25 Jan 2019 (Star2.com) - Palm oil means different things to different people. For 650,000 Malaysian oil palm smallholders, it is a vital source of income. To KDU University College lecturers, students and its officials, they consider the vegetable oil nutritious and versatile in cooking.
This is after they have been exposed to accurate information on Malaysian palm oil via a wall project at the university college in Utropolis Glenmarie, Shah Alam.
Some of them said they had negative perceptions about palm oil from campaigns carried out by Western anti-palm oil lobbyists, but now they know better.
Lecturer Fami Taufeq Fakarudin said the Malaysian Palm Oil Council sponsored the wall upon his request as he wanted to promote the product and instil pride in this Malaysian commodity.
“We are the first to have such a wall to educate our new generation and others about the benefits of palm oil. They just have to look at the wall for information on the history, benefits, by-products and other facts on palm oil,” said the School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts Academic Department head and executive chef.
Fami lamented that some people use other types of vegetable oil in culinary arts or professional kitchens due to misinformation on palm oil. Palm oil, he said, has a neutral flavour and is suitable for any cuisine.
“For instance, when you prepare a salad dressing using palm oil, it brings out the taste of the herb and spice ingredients,” said the chef who has over 20 years’ experience in culinary arts. He has used red palm oil, which is rich in pro-Vitamin A carotenoids, in baking bread.
Together with a chef friend, Kasdi Dahari, they have created 10 recipes using red palm oil for Philippine Airlines, such as ayam percik, satay, beef rendang, asam pedas ikan and two desserts: kole kacang and puding raja.
Second year culinary arts student Luqman Hakim, 21, said his perception of palm oil has changed after he and his course mates perused the information on the wall. “Now I know that palm oil is good oil; it has a lot of nutrition value and is good for health,” he said.
Lugman realised that the negative campaigns against palm oil were initiated by competitors and its partners to promote other oils for their profits.
Fellow culinary arts student Jason Christian, 19, who hails from Indonesia, said the vegetable oil was suitable for frying because of its high smoke point. Course mate Yagin Rubbeiaan, 20, said she was now aware that palm oil is cholesterol-free and does not contain trans fat.
Indonesian Shella Verensia, 17, who is also pursuing culinary arts said she would convince her mother to switch to palm oil for cooking, as “it is good for our body”. “I want to support Malaysian and Indonesian smallholders as they depend on this commodity for income,” she added.
Culinary arts student Razin Anwar Zafrullah Abbas, 20, said the wall provided clear details about palm oil and its benefits. Lecturer and chef Hamirudin Nazir said the wall has changed his impression of palm oil.
“We were exposed to imported oils and claims that palm oil which is lower-priced is not as good. I found that palm oil is actually good for health and it can be used for frying and other variation in cooking,” he said, adding that he too would switch to cooking with palm oil.
Chef Razali Mohamad who uses palm oil for Asian salad dressing said the wall has helped to educate the students. “I use palm oil at home and I will recommend it to others,” he added.
Hospitality and tourism lecturer Azwa Azhar said the wall changed her mind about palm oil. “I found that palm oil can be used for many purposes,” she said.
School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts head KK Loke said the wall project was very informative and beneficial for over 3,000 KDU students. “I have always been pro Malaysian palm oil in the food industry. It is very versatile and can be used in many areas in the food industry,” he said.
The 2.5mX5m wall set up in December 2018 at KDU University College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts features six parts: Introduction (the history of palm oil), Understanding Palm Oil (facts on the oil palm fruit and the oil’s health benefits), Processing of Palm Oil (production), Attributes and Uses of Palm Oil (its advantages), Sustainability of the Malaysian Palm Oil Industry (integrated management, zero waste management, social responsibility, biodiversity, zero burning and quality assurance) and Growth Stages of the Oil Palm (up to 30 years).
It imparts information such as palm oil is resistant to oxidation; retains the flavour of the food; nutritious and cholesterol free; rich in Vitamin E tocotrienols and tocopherols; trans fat-free; stable at high temperature; has a long shelf life; contains no GMO (genetically modified organism) and has balanced fatty acid content, among others.
Fami said he would discuss with KDU the inclusion of palm oil as a subject for Culinary Arts students.
“I hope other educational institutions in Malaysia will do the same. This will ensure that students know about palm oil and they can be advocates for palm oil overseas, as all of them are future chefs and they will be working at various professional kitchens. They can talk about palm oil and counter negative perceptions on the oil,” he said.
Fami said a Palm Oil Day has been planned in March at the campus, and students from other culinary institutions would be invited.
KDU Corporate Strategy Development head Brenda Lee Ye Yee expressed hope that industry players, the education department and relevant partners would co-operate with institutions of higher learning to create more awareness on this commodity.
“It will be helpful to implant knowledge on the benefits of palm oil from young,” she said.
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