Chem with Kellen Explains the Chemistry Behind Li Hing Mui
Reposted with permission from Kellen Kartub's Instagram. Please follow this awesome account to learn more about chemistry in every day life.
Back in lab! And I brought snacks!
These li hing gummy bears have been a huge hit! Li hing is a red powder of ground up plum skin. It originated in China and is commonly added to fruits, candies, drinks, or on dried plum seeds.
Li hing can be rather powerful. It is best described as a combination of sweet, sour, and salty. And since that covers 3 of the 5 tastes, let's talk chemistry of taste and flavors.
Our mouth has 5 taste receptors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. Different chemicals interact with these receptors, who signal to our brain the type of sense we should experience. And by interact, you can bet I mean - sets off a complex series of chemical reactions (but since Kellen doesn't know crap about biology or the brain she can't explain it to you). But I can totally identify chemical examples for each flavor!
Sweet flavors come from sugar chemicals like sucrose, fructose, and dextrose. Sour flavors often come from acids! That H+ ions especially.
Salty flavors come from...salt! Sodium chloride to be specific. But other salts like potassium or magnesium bound to negative ions (that are neutralized acids!) can also cause a salty sensation.
Bitter flavors are a bit more complex. But...ever gotten soap in your mouth? Soap is basic, and many bitter flavors come from basic molecules. Bitter flavors in coffee come from quinolactones.
And umami flavors, or savory, often come from glutamic acid or aspartic acid. These are amino acids, and amino acids make up proteins. And proteins make up the meat we eat soooo.... makes sense that savory foods taste...savory!
I can only eat a little li hing at a time. Unless these gummy bears are involved! The additional sweetness from the gummy bears is SO GOOD! Li hing powder on gummy bears is like crack. 10 out of 10, will eat again. Should have bought more.
Easy solution! Visit a market, buy li hing powder, add to my own pack of gummy bears. Bam! Instant deliciousness!