing Center technical manager and Asian foods specialist.
Egg roll wraps are usually made from a noodle dough through the sheeting process and are much thicker, Hou said. Spring roll wraps are made from a batter composed of flour and water sprayed onto a rotating hot drum.
"When Americans hear 'spring roll' they might think of the vegetable appetizer with the translucent wrapper often served in Vietnamese or Thai restaurants, but that is not a spring roll in Asia," U.S. Wheat bakery consultant Roy Chung said.