Entries by TSG Team


Going ‘green’ seem to be a fast-growing trend in the light of current environmental issues but are you as confused over the variety of areas and options and ways as we are? Fear not, for the next month or so we are here to help!


Pamela Nowicka, a staunch supporter of environmental friendly pursuits, will be holding a couple of talks at our town shop: TSG In The City, 29 China St.

Being Vegan: Saving The Planet One Bite At A Time
Going Green: Saving The Planet One Habit At A Time

Being Vegan: Saving The Planet One Bite At A Time

Veganism sounds like daunting lifestyle for those of us who grew up loving our pork knuckles, beef rendang, and mutton curry. Author and journalist, Pamela Nowicka, will be introducing the vegan concept – what it is and what it isn’t. Pamela became a vegan in 2013 for personal health reasons and after experiencing the life-changing benefits, she embarked on a mission to debunk myths and false assumptions about veganism.

In this talk, she will be  comparing the implications between a non-vegan and a vegan lifestyle for the environment, water, animals, health, climate change.

If you are curious about the benefits of living a vegan lifestyle or apprehensive about potential challenges of going vegan, bring those questions to the talk!



Going Green: Saving The Planet One Habit At A Time

Modern life leaves a lot to be desired on the sustainability front. With ever decreasing resources like water, topsoil and biodiversity, what can the ordinary person do to make a difference?

Pamela will be outlining the above issues and explore the challenges in changing our lifestyle to be more environmental friendly – does living in high-rise buildings mean we can’t do much? What can we actually do?




Complementary to these talks, we have a vegan cooking demo and a gardening workshop which relates back to the talks and for you to follow up with ready-made, pro-active solutions.

Keen to start a greener lifestyle with us? Come spice it up with our promotional package!!
Attend both talks, the cooking demo and gardening workshop for RM180 which includes a Spice Friends membership and save up to RM60!
Enquiries & Bookings:

E: education@tropicalspicegarden.com

T: +604 8811 797  |  +6012 4988 797

FB Event Page: Spicing Up The Green Life

I’m a Junior Naturalist~

Our popular school holiday programme is now open for group bookings!

From 20th  to 26th September 2015, gather your friends for a fun-filled day at Tropical Spice Garden where you will experience the outdoors as a Junior Naturalist!

~EXPLORE your senses by going on an amazing-race around the Garden to fulfill your quests!
~Put your senses to the test as you OBSERVE your surroundings during the jungle trekking up the secondary forest to our water catchment area!
~Find natural treasures such as water bugs, intriguing stones and shells to COLLECT at our streams!

*bookings to be confirmed by 14th September 2015
*minimum 10pax per booking
*other dates subject to availability and confirmation two weeks in advance

Chef Nurilkarim | Jawi Peranakan Cuisine

This 4th August 2015, TSG Cooking School will be having a Jawi Peranakan cuisine cooking class conducted by one of our guest chefs, Chef Nuril.

Jawi Peranakan refers to a community of Muslims with South Indian and Malay parentage born in the port cities of the Straits of Melaka; namely Penang, Malacca, and Singapore. It all started in the early 19th century when Muslims from South India migrated to Southeast Asia as traders and missionaries. As they settled down and married the locals, the resulting cultural merge was a “distinctive identity that was captured in their architecture, clothing, jewellery, and cuisine.”

Immensely proud of his heritage, Chef Nuril is eager to share the delights of Jawi Peranakan cuisine with TSG Cooking School guests where “the surroundings are calming with its beautifully landscaped hills of healthy spice [and herb plants] which allow us to gain a further understanding of how we incorporate these spices in our daily food.”

“Working as a chef, I have done quite a number of classes and demonstrations but cooking in Tropical Spice Garden is a privilege for anyone who loves food and the bond it has with nature.” The kitchen in TSG Cooking School is equipped with 10 working stations for a very intimate, hands-on experience for “enthusiastic individuals be it a tourist or local who is keen on learning the unique blends of Malaysian cuisine.”

Chef Nuril has won multiple awards since his undergraduate days and was the Culinary Editor of the Peranakan Muslim Heritage Series book, “Feasts of Penang: Muslim Culinary Heritage” by Dato Dr. Wazir Jahan Karim. With a remarkable academic background in western culinary arts, his passion remains in the tantalising flavours of Asian food and Penang’s unique Jawi Peranakan cuisine.

