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.

Ginger

 

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.

GalangalThe 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!

More details here: TSG COOKING SCHOOL OPEN DAY

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

 

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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!

 

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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!

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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.

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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 exterior. Look out for the big bold "29" !

Tropical Spice Garden – IN THE CITY

Tropical Spice Garden - In The City Interior

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 Daily: 09:00AM – 05:00PM

 

Tropical Spice Garden - In The City exterior. Look out for the big bold "29" !

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

 

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Handicrafts, Books, Essential Oils and etc

 

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Top graded spices, teas, pastes, and many more

Garden Beauty – The Silver Joey Palm

When you are walking up to the Bamboo Garden along the tractor pathway, pay attention to your left and you will see one of the most beautiful plants in Tropical Spice Garden: the Silver Joey palm, Johannesteijmannia magnifica, or locally known as ‘pokok payung’, or ‘daun serdang’.

The Silver Joey palm has some of the largest and most fascinating leaves of any palm tree on the planet. Along with its sibling species, the Slender Joey palm (J. lanceolata) , these palms have been reported to be threatened and endangered in the IUCN Red List, 1997, due to poaching and seed collection. Besides uncontrolled deforestation and conversion of forest areas to oil palm plantations and rubber estates, the building of dams and illegal logging activities are also driving the cause of decline in these majestic palms in the wild.

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There are 4 species of Johannesteijsmannia species:Silver Joey (J. magnifica), Diamond Joey (J. altifrons), Joey on the stick (J. perakensis), and Slender Joey (J. lanceolata).

The distribution of the Joey palms is limited to small ranges in Malaysia. Today, we are going to look more in-depth towards the Silver Joey palm and its unique characteristics.

The Silver Joey is distributed in Perak, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan, where it occurs only in the hilly and virgin rainforest. This species is endemic to Peninsular Malaysia and it appears to be stem-less with the leaves growing out from the ground in a cluster. However, the stem or trunk is actually formed below ground, out of sight. The plant can attain a height of up to three metres with its big diamond shaped leaves stretching out to two metres with silvery grey undersides. This stunning effect from the leaves’ undersides however, is more noticeable at night when you shine a light directly at it. A lovely sight to behold during our Night Walks!

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The indigenous communities used the leaves of the palm as an ‘atap’ or roof thatch for small shelters and houses. However, when zinc roofs begin to replace the rooftops of the villages, they rarely use the leaves nowadays. Furthermore, medicinal values of Silver Palm was recorded in Johor, where the petioles are burnt and the ashes, with some water added, are applied topically to the body, especially to ease respiratory problems and small wounds. The seeds are boiled with water and the concoction is taken orally to reduce fever among children. The seeds can also be grated into powder and applied to the face, chest or tongue for relieving sore throat, cough and asthma.

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There is an increasing demand for these palms as an ornamental due to their exotic appearance, thus illegal harvesting and uncontrolled seed harvesting had been the main threat to their survival. Moreover, the growth development of Silver Joey is a very slow process – taking up to decades – and irresponsible humans would poach younger specimens before the young plants have the chance to stabilise and thrive in their natural habitat. The inflorescences attract stingless bees (Trigona spp) and they are believed to be one of the main pollinators. Of course, when you visit our garden during the Night Walks, you might observe the inflorescences attracting a wide range of insects and bugs too!

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The Silver Joey Palm is indeed a unique palm species that deserves our attention and appreciation. There were surveys carried out in orang asli communities in Peninsular Malaysia and it seems that the orang asli have been collecting the seeds or live specimens for sale. That, and with the increasing rate of deforestation in West Malaysia, the cultivation of Silver Joey palms in nurseries becomes a sliver of hope in preserving the species for future generations. Most importantly, the protection of the Johannesteijsmannia lies in educating indigenous and local communities, and exotic plant collectors in order to save this species from extinction in the wild.

 

 

 

 

 

Next time, we’ll elaborate more on the remaining 3 species of Johannesteijsmannia! Come over to Tropical Spice to witness the beauty of Silver Joey Palm!

More Reading:

http://www.rainforestjournal.com/johannesteijsmannia-magnifica/

https://www.academia.edu/1253701/The_uses_of_Johannesteijsmannia_by_indigenous_communities_and_the_current_ornamental_trade_in_the_genus

Nyonya Su Pei

Feature Chef : Nyonya Su Pei

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The new year 2016 sees Chef Nyonya Su Pei hitting the ground running as she is being carried forward by the momentum of success she was catapulted into after last year’s incredible George Town World Heritage Eat Rite Festival.

With her increasing popularity, Nyonya Su Pei is being kept busy and she laments that last year was the first time she was unable to complete a project – be it a piece of embroidery artwork or writing down all her recipes to be compiled into a book. With a goal of adapting sophisticated Nyonya cuisine for the public, she collaborated with Straits Chinese (Penang) Association on a two-volume cookbook: Nyonya Flavours which has been best-selling for five consecutive years.

