Porang is a type of tubers that can be easily found in Indonesia. Porang tuber contains glucomannan which is good for the body’s metabolism. The raw materials of Porang can be used for the food industry such as noodles and healthy snacks. In addition, these raw materials can be used for the cosmetic industry such as lipstick and masks, and toothpaste.

Euphoria on porang tubers started to appear in Indonesia after President Jokowi declared that porang is a new food ingredient for Indonesia and the world. Many new porang farmers have sprung up, such as in Subang, West Java. There are about 10 new porang farmer groups there. One farmer group can even produce porang tubers up to 10 tons per year.

Unfortunately, such abundant supply of porang is not matched by demands from the domestic market, which is why the porang price tends to be low. The demands for porang raw materials even come from overseas. Nearly 90 percent of porang products packaged in the form of dry chips are exported to countries that need porang as raw materials for noodles, such as Japan and China. Domestic porang processing plants are located in Madiun, Pasuruan, Semarang, Surabaya, and Puwokerto. The technology used is, however, still imported.

The potential processing of these porang tubers has been the focus of Achmat Sarifudin, a researcher from the Center for Appropriate Research and Technology (PRTTG) of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) since 2021. He and his team have developed a technology and system to extract glucomannan and remove oxalic acid.

“Oxalic acid may cause itching and kidney problems if consumed in the long run. Therefore, our focus is how to detect the content of oxalic acid in porang, as this is the “key point” for porang food to be safe for consumption,” he explained.

This research on porang tuber processing has then become the idea for joint research between BRIN and the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR), which focuses on the theme of strengthening food security in Southeast Asia by using local Porang tubers.

In this joint research, BRIN conducts research on the technology for processing porang flour using the green production method. “We are seeking to use nonhazardous chemicals or water-based, and we do not throw away the solvents used to extract the glucomannan, but processed under the recovery system, so that we can reuse the chemicals for further extraction,” said Achmat.

On the other hand, the TISTR team conducts product development research. Product development comes from 3 ingredients, namely porang, moringa leaves, and aloe vera. A series of tests that will be carried out are chemical, physical, and sensory characteristics, nutritional content, shelf life, and the effect of glycemic index, as well as enzymes that react to diabetics.

“In the end, we hope that the results of this research can produce healthy staple foods such as noodles, rice, and healthy snacks. This product will later be suitable for consumption for programs of healthy diet with a good taste,” he explained.

BRIN and TISTR research related to porang tubers as food ingredients also adds ingredients from Moringa leaf extract and aloe vera. The addition of these materials aims to complete the nutritional content. Moringa leaves as a superfood contain essential amino acids, calcium minerals, ferrum, magnesium, and zinc, as well as antioxidants. Aloe vera is also high in antioxidants.

“For that purpose, we want to produce staple food products and snacks that have low glycemic content, low calory, high fiber, and contain prebiotics,” explained Achmat.

This joint research then led this collaborative team to win the 2021 WAITRO Innovation Award (WIA).

PRTTG BRIN targets the development of porang processing technology and the technology for its derivative products as a whole can be completed by 2024. “Currently, the research scale is still on a lab scale. Our closest target, in 2022, is to develop porang flour processing technology until the scale of pilot plant,” said Achmat.

Healthy Food for People in their Forties and People with Degenerative Diseases

Porang is lauded and expected to be a staple food with low carbohydrates, so it is good for those aged 40 years and over who are prone to degenerative diseases, such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cancer, and so on.

Achmat gave an example, one pack of 76-84gram Shirataki noodles may use 3-5 percent of porang flour. Porang flour contains glucomannan which can absorb water up to 10 times.

“So the longer the flour expands, the more it makes you full. So eating porang food, you can be full, with low carbohydrates,” he said.

For those aged 40 years and over, said Achmat, should not eat foods with high sugar levels that trigger an increase in blood sugar. Therefore, the expected derivative products from porang are staple foods such as noodles, rice, and light snacks.

After doing this research, Achmat saw the potential of porang tubers to become healthy staple food products. He wants porang tubers to be seen not only from its potentially high export market share, but also in terms of its benefits that few only know.

“We see that this product is not just for export market share, but is also good for health. We should not export it until our people feel the benefits. That is why we encourage and popularize processed food products from porang,” he said.

Therefore, he hopes that this research can proceed and produce products. His dream is that porang can become a local tuber that can strengthen food security in Southeast Asia.

For information, in this research on porang processing technology, PRTTG BRIN collaborates with the Subang farmer groups and also receives supports for future scaling up from local companies in the agro-industry sector. BRIN’s Agroindustrial Technology Center is also developing porang derivative products in the form of sihirataki noodles and health drinks. (drs, tnt, jml).