Entries by TSG Team

Five of the Best – the Secrets of Chinese Spice

Five Spice mix is an essential ingredient in almost all of traditional Chinese cuisine. Exquisitely balanced between bitter and pungent, spicy and sweet, sour and salty, a well-made Five Spice mix is truly a “wonder powder” that lifts your cooking into the stratosphere. You can use it a rub, in a marinade, as a cooking ingredient, or even as a table condiment. In fact it’s extremely versatile and can be used with rice, vegetables, port, chicken and in almost any kind of stir-fry. You can even be bold and add it to sweeter dishes non-traditional dishes such as muffins, nut breads, pancakes, and even in coffee.

At the heart of Chinese philosophy is the concept of yin and yang, the need to balance the hot masculine principle of yang with the cooling influence of yin. This harmony is an essential feature of Five Spice mixes where each element has its own role to play but none predominates. There are many variants to it but a common mix contains: Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, cloves, star anise, and fennel seeds.

Let’s look at the ingredients one by one. First of all, there’s Chinese cinnamon, or cassia, which imparts a sweet, spicy flavour. Usually, it’s best to avoid cassia, as Ceylon cinnamon is healthier and has a more refined taste, but Five Spice does seem to call for the more pungent cassia. Next, comes Sichuan pepper, which isn’t a true peppercorn but a brownish red berry deriving from the prickly ash bush. It’s spicy, with undertones of anise and ginger and modulates to a lemony, sour flavour, which is both salty and hot. Cloves are next and, when they are ground up, they release a sweet and yet pungent aroma. The beautiful star anise is reminiscent of liquorice and carries vital bitter undertones. Fennel seeds, the final ingredient of the spice mix, are similar but sweeter and less pungent. There are variants, of course, and they include: anise seeds, ginger root, nutmeg, turmeric, cardamom, liquorice, Mandarin orange peel and galangal.

Nyonya Lor Bak uses 5 spice powder as one of the ingredients in marinating the meat

In Penang, the Nyonya traditional of cooking, which includes Chinese, Malay, and Thai influences, Five Spice mixes are an essential component of many dishes. Many of the old Nyonya families have their own special recipe for Five Spice mixes, which are jealously guarded and handed down secretly from mother to daughter. If you are in Penang, you might like to join a Nyonya cuisine cooking class at the Tropical Spice Garden’s Cooking School. Cooking classes a held daily (except Mondays) featuring different local traditional cuisines including Malay, Indian, and of course Nyonya. Click here for class schedules. As classes are limited to 10 persons, chefs are able to provide a personalised approach. Though the menus follow authentic and traditional methods they are taught in such a way that you are able to recreate the delicious dishes at home.

Spice Up Your Stay at PARKROYAL Penang Resort

Featuring our friendly neighbour just five minutes down the road from the Tropical Spice Garden –  PARKROYAL Penang Resort!

A modern day paradise with 5-star standards of accommodation, amenities, and personalised services within a tropical landscaped garden with wide-open and breezy spaces, providing every opportunity for guests to unwind in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. The perfect holiday resort and spa for both local and international, leisure and business travellers!


Each of the over 300 guest rooms, inclusive of 46 suites, are well-equipped with an LCD television installed with in-house movies, BBC and Astro channels, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, air-conditioning, international direct dial (IDD) and free WiFi, minibar, ensuite shower and bath, and complimentary coffee and tea making facilities, bottled mineral water, bedroom slippers and personal grooming items.

Indulge in unforgettable dining experiences at an array of idyllic dining and entertainment outlets, each with its own special character and atmosphere. From the open-air Tamarind Brasserie that serves sumptuous international and local cuisines, to the al-fresco Uncle Zack by the Beach that offers unique dishes from Penang-style tapas to char-grilled steaks, to the stylish Javana Lounge with live music and the child-friendly Cool Bananas Poolside Cafe.