Nyonya Su Pei

As the Nyonya cuisine are essentially family secret recipes which have been adapted and adopted over many generations, we asked the ‘taboo’ question of whether Nyonya recipes can really be shared. “When writing out a recipe, I can only write so much,” says Nyonya Su Pei. She reveals that even if there is a group of people cooking the same recipe, the differences in environment, ingredient preparation and even stirring methods can result in different tastes. The intimacy of hands-on teaching can never be replaced with mere words.

Photo Source: Nyonya Su Pei's Facebook

Photo Source: Nyonya Su Pei’s Facebook

For her first ever cooking class in Tropical Spice Garden, it was a “daunting experience to demonstrate to experienced and international gourmands who have probably seen more of the world than I have.” With her incredible passion and determination, Nyonya Su Pei has converted many visitors to the gardens into Nyonya food lovers and has even successfully carried out several Nyonya Masterchef Challenges as a team building activity.

With 10 working stations in Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School, we provide a hands-on environment for that personal experience in learning of our unique local cuisines. Book a class or a teambuilding session today!

 

Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School

The Bat Lily

Garden Blooms – The Bat Lily (Tacca integrifolia)

Flowering plants, also known as Angiosperms, are the most diverse group of land plants in the world. Existing in different shapes, sizes, and colours, there are more than 95 species of flowering plants in Tropical Spice Garden – ranging from bromeliads to palms, cacti to begonias, and more! However, one genus stood out among all the flowering dicotyledons and monocotyledons in the garden; the genus Tacca which consists of the bat flowers and arrowroots – herbaceous perennials native to Africa and Asia.

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The genus Tacca consists of the flowering plants in the yam family, Dioscoreaceae, and there are at least 17 species of Taccas. They are native to tropical region of China, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, East India, Indonesia, Laos, West Malaysia, Burma, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The well-known Tacca species that have been cultivated as ornamental plants are the T. chantrieri and T. integrifolia. Taccas are known for their strange, yet mesmerizing flowers with long ‘whiskery’ bracts that can reach up to a foot in length! The lurid, purplish flowers are also known as the Bat Lily or keladi murai due to the two light coloured bracts held high like bat wings. Besides, Taccas have large, beautiful dark green foliage and prefer to be grown in low light conditions with good air circulation.

In Tropical Spice Garden, looking for a T. integrifolia is like participating in a botany treasure hunt! They are planted in various parts of the garden: from the Ornamental Trail to the Spice Terraces. Sometimes the flowers are so well hidden that you might miss them even though they are just right beside you! There are also a few Tacca integrifolia alba scattered around the garden, where the flowers are a ghostly white instead of purple!

Taccas bloom during the warmest months of the year, and in Tropical Spice Garden, we are lucky enough to witness the blooms up to 6-8 times per year!

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Till today, the pharmacological potential of T. integrifolia remains unknown. In Malaysia, a paste from the tubers of the plant is applied to rash caused by insect bites. It is also used in traditional medicine for lowering blood pressure, gastric ulcer and minor burns. Furthermore, the plant was also found to be a diuretic. However, caution must be taken, as the toxic effects of this plant are still unknown. A more intensive study of T. integrifolia in the future would be great to disclose any compounds of therapeutic interest.

There is a lack of information regarding the function of the long bracts of the flower, where there was assumption of this feature as a “deceit syndrome”, in which reproductive structures resemble decaying organic material attracts flies that facilitate cross-pollination (sapromyiophily). However, some research showed that the Tacca populations were highly self-pollinating; pollinator visits were infrequent yet there were high pollen loads on the stigma, some of which occurred before the flower even blooms. Here at Tropical Spice Garden, we do observe something interesting during our Night Walks, where wingless insects utilize the long ‘whiskers’ to crawl up the flowers!

 

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Taccas can be grown successfully indoors and outdoors as a popular ornamental plant, propagated from seeds or rhizomes grown best in well-drained, fertile soil. In terms of growing conditions, Taccas do well in conditions with ample humidity, strong airflow, and moderate light and temperatures. Thus, they make a good choice for your shade garden or indoor houseplant.

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One thing is common among the growers…. Everyone loves the unusual, odd, unique, exquisite and magnificent appearance and features of the Taccas!

 

 

 

More readings:

http://www.amjbot.org/content/92/3/517.full

http://www.logees.com/white-bat-flower-tacca-integrifolia.html

 

 

Home-style Health: A series of Traditional Medicine Methods

As an unofficial representative of Generation Y, I can safely say that we grew up having our parents and grandparents brewing all sorts of soups and tonics for us to swallow when we feel a little under the weather. Much to our dismay, of course, as we rather much prefer the quick fixes that the little pills provide. Besides, the soups and tonics don’t always taste very nice!

What we don’t realise is that these drugs only treat the symptoms but not the disease or actual ailment. Painkillers may dull our migraines and that little twinge in our knees but continuous intake causes a buildup of the drug in our bodies that may last up to several years! I used to take an alarming amount of painkillers every month for my severe period cramps until I realised that my dosages will keep on increasing over the years unless I do something about it. From exercising to limiting my intake of cold drinks, from swallowing peppercorns whole to heat pads, nothing seemed to stop me from feeling like I’m on the brink of death every month.

