Taking motoho back to roots

Taking motoho back to roots

ROMA – THE National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub did not invent motoho. They have, however, taken motoho (soft sour sorghum porridge) back to its original roots.
The result is a taste that has no equal in the local market.
“Our products are always wiped off as soon as we put them to the people,” says Mpolelo Thantši, one of the NUL students making this product.
There is nothing quite like it.
It is smooth, very smooth (o nepotsoe).
It has the original sour taste which, by the way, does not come from chemicals but from a carefully controlled fermentation process.

This is how one dedicated fan nicely puts it: “Everything in this product is balanced, the sourness, the sweetness, the smoothness. This is unlike anything we have had before.”
Thantši and Puseletso Mahlapha are some of the students helping in this big NUL project.
This is how they skillfully summarise the thinking behind the product.
“In the days past, our ancestors created a long-lasting recipe for motoho whose secrets were faithfully passed from generation to generation. Motoho remained a respected beverage down the centuries. That is, until modernism with its chemical concoctions entered the food market.”

“Our aim with this product is to rediscover the lost original motoho,” they said.
And they rediscovered this amazing product, much to the happiness of Basotho who claim this beverage as their own.
Let us first make some distinctions so you can understand what we are talking about.
The motoho that you get in the market is often a fake form of the original motoho.
In fact, it is a chemical-modified version of soft porridge (lesheleshele).
That is not good O!
But there is a reason.
Making the original motoho on an industrial scale is no walk in the park.
It is just very difficult to do so.

Not least because refining the flour paste to make it superfine (ho nepola) is not an easy process on a large industrial scale.
Those who are old enough to have watched their grandmas refining the paste know what we are talking about.
The result is the course rough concoctions that you normally drink only because you have no other options.
There is another secret – Motoho’s sour taste.
Achieving that taste has always eluded modern industrial producers — not for the lack of trying though.
“The sour taste is not easy to achieve on a large industrial scale,” Mahlapha said.
So what is the average producers’ option?

They put some chemicals in what is basically soft porridge (lesheleshele) to come close to the sour taste.
But you can never trick the taste buds.
Those things on your tongue are some of the most amazing structures on earth.
They “know” the real, and they know the not so real.
So what are the NUL guys doing to get back to the roots on an industrial scale?
First, they have found a very innovative way to smoothen the flour paste (ba nepola ka mekhoa ea sejoalejoale).
That is the tricky part.

Figuring out how to fine-tune the flour in a simple cost-effective way is one of the hardest things to do.
“We did a lot of experiments before we could get it right,” Thantši said.
But then, there was something even harder.
Making a traditional stater culture (tomoso).
Those who are familiar with motoho know that tomoso is a different animal altogether, very hard to deal with.
Doing it on an industrial scale is one of trickiest things you will attempt to do.
But that did not prevent the bright NUL scientists from trying anyway.
In time, they found a secret to tame the wild animal that was tomoso.
That secret was temperature control.

Temperature control is the secret behind the manufacturing of most food products you find on the market today.
You fail there, you fail everything.
Simple as it sounds, controlling temperatures is not easy. Ask those who have tried.
So the developers poured their hearts and souls into temperature control.
With experiment, trial and error and research, they tried every trick in the book until they nailed it.
Don’t celebrate too soon! We ain’t not done as yet.
“The science part was over, but not the human part,” Mahlapha said.

So they took the recipe to the people and the people started giving their own verdicts, “could be nice but too sour,” “could be okay but no sugar,” “could be brilliant, but too sweet,” and all that kind of stuff if you know what we mean.
And these developers listened to the market until the market gave them the thumbs up.
They had nailed the sensory part of it.
Science aside, this is their philosophy, to which you must pay your utmost attention.
“We have learned that the market never lies. When the market advises you, listen.”

Own Correspondent



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