Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Soup for Sparkling Eyes

After like a few weeks of not going to the market, I decided to go today. I have a love-hate relationship with market days. On one hand I know I am stocking up on fresh food and vegetables. On the other I know I need to clean out the fridge when I get back coz I need to make space for the new stuff that I bought.


Today I bought pork bones to make a soup called Ming Mu Tang or literal translation, Bright Eye Soup.

We Chinese aren't so subtle. If the soup makes our eyes bright/sparkling/clear, then name it such. No point beating around the bush. Pragmatic us indeed.

As always, I start with blanching the pork bones in boiling water over the stove.

This gets rid of the scummy stuff that floats up on your soup. 

Next, I soak the herbs - they're pre-packed dried herbs from my herbalist in town. Dried herbs from China are getting more expensive these days. Damn the ringgit and damn the GST.

I usually use a colander and a plastic basin to soak the herbs. Bigger pieces of herbs are easily rinsed under running water but this packet has tiny seed-like herbs which need a good rehydration at least for 5-10 minutes.

Then all you need to do is put the blanched pork, rinsed herbs and hot water into the slow cooker. I use about .5 liters of hot water which is equivalent to roughly 6 bowls. Put the lid on and switch cooker to Auto and let this dinner merrily for 6 hours. Season with some salt to taste after 6 hours. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hair Loss Reversed....With A Few Remedies

Remember how I was wailing about my hair falling like mad each time I washed my hair?

Well, I told a friend, Then, who runs a hair salon and whom I go to each month for my henna hair colouring treatment (yes, these pesky white hairs keep popping up so when I get tired of plucking them by the roots, I go and henna them all).

She's Indian so she asked me if my diet changed. I was eating less rice at that time because I didn't want to get too flabby around my waist.

She told me that she personally experienced hair loss too when she reduced her rice intake. She advised me to get back to my normal rice intake and see if it helped. I decided to also get a bottle of hair loss shampoo from her. It was more to satisfy my own desire to do all I could to help my hair loss from getting worse.

The girl who worked for Then did tell me that her boss did eat a lot of fruits and yogurt. Yogurt is cooling for the body.

That was in January.

I started reading more online because I did see the logic of her statement. What we put into our bodies is more important than what we put on our bodies. I tried her shampoo for a while but I realised it didn't help much.

I decided it was all about my body because apparently, hair is related to Kidneys and Liver. TCM believes that hair is related to blood circulation.So if I wanted to make my hair stronger, I had to improve my blood. And blood, as we know, is stored in the Liver. The Kidneys play a role too in that if you wanted your hair to be shiny and thick, you had to have strong Kidney essence.

So the lack of sufficient blood flow and circulation is one of the causes of hair loss.

I wasn't sure if I was stressed and that caused hair loss. I was, however, keen to prevent more hair loss by eating right.

So I started eating one dong quai capsule a day.

I had bought these dong quai capsules from the Chinese herbalist in town for days when I was too lazy to boil dong quai soup after my menses.

The herbalist recommended that I eat a capsule at each meal meaning I had to eat 3 capsules a day.

I wasn't too sure if suddenly eating so much of dong quai was going to shock my body. So I went on for one a day. I would take one dong quai capsule a day in addition to my cod liver oil capsule.

I also started to eat more rice.

I also started eating black sesame seeds in powder form. I bought a packet of  black sesame seed powder from the shop inside Than Hsiang temple. Black sesame seed, I knew, was recommended for hair darkening because sesame seeds (white and black) are good for tonifying the Kidneys. I basically mixed 2 tablespoons of black sesame seed powder into my cereal beverage and drank this 2 times a week.

According to this website: "Taking black sesame seeds can heal all the chronic illness after 100 days, improve skin tone on body and face after 1 year, reverse gray hair after 2 years, and regrow teeth after 3 years.” says the Compendium of Materia Medica, the largest and most comprehensive medical writings in the history of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)."