As an esteemed chef, one does wonder if Chef Nuril has higher expectations of himself when it comes to cooking Jawi Peranakan dishes compared to other cuisines.
“I definitely have high expectations of myself, not only in the food but more for the overall delivery of the class, and whether the students are comfortable with my workflow. Personal expectations are usually achievable if we take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of making a mistake. For my students, when it comes to Jawi Peranakan cooking, setting my expectations too high would mean a very rigid class. Personally, to relax and enjoy the fun you have with cooking is the first step so knowledge can be retained alongside fond memories, my expectations for the students most of the time is their willingness to learn and to try new things even though if it may seem a little alien at first. Jawi Peranakan food, like many cuisines from fusions of many cultures, focuses on balance although [it is] slightly richer than traditional Malay food. Once the students understand how to achieve this balance in the food with the usage of the proper ingredients and its quantities, most of my work is done. From there having understood the fundamental principles of cooking, the student is then empowered to add their own personal touches or adjust the flavours notes to their liking.”

Upcoming classes:

4th August 2015

15th September 2015


9.00am – Live Guided Tour of the Spice Terraces

9.45am – Complimentary tea @ Bamboo Garden

10.00am – Gift Shop 10.15am – Cooking Class

1.00pm – Lunch with Chef @ The Patio



Creamy Rose Chicken

Ghee Rice with Cucumber Achar

Sago Pudding with Palm Sugar


Charges: RM233.20 (incl. GST 6%)


> Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School 

Battle of the Reptiles – Green Crested Lizard vs Oriental Whip Snake

Working in a natural environment is a totally different experience than a typical office job. Besides having the privilege of savoring tasty herbal drinks and listening to the beautiful wildlife orchestra every day, we also stand a higher chance of observing and witnessing some of the greatest nature findings in the garden (think Nat Geo)!

Spread across 8 acres of the secondary forest, Tropical Spice Garden is a natural tropical habitat to more than 500 varieties of flora and fauna, ranging from native trees to sub-tropical plants, and creepy crawlies to mammals. Therefore when luck strikes, it is no surprise that you may encounter a Malayan water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) swimming in the water garden, a yellow-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) feeding on a praying mantis, or a colony of giant forest ants (Camponotus Gigas) making their way back to their nest.
One sunny afternoon when everyone is off for lunch, something happened in front of the garden’s pantry that grabbed everyone’s attention.

A live “Urban Jungle” show was happening in front of our eyes – an Oriental whip snake (Ahaetulla prasina) was attempting to consume a green crested lizard (Bronchocela cristatella)! Being the naturalists that we are, we started to observe and document the behavioral and physical changes of the two species. The initial thought was: “The slim, slender snake will have a hard time swallowing the bigger and stronger lizard. Surely it’ll eventually give up…” To our astonishment, instead of giving up, the snake took almost an hour to finish a large and surely satisfying meal.

During the first 20 minutes, the snake maintained a firm grip on the lizard’s neck, which was very much still alive and struggling to escape.

Within half an hour, the lizard’s head was already halfway in the snake’s mouth with its legs still twitching! Soon, some small black ants started to gather around both reptiles. Despite the distraction of the ants crawling over both reptiles, the snake continued its mammoth task of a meal. As time goes by we realized that the lizard wasn’t moving anymore, which we concluded that it might already be dead at that point.
At the 45 minute mark, there was a dramatic change in the situation. The snake started to utilise its powerful muscles – expanding its jaws to accommodate the size of the lizard, we noticed a pale banding on the throat becoming more apparent. This banding pattern is only noticeable when a whip snake is feeding or feeling threatened.

Lastly, when 95% of the lizard was swallowed, the whip snake looking quite proud of itself gradually moved away from the limelight of our keen observations.

The Oriental whip snake is one of the common tree snakes that can be found in secondary forests, residential and agricultural areas throughout Southeast Asia. It is mildly venomous towards its prey – insects and small vertebrates – which it actively seeks out as it glides from tree to tree.


A common sight in Tropical Spice Garden, the green crested lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) also has a widespread distribution in primary and secondary tropical forests.

Garden to Kitchen : a hands-on gardening workshop

A hands-on gardening workshop to promote indoor gardening.
Using a selection of popular herbs and spices, you will learn from Daniel Ng, also known as Mr. Ang the proper gardening techniques to grow seeds and cuttings.
~*Did you know, Ang was the head gardener for Penang Botanical Gardens for 38 years?!*~
Not only you will be able to bring home the materials from the workshop, grab this opportunity to receive a 15% discount off seedboxes available at our Gift Shop to kickstart your kitchen garden!
Now anyone can have a green thumb 😉
Quickly register now to secure your spot!

Enquiries & Bookings:
E: education@tropicalspicegarden.com
T: +604 8811 797  |  +6012 4988 797
FB Event Page: Garden to Kitchen

Garden Crafters | 07-06-2015

The Nature Education team from Tropical Spice Garden held their third overnight camp in the garden grounds on 6th – 7th June 2015. Being a different type of experience from the daytime tours and workshops, this two day, one night camp was a hit with a boisterous bunch of 15 participants ranging from six to ten years old.
Titled ‘Garden Crafters’, the camp aimed to encourage the children to combine their creativity skills with some newfound gardening knowledge and gain some environmental awareness as well.