This resort and spa offers an ideal blend of Asian contemporary charm and modern facilities such as a gymnasium, tennis court, shopping arcade, business centre, self-service launderette, and two swimming pools – one of which is equipped with two waterslides, providing endless of splashing fun for adventurous kids.

An excellent children’s club, the Koko-Nut Klub, is open daily from 9.00am to 9.00pm and is free of charge for children aged four to 12 years old. Among the fun activities offered in the club are face painting, badge designing, ceramic workshop, hair-plaiting and t-shirt painting. Babysitting services are available for children below four years of age with a minimal charge.

For rejuvenating and relaxing treats, pamper yourself at Malaysia’s very own St. Gregory, a renowned spa outlet since 1997, with supreme Thalgo marine facial and massage treatments or simply relax with a menu of soothing traditional massage rituals and facial treatments, a complete holistic programme integrating spa therapy, fitness, aesthetics and active-ageing for the active and well-balanced lifestyle.

There is no other way to complement your exotic venue hire at Tropical Spice Garden –  either for a garden wedding or green-space conference meeting – with a stay at the 5-star PARKROYAL Penang Resort to complete your contemporary oasis!



PARKROYAL Penang Resort PARKROYAL Hotels & Resorts

Address: Batu Ferringhi Beach 11100 Penang

Hotel Telephone: (604) 881 1133  |  Fax: (604) 881 2233

Email: enquiry.prpen@parkroyalhotels.com

Website: PARKROYAL Penang

Facebook: parkroyalpenangresort

Instagram: parkroyalpenangresort

For the love of feathers

Our chirpy neighbours


My name is Rod Gowen…
I am a retired British Telecom Health and Safety Manager, raised in a small seaside town called Ilfracombe, on the North Devon coast in England. My interest in watching birds started when I was young. At school, when I was ten years old, I won first prize in an art competition and with the prize money, 10 shillings, I bought my first bird book which I still have.


So I was delighted, when I was invited to Tropical Spice Garden to make a list of birds that can be seen there. My first visit was on 6th March 2015.

My name is Steven Struyck…
I am a retired Export Manager and was born in the eastern part of Holland. I used to register meadow birds in Holland which meant watching birds over the expanse of meadows without trees. My local experience in Penang covers five years of watching birds in the skies and on tree tops. In both situations, the watching concerned mostly medium to large size birds.

Armed with a new camera, I discovered I had a “talent” to make rather good photos of animals which can be spotted here in Penang
For the first time, Rod and Steven met at the entrance of Tropical Spice Garden on 2nd February 2016. Having exchanged some information on each other’s background, they clicked right away over their common fondness for feathery friends!

Rod, being more familiar with the grounds of Tropical Spice Garden, introduced Steven to the various locations ideal for bird spotting. They decided to use the tea kiosk in the Bamboo Garden as their common spot as they both agreed that bird watching is a matter of endless patience to be exercised in a central location.


For Steven, it was a new experience because bird watching in Tropical Spice Garden consists of looking mostly upwards into the foliage of trees. Also, listening to the songs of birds in order to locate the -mostly- tiny birds is essential. Shooting photos of such small and fast moving creatures is an art by itself and not easy, but slowly and surely some progress was made.

Good ears are needed to follow the flight path of birds by means of detecting the change of direction and distance of the incoming sounds. As a certain degree of concentration is needed, the both of them try to avoid being distracted by tourists and hence, start their bird watching at about 8.30am; Rod arrives a little earlier to register the birds at the beach in front of Tropical Spice Garden. They finish up about noon as it gets too hot and the presence of birds declines for the same reason.

