What is...QQ?

Brush up on your food terminology with us, from commonplace colloquialisms to obscure obsessions, as we demystify culinary lingo in our Kitchen Language column.
In this edition: QQ, that delightful, toothsome bounce.


What is QQ?

QQ is the bounciness associated with fresh handmade fishballs, glutinous rice balls, and certain types of noodles. The term originated from Taiwan, where Q sounds similar to the local word for “chewy”, but it’s evolved to mean a little more than that. The Asian version of al-dente, QQ foods are soft but not mushy - they must offer some resistance to the bite. 

How do you get it?

For fishballs and fish paste to develop their springiness, a paste made of pureed fish and sometimes egg must be kneaded and violently thrown onto a tabletop up to fifty times in order to develop the “stickiness” that allows it to be shaped into balls. Many stalls cut costs with the liberal addition of starch, but the QQ result can be achieved by pure elbow grease.

The QQ texture in wheat noodles is obtained with the addition of lye water or kansui (枧水) , an alkaline solution containing potassium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate that regulates acidity in the process of dough making. Such noodles are known in Chinese as jian mian (碱面) or lye noodles. Dilute the lye water and knead it into your dry ingredients to obtain a dough.

The science behind it 
Lye water raises the alkalinity of the noodle dough, encouraging water absorption during the boiling process while strengthening the proteins. This gives rise to the paradoxical soft-yet-toothsome bite that is QQ.
High impact from the throwing and kneading cause the proteins in fish meat to tangle, making the texture springier and less tender. It also removes air pockets from the paste, yielding a firmer, bouncier ball.
“Ah Q Wonton Noodle has the most QQ noodles ever - firm and springy!”

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