Add in the fact that I always roll my eyes at my grandmother’s pantang larang such as don’t wash your hair during the first day of your period (or for a whole month during confinement after childbirth), or eat more ginger because your body is ‘cold’. I didn’t understand these taboos and refused to believe or acknowledge any well-meaning advice if it isn’t explained scientifically.

 

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Traditional medicine is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not, used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement or treatment of physical and mental illness -WHO

If you are just as cynical as I am, or have an interest in traditional medicine and want to know more, or are just confused over various versions of old wives’ tales, do join in this series of workshops where you’ll find answers to those questions. Enjoy a special flat rate of RM90/pax when you sign up for all three sessions and if you’re bringing a child below twelve years old, they’ll enjoy the kids’ rate of RM15/pax.

Each workshop will focus on methods employed by three different cultures so it’ll be an intriguing affair to compare the differences and similarities in Chinese, Indian, and Malay traditional medicine. These workshops will be quite hands-on where we’ll make some herbal bath sachets, get some tips (maybe secret recipes?) for treating anything from acne to rheumatism, learn the history and reasons behind the taboos, and how to maintain good health in various environments – from struggling under a heavy workload, to understanding the regulations during childbirth confinement, to rushing during festive seasons…everything-lah!


 

Enquiry/Registration:

Jocelyn

T: 04-8811797 (ext 311) | 012-4988797

E: education@tropicalspicegarden.com

Chubby and Charismatic – The Common Greenback frog!

Have you been to our Bamboo Garden? An enchanting corner of Tropical Spice Garden that has SEVEN different species of bamboo and a variety of flowering plants, guests have the opportunity to enjoy a natural fish spa session by the lily pond, as well as revitalizing themselves with a cup of herbal drink from the tea kiosk. Instead of just looking at the tiny colourful guppies (Poecilia reticulata) swimming in the lily pond, be little more observant and try and see if you could spot something else!

Look carefully and you will be able to observe the Common Greenback frog, Hylarana erythraea. This pretty green frog can be found clinging on low riparian shrubs, staying in shallow water bodies or by small freshwater streams. These frogs are mainly nocturnal and during the day, they generally sit around under some shade. At night, the H. erythraea get together to perform a series of beautiful pleasant ‘orchestra’ tracks in the rainforest, which the males call out to the females for courtship & mating.

 

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The Common Greenback frogs (H. erythraea) can be found across Southeast Asia, and is also known as the Red-eared Greenback or the Leaf Frog. The habitats of H. erythraea range from scrubland, grassland, and agricultural areas to urban disturbed areas. In addition, H. erythraea is a middle size frog with a snout-length from 30-75mm, which the size varies according to different sexes and maturity.

 

When evening approaches, the Giant Waterlily, the Victoria Amazonica, starts to bloom and the “squeak…squeak…squeak…” call of the H. erythraea can be heard around the garden. The females are bigger in size compared to the males, while the juveniles are much smaller and less attractive. When disturbed or threatened, these frogs are able to skip across the water surface to escape from predators. Furthermore, they are well camouflaged to their natural habitat, thus it is not easy to spot them resting on lily pads with lots of green plants in the background!

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H. erythraea and other amphibian species play an important role in maintaining the wellness of humans and nature.

 

Firstly, a diversity of calls, a natural orchestra, produced by various nocturnal amphibians, as well as invertebrates, is a great relaxing treatment for us, human, after a long stressful day of work and heavy traffic in the city.

Secondly, amphibians are very abundant and often dominate ecosystems in terms of quantity, particularly in wetland and forest habitats. They are a vital part in food webs, as they are popular food choice for many predators and are also important predators themselves. A decline in amphibian population in the wild due to human activities will definitely affect our shared biosphere – more insects and less tertiary predators which leads to an unstable and unsustainable ecosystem. Since amphibians require fresh, clean aquatic habitats, they also serve as a biological indicator of environmental health.

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Not forgetting to mention that amphibians are fascinating and beautiful creatures. There are some beautiful frogs around the world; i.e. the Poison Dart frog (Dendrobatidae spp), White’s Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea) and Norhayati’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus norhayatii), which are beautiful and unique in their own ways. Malaysian herpetologists are working hard to study the life cycle and behaviour of our native frogs, as well as exploring around the country to search for new species in the wild. One of our Night Walk guides, Evan Quah, is finishing his doctorate degree in the field of herpetology at University Sains Malaysia and has enchanted us with stories and information of reptiles and amphibians of Malaysia. His enthusiasm is truly infectious as he explores the garden with adventurous guests, young and old alike, searching for scaly friends in the dark.

“With education, there is no fear.”

 

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Amphibians have a lot to teach us about science: zoology and biology. By educating on the importance of amphibians to children and adults, it will not only increase awareness on their importance but it will help save the declining amphibian populations on earth.