Pulse buyers in India say Australian chickpeas need to pass the 'puffing'
test to gain wider appeal.
India is Australia’s largest market for chickpeas, and new research focusing on consumer preferences in that country has identified flavour and functionality as the major challenges for Australian pulse breeders and growers to address.
Dr Jenny Wood from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, leads the research. She says that previous breeder visits to Indian markets have focused on seed size and colour, rather than processing performance and flavour.
The GRDC-funded project is multifaceted and draws on the expertise of Charles Sturt University (CSU) and India’s Central Food Technological Research Institute. It covers research into cooking time, suitability for popular food preparation processes, taste testing and consumer preferences.
Dr Wood says there appears to be a perception among Indian consumers that Australian chickpeas are not as sweet as home-grown Indian varieties, although this has not yet been proven through sensory testing.
The first stage of the research saw Indian consumers taste test Australian and Indian varieties, which revealed the Yorker chickpea variety was considered one of the tastiest.
During a recent fact-finding tour in India, Dr Wood and collaborators Dr Chris Blanchard and Dr Anthony Saliba from CSU were taught three popular cooking processes, so that they could be replicated in Australian research. These included boiling and frying (for dhal), and a process known as ‘puffing’. Puffed chickpeas are prepared by roasting the chickpeas in hot sand until the seed pops, somewhat like popcorn. It is a popular snack in India, prepared by roadside vendors and food-processing companies alike.
While most Australian chickpea genotypes performed well in frying experiments, only one variety puffed well – Kyabra. Only about half of the Kyabra seeds in the sample actually puffed – but this is considered a high rate. All other Australian varieties had an unacceptable puffing rate of between zero and 25 per cent.
Soumi Paul Mukhopadhyay, a CSU sensory student under the supervision of Dr Saliba (a CSU associate professor of perceptual psychology), is training an Australian tasting panel in the characteristics preferred by Indian consumers and traders, to allow local testing of a wider range of Australian varieties.
Dr Wood says the project is also looking at understanding pulse cooking times, including the effects of genetics, environment and agronomy. This is in response to increased demand for greater convenience, as well as ongoing energy-supply issues in India.
Dr Jenny Wood
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