I also realised that the hot weather didn't help. My scalp was sweating and itchy and it also contributed to hair loss. It's still humid and hot in Penang now but I have taken to washing my hair more often. I used to wash my hair every 2 days but now I wash my hair daily, if only to stop having a sweaty scalp. 

So how did all those remedies go?

I could see that my hair loss has become less each time I shampoo. I didn't use much of the hair loss shampoo so it's not the shampoo that's helping, that's for sure. 

I attribute it to the dong quai (for the blood-building) and black sesame seeds and rice. Perhaps all these were working in tandem. Again, I believe that improving blood and its circulation from within by eating the right foods and herbs did help. 

I am still monitoring my hair and scalp but I feel that the combination of these foods (and perhaps resting more and walking more) have helped. 

Have you come across any interesting remedies for hair loss? Have you experienced hair loss? What did you do? I'd love to hear your comments. 

One more thing, I also believe that henna colouring helped cool my scalp too. If your scalp is too hot, it also makes hair drop too.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Back Again after a Long Hiatus!

Sorry folks! I have been terribly missing from my blog.

My sisters, niece and I at Fo Guang Shan Dong Zen temple in Jenjarom (near Banting) on the first day of CNY.

In between working on 2 books (yes!), working on planning our web design business, planning this year's marketing master class. taking care of my women entrepreneur association as president, engaged in meetings and interviews, and taking care of my family (their holidays included), I have been neglecting this blog a whole lot.

I haven't been making soups as much as I want to BUT I did buy a slow cooker or crockpot (that's how Americans call it) and that helped a lot. In the past, I used to boil my soups on the stove but the downside of this is that I have to be at home and watch the stove.

With a slow cooker, I don't have to worry. I can put all my soup ingredients (herbs and chicken or meat) into the cooker with enough water and I can put it on Auto to simmer the whole day (6 hours or so) and when I get back from wherever I am going, I have soup ready to slurp!

Or I can cook soup at night (yay!).  I can put all the soup ingredients into the slow cooker around 11pm which then means the soup can simmer the whole night through. It is done in the morning when I get up.

All I need to do is cool the soup down, ladle them into individual stainless steel containers (again, this helps cool the soup super quick) and once the soup is cool, store the containers in the fridge or freezer. I usually make 3 portions of soups (each portion makes 2 bowls of soup - enough for me and Nic) so this means we will have soup for the next 3 dinners.

I try not to freeze soups especially lotus root soup because I realised the freezing process changes the texture of the lotus root slices. Anyway, it is good to drink up soup as fresh as the day it was simmered. If you have leftover lotus root soup, just store it in your fridge and endeavour to drink it up within the next 2-3 days.

Today is the 15th day of the Chinese New Year - how quickly Chinese New Year has flown by! I went home for CNY (home as in Banting where my parents still live though technically, I now make my home in Penang) and had a tiring CNY helping my mum spring clean our house.

While home, I took over most of the cooking since my mum is getting old and can't do much cooking these days. This meant I was in charge of making "chai boey" on CNY Eve after our reunion dinner (with the dinner leftovers - actually it doesn't sound as gross because the roast chicken, roast pork, mixed vegetables and 'hou see fatt choy' made a truly delicious stew) which we had for the next 2 days!

I also made sambal hae bee for my sis to take home to Singapore. My arm almost fell out at the amount of slow stirring of the sambal! It took me about 30 minutes to ensure the sambal was ready. Now I know why sambal hae bee is expensive. It's not the dried prawns that is expensive - it's the labour!
My mum, dad and sisters and I. Yup, all girls so it's girrrlll power. 

Anyway, I saw this article from The Star Online that featured fresh wai shan in a dessert and thought of sharing it here. I copied the recipe (although you can access the recipes via this link) because newspapers are notorious for archiving their articles. In no time, you won't be able to find this recipe.

