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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

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!

 

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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.

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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.

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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!
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FAST FACTS

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

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 🙂

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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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 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" !

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 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

 

 

Being Vegan : Saving The Planet One Bite At A Time

This wasn’t the first time the gallant Pamela took the mic and stir the wondering minds of her audience. As a vegan and an true animal lover, Pamela shined light on many concealed issues in relation to the impact food industries have on sentient beings and people in general. In addition, she enlightened many of us on how vegan is the right way to go to save our companion animals, our health and our planet. Her authentic approach to presenting the truth is both refreshing and soul piercing.

Although the talk was more of a discussion this time round, Pamela managed to captivate each and every one of them with inspiring and informative story of what’s really happening on this planet. Her skills and enthusiasm in drawing the pictures of tortured animals and fallen lands is just sensational every time she speaks. She is undoubtedly a reliable source to guide anyone who wishes to lead a more blissful and cruelty free life.

The discussion could never be carried out so successfully without the aid of Tropical Spice Garden (Paul & Michelle). The cosy and aspirational environment along with the healthy organic delicacy simply made everything else jive and harmonious. I really appreciate the support and contribution from the audience, especially from our vegan friend, Mariano Sosa, who selflessly volunteered to give us a sneak peak of the real world through his laptop. Overall, it was one of the best holistic motivational talks I’ve ever been. – Tan Seoh Chen

 

Speaker : Pamela Nowicka

Speaker : Pamela Nowicka

 

Part of the participants having a discussion

Part of the participants having a discussion

 

Snacks by Zenxin Organic Food Penang @ Prima Tanjung

Snacks by Zenxin Organic Food Penang @ Prima Tanjung

 

The fist talk that was held on 26th September 2015 @ TSG – In The City was great and the upcoming talk by Pamela Nowicka will be held on 10th October 2015, 3pm @ TSG – In The City as well with the title Being Vegan: Saving The Planet One Habit At A Time.

Call us for enquiries and bookings!

T: +6012 498 8797  |  +604 881 1797

E: education@tropicalspicegarden.com

 

SPICE WARS!

I had a major craving for Indian food last weekend so I had briyani on Saturday and ‘tosai’ on Sunday – both with incredibly explosive combinations of spices in each dish that left my tummy rumbling quite happily.

Many of us may take spices for granted now since it’s readily available at every wet market and even have their own aisle in supermarkets. We hear right, left, and centre on their uses and benefits – whether to flavour foods, as a form of therapy and medicine. When faced with such an amazing array of varieties, do you ever stop to wonder where these spices come from? Why certain spices are more prominently used in Chinese/Malay/Indian cuisine and traditional medicine?

The spice trade is pretty old and back then, they weren’t as accessible as they are now. The history behind the spice trade is fascinating and inspiring in how they shaped the world – our world and our nation.

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In the next couple of months, we bring you the experts on our local spice history.

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Attend both talks and the special garden tour for RM110 which includes a Spice Friends membership!

Enquiries & Bookings:

E: education@tropicalspicegarden.com

T: +604 8811 797  |  +6012 4988 797

FB Event Page: Spice Wars