Recognition is mostly visual although sometimes the call of a bird is enough to identify it. Rod and Steven each carry illustrated books with them so that possible guessing can be eliminated. So far, they have seen over fifty different species. Each visit has been recorded on a database called “Bird Jar”.
The Tropical Spice Garden is a very beautiful place and we have enjoyed every minute we have spent there…while watching birds, one can really get involved with Mother Nature

A Natural Mosquito Repellent – Citronella Oil

Citronella & Cedar Wood Body Spray

Although most people love warmer weather, it does have one serious downside – mosquitoes. Not only are they an irritant, leading to itchiness and other allergic reactions, they can carry serious diseases, including malaria, dengue, and the newly discovered zika virus. So it’s important to avoid being bitten but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Mosquitoes have been around a lot longer than human beings and they have an exceptional sense of smell for such a small creature. They can detect a potential target from 30 metres away and so one of the best defences is to become “invisible” to them by changing your chemical signature.

Citronella aromatic candle

They are attracted by the carbon dioxide that human beings breathe out and the larger you are, the more carbon dioxide you will exhale. This goes for pregnant women, too, who often report that they are bitten more frequently than usual. Mosquitoes can also detect blood type, and people with Type O blood are twice as liable to be bitten as people with Type A. If you’re sweating a lot, or drinking beer, you’re also more likely to be attacked. You can spray yourself with artificial chemicals in the hope of deterring them but a better idea is to use a natural plant-based insect repellent – citronella oil. It’s an essential oil obtained from the leaves and stems of lemongrass. It’s effective but it’s also non-toxic and so safe for humans and pets to put directly on the skin.


Pure Citronella & Cedar Wood Burner Oil

As well as being an anti-fungal, and effective at calming barking, anxious dogs, citronella masks the smell of carbon dioxide and perspiration that attracts mosquitoes. It comes in a variety of forms: candles, incense sticks, coils, oils (for use in oil burners), and sprays. Canadian researchers found that lighting a citronella candle reduced the number of mosquito landings by nearly half. Most people find that a combination of citronella products works best. Use the personal sprays if you fall into one of the higher risk categories above in conjunction with the coils, the oils, or the candles.


Think about your environment as well and make sure that your garden is well maintained, with no standing water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. If you put saucers under your flower-pots, make sure that there’s no stagnant water lurking in them. If you enjoy fresh flowers in your home, change the water every couple of days.

You can purchase a variety of high quality citronella products from the Tropical Spice Garden’s two shops in Penang as well as online.

Soya Sauce Factory Visit – More than just Salty


Mr. Cheah, third generation owner of Jin Chang Soya Sauce Factory treated a bunch of foodies and us from the gardens to a fantastic morning at this factory in Permatang Pauh. His various sauces are on the shelves under the Ayam Piru Brand.

Mr. Cheah shared some of his secrets of achieving good quality and healthy soya sauce – using lake salt and also ensuring the quality of his ‘koji’ (a naturally occurring culture that is mixed into his non-GMO soya beans).

Mr. Cheah has several grades of soya sauce with the most affordable being sold at RM6 for a 700ml bottle and the most expensive bottle of 150ml retailing at RM15 because it is without sugar and non-pasteurized.

He claims his hair has grown back and all his back pain has disappeared once he started on lake salt soya sauce!

A collector or artisan bicycles and also active cycler, Mr. Cheah receives much of his business revelation pedalling away on his bicycle! He also has been cooking dinner for his family for the last 10 years.

He gave me a great recipe for steamed fish by the way – just the way the chinese restaurants do it – watch this space to check out the results 🙂

Batik the Monkey Weekend!

A weekend of Batik Painting with Lusy Koror – Artist & Creative Facilitator in support of Langur Project Penang!

It is a FREE batik painting workshop for all ages 8 and above! At the same time, 50% of all garden entrace ticket sales for both days will be donated to Langur Project Penang if you join a guided tour!

Date: 9th & 10th July 2016
Time: 10AM – 5PM

*Just look for us at the Pavilion!
More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/578529542320039/


Langur Project Penang is a research project on the activity pattern, habitat use and diet of Langurs a.k.a. Dusky Leaf Monkeys (Trachypithecus obscurus) in Penang, Malaysia; endorsed by Universiti Sains Malaysia and Malaysian Primatological Society. Check out and follow their FB for updates!