Upon arrival, the children were gathered at our newly erected Guides’ shelter that sits over a small stream. It was the perfect place to start introductions; a cool and comfortable place for the new faces to relax and integrate with those who are more at ease, having participated in previous workshops and camps. Most of them were already friends and to make more is always a bonus!
After a little ice-breaking session, the first order of the day would be setting up the tents!

As they say, ‘best to make hay while the sun still shines’ so we took the opportunity of clear, bright skies to set up our sleeping tents. This way, we avoid fumbling in the dark and risking mosquitoes and other insects flying into the tent. It was a great moment when the children started to help each other, regardless of whether it was their own tent or not. As the tents started to take form, the growing excitement was heart-warming as they started to pick their sleeping spots and made pacts with each other to stay up as late as possible!

The next activity was the main event: getting their hands dirty! The children were taught some gardening basics: what is the use of soil and the importance of proper combination of soil types, and how to plant from cuttings by using our popular Cat’s Whiskers plant.

How cute is my pot?
By teaching the children how to make mini planter pots from plastic bottles, we not only create awareness on the importance of recycling but show resourceful ways of reusing items. Creativity skills were put to the test when decorating their pots.

As darkness fell, it was time for the much anticipated Night Walk! Armed with a torch, the children traipsed through the Gardens with Joleen at the front, looking for creepy crawlies and experiencing firsthand the night time characteristics of some plants and animals – some go to sleep, and some wake up.

The night didn’t end after the Night Walk. We had Movie Time where we screened ‘Rio 2’ and enjoyed some mango pudding and other tidbits while watching the movie. It was past midnight when heavy eyelids got the children crawling back into their tents. With the bright, full moon watching over them, everyone slept well to the soothing orchestra of frog and cricket songs.

The next morning, we got up bright and early at 7am to have breakfast at the Bamboo Garden. After a quick shower and change, it was time for the next event: art in nature where we explored the creativity of Mother Nature.

This activity was to inspire creativity and learn to appreciate the natural colours and textures in our environment. We made up some stories and drew them out on large pieces of tracing paper where we used leaf and bark rubbings. Such interesting and rib-tickling ideas were created that morning!

All too soon it was time to say goodbye, but not before the prize-giving session! We awarded the Best Leader, Best Group, Best Female and Male Participants in order to recognise and encourage the effort in team work and leadership skills, and eagerness in participating and learning.

The last picture as a group!
Hopefully we will all get to see each other again for another adventure in nature education at Tropical Spice Garden!

Recipe : Golden Turmeric Latkes


2 cups shredded peeled russet potatoes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-2 fresh green Serrano chiles, stemmed and finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1/2 cup chickpea flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided


Thoroughly mix potatoes, onion, chiles to taste, cilantro, flour, cumin, salt, turmeric and eggs in a large bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture in the skillet and flatten with a spatula into a disk roughly 3 inches in diameter. Form as many latkes as you can in the pan without overcrowding.
l Cook until golden brown and crispy on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until the other side is golden brown and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes.
l Briefly drain on a paper towel-lined plate, then transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and potato mixture.


How to Use Turmeric

Healthy eating is one of the key ways to maintain good health, do not overlook the importance of spices. Head over to your spice rack to add more interest in your food and to supercharge the health benefits of the food you’re eating.

Turmeric has a unique flavour and can range from fairly mild (white turmeric and turmeric from the Anders) to slightly bitter and astringent like the yellow Indian turmeric found in curry powder. The great news is that you can improve its taste by blending it with other spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and ginger. Turmeric pairs well with almost any spice. Mixing it with black pepper will enhance absorption of curcumin found in turmeric as stated in “The Health Benefits of Turmeric”

Store ground turmeric in a dark cool cabinet or spice rack. Keep away from direct sunlight which can damage the natural oils and pigment. For the fresh root, it is best to keep them in an air-tight container. First layer the bottom of the container with clean, dry paper towels. Arrange one layer of roots, cove them with another paper towel. Repeat the process until the container is filled and closed. Keep refrigerate, changing the paper towels as they become damp. This is to keep the roots from molding.