As you can see, most of the time, I'll keep recipes here so that I can also refer to them when I need to. (This usually happens when I am back in Banting and thinking of what soup I can cook for my family.)

Happy Chap Goh Meh!

(Here's something I haven't figured out: why do Penang people eat "pengat" or bubur chacha on this day? If you know, please leave your answer in the comments. I never grew up in Penang and I certainly never ate pengat on Chap Goh Meh although I certainly don't mind eating it.)

Anyway, perhaps it is about sweet beginnings and sweet endings. May this Monkey Year keep you smart and agile!


60g fresh huai shan (wild Chinese yam, also known as shao yao), peeled and shredded
3 pitted red dates, halved
600ml fresh sugarcane juice
30g rock sugar

Place huai shan, sugarcane juice and rock sugar in a medium saucepan or pot. Bring to a simmer over medium to low heat for 8-10 minutes. Do not allow to boil over. Remove and pour into individual serving bowls and enjoy it warm as a refreshing thirst quencher.

By the way, do check out my wai shan recipes below. 

Wai San, Carrot & Red Date Soup

And also, the time when I was growing wai shan in my garden!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Why I Drink Coconut Oil By The Spoonfuls

Yes, I drink coconut oil by the spoonfuls. Actually 2 tablespoons each day, usually after a meal like breakfast or lunch.

Let me just say this - in our tropical climate, coconut oil is liquid. It's a clear oil with a lovely coconut aroma. Reminds me of the coconut log sweets wrapped in red, green or blue cellophane that I ate when I was growing up. Some people still make these hard coconut candies but they're quite a rare breed. Maybe the sweet making involves lots of stirring or something.

Anyway, I need to say this because some of you live in non-tropical climes. And your coconut oil is more like coconut butter!

I discovered this in Hong Kong many years ago.

I carried with me a bottle of coconut oil - as a quick facial moisturiser, as a lip balm treatment at night before sleeping. It was my go-to oil for dry areas of my skin.

I wanted to show my friend, SP, this bottle of amazing multipurpose skincare oil only to realise the oil had hardened!

It was March in Hong Kong, and temperatures were about 15C and my oil wasn't runny any more. In fact it could not be shaken out of the bottle.

So I understand when some people who live in temperate countries say it's pretty awful to eat coconut oil. They usually mix it with some liquid (like a shake).

But here in sunny Penang, my coconut oil is always liquid and eating it is like taking cod liver oil, only better! (I hated the taste and smell of cod liver oil though cod liver oil is excellent for building immunity and contains Vitamin A and D.)

I have been slurping coconut oil for the past 6 months and I can say that it has made my skin smoother and more supple. Not sure if it helps my hair growth (as I do go for my monthly henna hair treatment) but I do feel that generally my skin texture is finer. This is clearly visible on my upper thighs. I used to have coarser skin on my thighs as well as calves.

With my regular intake of coconut oil, my skin on the thighs and calves seem finer and less dry too.

I also use coconut oil on my lips at night (when I remember to do so) as a lip treatment. At the same time, I also use coconut oil on my eye brows (to help them grow!).

I used to use it on my face but I found it too oily. Now I'm using rosehip oil but that's just because I am trying to get rid of some blemished skin on my cheek and upper eye lid. Rosehip oil isn't oily and is easily absorbed compared to coconut oil.

The other benefit of coconut oil is that it contains lauric acid. The other source of lauric acid is breast milk.

Coconut oil is made up of 50% lauric acid which makes it nature’s richest source of lauric acid. Lauric acid is a powerful antimicrobial agent, used in both food preservation as well as in drugs and nutraceuticals. 

Besides drinking it, a friend of mine, Mariam, uses coconut oil for oil pulling which simply refers to a technique of gargling with coconut oil to prevent plaque and dental problems. You simply spit it out after 15 minutes. 

I don't get pimples but 2 weeks ago, I got one on the side of my nose. Immediately I applied a drop of coconut oil at night and within 2 days the pimple disappeared. 

