The Brussels sprout maintains its reputation as one of the most highly feared vegetables on earth. They trigger as many shudders as they do adoration. When prepared wrongly, it can be nasty. The reality is, people who hate them most probably ate them overcooked. Overcooking this tiny spherical vegetable is like pulling the pin out of a hand grenade. It releases the glucosinolate sinigrin, a sulphurous odor that can knock the lights out of a heavyweight boxer. It is true that on too much heat, no pun intended, Brussels sprouts can turn into the Pepe Le Pew of vegetables. Cook it right, it will be the most delicious greens to set foot in your mouth; flavourful bite-sized balls of slightly sweet crunch that gives in to a delightfully dense texture.
For the past two decades, the big three players, saccharin, aspartame and sucralose have fought to a kind of stalemate. But now a new player, with years of repression, comes in full-force, hoping to shift the balance of power in the world of sweeteners.
You may call it bell pepper, chili pepper, sweet pepper or “tanglung”, the capsicum that we usually find in our local supermarket comes from the Capsicum annuum plant. Shaped like a decorative ornament or lantern, capsicums are fruit vegetables that belong to the nightshade family which includes members like potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant.
Like liquid silk, it is smooth, as oils are apt to be. Greenish-gold in hue, it flows from dark- tinted bottles like heavenly riches, coating all it touches in a layer of delicious, yet utterly healthy fat. It is the partial backbone of the Mediterranean diet, replacing the use of fats the likes of butter and margarine in cooking and dining. God rest butter and margarine – this humble writer is similarly ardently devoted to both, but this golden wonder is nothing if not the boon of the health-promoting Gods to the gastronomical world.
Ask for a bowl of Tom Yam Soup at any seafood restaurant and you cannot help but notice a stalk or two of lemongrass among the other ingredients in the bowl. Any credible chef will tell you that lemongrass is the principal flavouring ingredient in a Tom Yam Soup. In Malaysia, lemongrass or “serai” is widely used in Malay and Nyonya cooking. It is also one of the main flavouring ingredients in our local favourites of rendang, satay, curry laksa, asam laksa and nasi kerabu.
It’s heady at first, the aroma of which is cloying, piquant and pungent. An additional sweetness teases the palate, both warm and fragrantly enticing. Make no mistake, however; in lavish quantities, this intoxicating spice can harm.
Soy sauce. Dark, light, sweet and salty – it is all of those things, and yet more. Flavour in every splash, aroma in cooking and colour to contrast occasionally dull-toned foods, it is an ingredient long-used in the cuisines of the East. The food culture of Penang is merely one in the many that have, since ages past, benefitted from the use of what can only be called the Ingredient of the Greats.
After years of research, the quest of finding the national cake of Malaysia and our neighbour, Singapore is finally over. Lug by inbound tourists and just as well loved by the locals, the modest pandan chiffon cake has made headlines recently, named as one of the world’s 17 best cakes by the United States based broadcaster CNN. While the sheer pleasure of tearing into this fluffy, soft-as-clouds green hue goodness is ubiquitous across the two nations, what exactly lead to their glory?
Imagine, for a second, that plants bore offspring as a result of inter-species marriages. Take an onion and give it dill-weed to take as a wife. Then, marry the result of this union with one formed of celery and anise. As bizarre as this combination sounds, it isn’t, really – because what has just formed is the bulb of the fennel plant.