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.
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.
PARKROYAL Penang Resort – CREATING MEMORABLE HOTEL EXPERIENCES
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
Website: PARKROYAL Penang
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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!
Telephone: +604 261 3275
Open Hours: 08:30AM – 04:30PM (Mondays-Fridays)
10:00AM – 06:00PM (Saturdays)
Closed on Sundays
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
One thing is common among the growers…. Everyone loves the unusual, odd, unique, exquisite and magnificent appearance and features of the Taccas!