Finally here are some interesting debates about coconut oil. This older article writes about the famous Dr Mehmet Oz debunking coconut oil despite a case study of a Mr Newport getting better after taking 2 tablespoons of coconut oil for his Alzheimer's! 

I actually like Dr Oz (no thanks to watching lots of Oprah in the days when I still subscribed to Astro's channels but these days I've unsubscribed as I am now watching more Netflix and HuluPlus via AppleTV) and am quite disappointed that he is adamantly against coconut oil. (But if you read the comments under the article, someone actually says Dr Oz is now into coconut oil!) 

For drinking purposes, I buy my extra virgin coconut oil from Jusco's organic section (Country Farm brand). The same oil can be used on the skin and hair. After all anything you can drink or eat is safe enough for slathering on your skin. Plus coconut oil enhances your kidneys' function. 

The other thing is that coconut oil helps you lose weight. I am happy if I can get rid of that stubborn flab around my waist. To be honest, I am pear-shaped so lots of excess fat kind of puddles around my hips! Still I was encouraged when I read this fact about coconut oil. 

I don't know if coconut oil helps in waist reduction BUT I can say the waist isn't enlarging which is always good. On an aside, I weighed myself today. I am at 63.5 kg but Nancy, my friend, says that I can afford to be 63kg as I am 5 feet 6 inches tall! 

My other habit now is to eat half the portion of rice at dinner and substitute regular rice with Bario red rice (from the highlands of Sarawak). Bario red rice is another post for another day but I can say it is tastier than brown rice! 

Anyway, if you're looking for more information on coconut oil, check out these resources: 

In the meantime, if you've been eating/drinking coconut oil regularly too, let me know what you've discovered. Is your skin more supple and moisturised? Do you feel any different? More energised? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ai Ye Leaves In My Garden

Remember my joy at re-discovering mugwort or Ai Ye atop a hill in Balik Pulau? 

Well, guess what?

I am growing them in my garden now. 

The recent rainy weather has helped. The plants are flourishing. 

And mugwort is a plant that keeps on propagating too. Each time I pluck off the leaves, I stick its stem back into the earth or pot of soil and the stem soon starts growing! 

I love making omelette with mugwort leaves. There's something about the distinct fragrance of this plant that I crave. 

I also am a big believer that if I crave something, my body is telling me I need the nutrients in that particular type of food. So I go ahead and indulge myself. 

Still I find that my own mugwort leaves aren't as pungent as the ones my mom-in-law grows in her garden in Kuching. It must be the weather! 

Ai Ye or mugwort plants happily growing in my garden

Anyway, when my mugwort plants start to grow all over, I start plucking the leaves and storing  them in the fridge. No point letting them grow old and tough. 

Plucked Ai Ye or mugwort leaves ready to be stored in the fridge

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Have You Seen Curry Leaf Berries?

Ripe berries or fruits from my 9 foot curry leaf tree. 

This is a photo of the ripe fruits from my 9 foot curry leaf tree or known scientifically as Murraya koenigii . Yes, most curry leaf plants are about human height. 

Mine is a bit special because when it was still a young sapling, I used a lot of my own homemade compost. It had so much of nutrients that it started growing taller and taller. 

Right now, it is shading the compost pots! 

Which means I am cooler when I stand under this tree to do my daily composting. You see how wonderful it all works out to be? 

Because these berries attract the Asian koel (black birds with fiery red eyes which make the annoying loud "ku-yo, ku-yo" sounds), the curry leaf seeds get propagated everywhere. 

Yet some drop right under the tree and start growing. I have a curry leaf sapling attack haha. I keep pulling the saplings up as there's just too many. 