The G Sisters – Ginger & Galangal

Same botanical family but so different in taste and use in cooking various Asian dishes!

There are around 400 members of the ginger family grown wild in the tropical Asia but these 2 particular variety is the one universally  known as Ginger & Galangal.


A young ginger has a very thin skin, is pale yellow and has pinkish shoots with green stalk ends, while old ginger is beige-brown with a thicker skin. Young ginger is more tender and juicy than the mature rhizome, so it is preferred for grating or pounding to extract the juice, a popular marinate with Chinese chefs. It can be eaten raw, and is also pickled. Mature ginger although sometimes served raw in very fine shreds, is more commonly cooked as the flavour is more emphatic than that of young ginger. Ginger is widely used for medicinal purposes throughout Asia, particularly to improve digestion and to counteract nausea and vomiting.

The galangal has a pungency and tang quite unlike that of the common ginger. The young shoots of the rhizome are pale pink and are more flavourful and tender than the older beige- coloured rhizomes. Galangal is too spicy to be eaten raw, and is used in slices, chunks or pounded to a paste for various curries and side dishes. When pounding or blending galangal to a paste, first shop it into small pieces as it is often obstinately tough. Perhaps this is why Thai cooks often just bruise a large chunk with the flat side of a cleaver and add it whole to the cooking pot.


Article Source: Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School

TSG -Cooking School Open Day

Tropical Spice Garden’s much acclaimed Cooking School is now having an Open Day, filled with fun activities for both adults and children! Delicious cooking classes and tantalising cooking demos to excite a foodie’s tastebuds! Food vendors galore to whet your appetite 😀

Please register for the cooking classes as spaces are limited: only 10 personal cooking stations so hurry up!


E: michelle@tropicalspicegarden.com
T: 04-8811797 | 012-4865795


More Than Just A Cuppa…

Do you ever wonder what goes on before your cup of coffee is served? Where were they planted, how were they harvested, and what is the difference between the blends used by different coffee houses? If all those burning questions are keeping you up at night instead of the caffeine, Coffee Rescue Penang is here to the, well, rescue!


Coffee Rescue Penang is a mobile coffee truck that are dedicated in bringing a good cup of coffee to your premises. They work with local roasters to ensure each and every reasonably priced cup of coffee is fresh with a distinctive profile taste. Can’t miss their brightly coloured truck around Penang as they also have cold-pressed juices and fresh baked goods!

We are bringing the good people from Coffee Rescue Penang (and the truck!) to Tropical Spice Garden for a talk entitled “From Beans To Cup” where you will be taken on a journey from when the coffee beans are harvested and the processes they undergo until they end up as your everyday latte.

If you hadn’t noticed, the coffee trees at the Beverages of the World area have been flowering and fruiting wonderfully and we’ll be looking to use them during the talk.

Free cup of coffee to participants that register before 21 February 2016!

For registrations, please contact Jocelyn at:

012 – 4988797   |   education@tropicalspicegarden.com


Tropical Spice Garden – IN THE CITY

Tropical Spice Garden – In The City Interior

Visit the latest extension of Tropical Spice Garden  – a little pocket garden shop in the heart of George Town! Situated near to Little India and the busy Beach Street, our little shop carries all our favourite TSG essentials – high grade spices, aromatherapy and household scents, beautiful fabrics and loads of interesting souvenirs!
Visitors can also make bookings for cooking classes, day tours and night walks in the city. Spice Friends discounts apply here too!
Address: 29, China Street, 10200, George Town, Penang.

Telephone: +604 261 3275

Open Hours: 08:30AM – 04:30PM (Mondays-Fridays)

10:00AM – 06:00PM (Saturdays)

Closed on Sundays


Tropical Spice Garden – In The City exterior. Look out for the big bold “29” !


Handicrafts, Books, Essential Oils and etc


Top graded spices, teas, pastes, and many more