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Eater Michael On Preserving Crisp In Japanese Foods

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Jan 22, 2015

At the end of each chapter of my book there's a homework assignment. (It's a tongue-in-cheek textbook.) Readers are encouraged to email me their homework, and it's been a blast for me to see what you've sent in. This one was particularly good...

At the conclusion of chapter one, the assignment reads:

Find a food not referenced in this chapter where SATVOR (surface-area-to-volume ratio) plays an important role in determining deliciousness. Alter its surface area and/or its volume to make its SATVOR more favorable. Then consider what other foods would benefit from the exact same treatment.

Here's how Eater Michael in San Francisco responded:

I've always been begoggled by the Japanese habit of making the most delicious of all fried foods (tempura, Katsu) and then destroying its amazing crispness by drenching it in broth (udon) or curry (Katsu curry). Panko helps delay the inevitable sogginess of Katsu curry because those breadcrumbs are magically made to have more facets than regular breadcrumbs. And I guess batter fried fish is made soggy by other cultures (vinegar on fish and chips).

But my approach to these dishes is serving the crispy stuff and the wet stuff separately and dunking at the last minute. Any additional suggestions greatly appreciated.

A+ Michael! It's true that Michael didn't exactly alter the food's SATVOR, but he changed something else to achieve the same end. This is what we call participatory learning. Michael understands the importance of dipping on a per-bite basis to preserve crisp. It's a valuable lesson across foods. That's why I recommend getting any hot, toasty sandwich that includes sauce with the sauce on the side. (Chicken parm and roast beef au jus are examples.)

Can you think of others?

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