UGEB2440 Chemistry of Food and Drinks - CUHK Course Review

Term Taken: 2019 Spring

Instructor (Class B): Kendrew Kin Wah Mak

Grading Scheme

  • Short Writings x2 (10%)
  • (English: 2000 words, Chinese: 3500 characters) Essay (40%)
  • Final Exam (50%)

Topics Covered

Food Constituents:

  • Carbohydrates in Food.
  • Protein, Peptide Bonds, Amino Acids, Collagen.
  • Meat, Fish and Seafood in Dishes.
  • Maillard Reaction.
  • Fatty Acids, DHA.

Food Preservation:

  • Drying, Salting, Fermenting, Smoking, Spicing.
  • Kimchi.
  • Alcohol Drinks: Wine, Whiskey.
  • Cheese.

Traditional and Modern Food and Drinks:

  • “Like nourishes link.” (以形補形): Pig brain, walnut, blood curd.
  • The myth of incompatible food: Spinach and Tofu.
  • Century Eggs.
  • Beverages: Tea. Coffee. Sport Drinks.
  • Artificial Flavors. Food Additives.
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil. Trans Fat. Saturated/Unsaturated Fats.
  • Food Packaging. Modern Food Preservation.

Food Incidents and Food Safety:

  • Melamine in Milk product in China.
  • Kjeldahl protein test.
  • DEHP plasticizer in beverages in Taiwan.
  • Plasticizers.
  • Clouding Agent.
  • Formaldehyde in Seafood.
  • Malachite Green in Fishes.
  • Sulfur Dioxide as Perservative.

Food Production for Future:

  • World’s Food Supply
  • Organic Food.
  • Composting. Nitrogen Fixation. Fertilizers.
  • Inseticide: DDT, Organophosphates.
  • GMO Plants.

Review

This is a general education course offered by Chemistry Department. All materials taught in course were quite interesting and related to the daily life. The course did not dive deep into the scientific details of chemistry, but many compounds and organisms were introduced, so some basic chemistry and biology knowledge would help very much.


The course started by introducing the basic constituents of food (carbohydrates, protein, fats), and moved on to some more interesting topics such as the making of Kimchi, Wine, Tea, Coffee, Cheese, and different well-known dishes. We got a chance to understand the chemical reactions and chemical compounds related to certain food or drinks. On top of that, this course served much like a myth-buster for food and drinks. Many traditional beliefs or modern “food tips” were discussed with scientific facts, and some were pretty mind-blowing. The last part of the course discussed some food incidents in modern times and cleared some misconceptions about modern food additives, artificial flavors and food packaging.


We had to submit 2 (very) short writings (~100 words) online as our assignments. The two writings were pretty informal, we only needed to write what we have learned in the class of two subjects in a brief paragraph. However, the essay was a bit of a headache, we could write whatever we like as long as the subject has something to do with the course, but it is extremely difficult for a non-chemistry major to writing something meaningful about food chemistry for up to 2000 words. Such pain.


The final exam was of average difficulty. There were 60 multiple-choice questions and some short answering questions. All of the questions came from the lecture notes, so if you memorized the materials well enough, the exam would be pretty simple.


Not much more to say about the class. If you enjoy eating, drinking, cooking, and science, take this course.

My Essay

The essay sucks, I know.

Enjoy Coffee with Palpitation and Insomnia – The Decaffeination Process


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