The Health Benefit of Turmeric

Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow colour. It has been used in India as a spice and medicinal herb for thousands of years. Turmeric has been used by the ancient Ayurveda as a curative panacea, and to this day the yogis eat turmeric and even bathe in it!
The health benefits of turmeric are well documented. In fact in recent years several compelling studies have been made on obesity in animal trials and diabetes in small human trials. Turmeric is astringent in nature and it is this prize quality that ‘draws out’ poison and infection in the body. Ayurveda considers turmeric to be purifying for both the skin and blood. From medical studies it has been shown that it has anti-inflammatory properties (inflammation is the root of many health problems) and increases the anti-oxidant capacity in our bodies.
However it must be said that how well the benefits of turmeric works, depends also on the general health of the individual and his or her diet. There is no overnight cure or rather improvement in your health. What you eat in your daily diet is important and exercise always helps.
Recently science has shown, what the Indians have known for a long time. Turmeric realy down contain medicinal compounds called curcuminiods, the most important of which is curcumin. Curcumin (not to be with cumin)is the main active ingredients. It has anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. It continues to fascinate the medical community because of its multi-faceted curative benefits. From boosting your memory, to helping your body recover from neurodegenrative diseases like Alzhemir’s and even getting rid of ulcers in animal trial studies
However it must said that the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high. Most of the studies on turmeric are using turmeric extracts that contain mostl curcumin itself. For best effect the dosages usually exceeds 1 gram a day. It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using turmeric spice in your foods. Having said that, if it is in your diet and you generally health, the benefits of using turmeric in your food is there. Therefore you want to get the full effects, then you will need to take an extract that contains significant amounts of curcumin. Curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream.
However it will help; if consumed with black pepper, which contains piperine, a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcummin by 2000%.
Heart disease is the biggest killer in the world. Curcumin may help reverse many steps in the heart disease process. Several studies suggest that curcummin leads to improvements of the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Endothelium regulates blood pressure, blood clotting and various other factors.
It is potent anti-flammatory agent and antioxidant of curcumin that improves the function of the endothelium. As stated above earlier, watching your diet of consuming excessive fats is also key to your health. After all “prevention is better than cure”.
Given the believe that oxidation and inflammation play a role in ageing, the curcumin in turmeric has become very popular in anti-aging supplement!
Source of informaion: GreenMedInfo & Authoritynutrition.com

Figs in the Garden

Come the month of May, the atmosphere in Tropical Spice Garden is filled with a pungent, fruity fragrance. While walking around the Heart of the Garden, look down and you will notice an abundance of rotten berries/fruits along the pathway. Yes, those are the figs, wild and flourishing in the Garden.

There are a few large fig trees in the garden. One of the specimens in the Heart of the Garden is the Strangler fig tree.

The huge Fig tree in the garden

Figs (Ficus spp) are one of the successful forest species, with up to 900 species distributed around the world. Fig trees play an important role in the tropical rainforest as the syconium makes up the main diet for many types of animals in the forest, from mammals, e.g. monkeys, bats, and squirrels; to birds – residential and migrating species.

The way a Strangler fig grows is very special. Life starts as a tiny, sticky seed in an animal’s feces disposed in the canopy of a host tree. With ample sunlight and water, the seed grows its roots downwards towards to forest floor, aiming to penetrate into the soil. As time passes, the roots thicken and wraps around the host tree. Eventually the fig’s crown grows and overshadows the host. Once the host is strangled, the fig will then absorb the nutrients from the host while competing with the host for sunlight and water. Eventually, the host tree dies, leaving the Strangler fig with a hollow trunk.

The Fig Fruits, Syconium

One unique feature of Strangler figs is the syconium, a type of multiple fruit that are formed from a cluster of flowers (inflorescence), where the ovaries are found within a hollow, succulent vessel. Due to the absence of physical flowers on the tree itself, the fig tree is often called “Wu Hua Guo” in Chinese, meaning “fruit borne without flower”.

Open a syconium and you can see ten to hundreds of stamens and ovaries, and dead insects inside! Therefore, when guests ask whether the fig fruits are safe to be eaten, we always advise not to because it is usually eaten by wild animals, not recommended for humans as there are insect eggs and/or other invertebrates inside the fruit, which can be unhygienic.

Why are there insects in the fruits? Syconium has a symbiotic relationship with the fig wasps (Agaonidae spp). The wasps enter through the small opening underneath the fruit and pollinate the flower in the process of laying eggs. The fruits then bear seeds which fall to the ground upon maturation. The wildlife in the Garden usually consumes the fruit while it is still green and attached to the tree, as mature fruits on the ground are highly likely to be infested with dead wasps and wasp eggs.

Visit our Garden in the early morning and you might chance upon witnessing the Green Pigeons feeding on the fig tree growing splendidly in the middle of our Gift Shop!

Figs, important diet source for rainforest wildlife

Some forest figs fruit all year long, providing a constant supply for the frugivorous wildlife in the rainforest. However, due to constant logging and open forest burning, many slow-growing forest species are unable to regenerate and may also affect the fruiting consistency of the figs. Consequently, the frugivores are forced to source and compete for alternative fruit sources during the irregular fig ‘non-flowering’ seasons. Hence, it is vital for us to understand and appreciate the significance of wild plants in the rainforest, which they are not only useful for medicinal & nutrient values, but also furnish the wild animals with protection & care.