Besides throwing them into my curries (my most recent fave being this chicken paretel curry which is so easy to prepare it almost seems like cheating!), I have eaten it fried to crisps in Thailand especially in Chiangmai. They deepfry the curry leaves and mix with fried groundnuts, ikan bilis and dried chilies and kaffir lime leaves. It makes for such an appetising snack with a clear tomyam like taste. 

Curry leaves can also help with hair loss. I heard that chewing fresh leaves (3-5 leaves, not stalks) daily helps as the leaves are full of antioxidants. Still, I haven't made it a habit. I do however eat curry leaves especially if they're in curries. 

The other thing I found out is that you can use curry leaves, pounded into a mushy paste, as a hair and scalp mask. Leave it on for 2 hours (wear a shower cap). Wash it off and it seems your hair will be lustrous, dandruff-free and grow easily. 

One other remedy is to heat 5 sprigs of curry leaves in a cup of coconut oil. Cool and apply on hair and scalp for best results. I must try this soon!

This website mentions: "Curry leave contains vitamin B6, which is really effective in acting as a hormone regulator in the process of hair loss."

While writing this blog post, I started discovering that the curry leaf has quite a number of medicinal properties such as anti-diabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and can protect the liver from damage. Its bark can be used to treat snake bites.

Here's a list of what the humble curry leaf can do for you:

  • good for eyes as it contains Vitamin A 
  • stops diarrhoea
  • improves hair conditions & growth 
  • a leaf paste treats insect bites and mosquito bites
  • lowers bad cholesterol 
  • protects the liver 
  • fights cancer (as evidenced from research carried out by Department of Medical Chemistry at Mejio University)
  • skincare (apply the juice or paste)

Everyone should have a curry leaf plant or tree in their garden. It grows easily under bright sunlight and doesn't need much care at all.

The only thing is, everyone comes and plucks my curry leaves! (Did you know that Tesco sells these for RM1 a bunch?) I don't mind sharing my abundance with them but some people are just too greedy. Give them a few sprigs and they keep asking for more. But at least they ask.

Others just come and pluck as many as they please.

Anyway, that's why we hacked down our beautiful pandan patch. Nic was getting pissed that everyone came to pull and tug the pandan. We keep telling them to bring a knife and cut the pandan properly but people can be so stupid and stubborn. One guy, after Nic literally yelled at him, came back AGAIN to steal our pandan leaves!

The trials of living in apartment complexes with people who don't like planting their own food but love coming by to take others' hard work!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Watercress Soup Is The Best Cure For That Awful, Persistent Cough

I know. 

It isn't the sexiest cough cure around. 

It's not even exotic. It's just a plain vegetable.

But today I shall praises of the humble watercress because it is a well-known cure for the sort of incurable, annoying and keep-you-awake-at-night coughing sessions.

So what's in the watercress? 

In the West, it is commonly eaten fresh and raw in a salad or sandwich. 

Here in Malaysia, I've always eaten this cooked in soups. Never raw. 

So what's so fascinating about watercress? 

  • Watercress' botanical name is Nasturtium officinale. 
  • It is a fast grower in aquatic or semi-aquatic environments. It usually grows in ditches rapidly. 
  • It is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables eaten by humans.
  • The plant is native to Europe and Asia. 
  • It has a peppery flavour and is related to the cabbage and mustard family. 
  • The town of Alresford, near Winchester, UK holds a Watercress Festival that brings in more than 15,000 visitors every year. Alabama in the US is considered the Watercress Capital of the World.
  • Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, iodine, manganese, folic acid, vitamins A, B6, C, and K.
  • Its high Vitamin C makes it a good remedy for scurvy. It is also a significant source of Omega 3 fatty acids. 
  • It is believed to help with lung cancer.
  • It has more calcium than milk and more Vitamin C than orange.
  • Raw watercress may have greater cancer-fighting power than cooked watercress, as cooking inactivates the myrosinase enzyme that is responsible for hydrolyzing glucosinolates to beneficial isothiocyanates (says this article).

watercress vegetable cure for cough
Watercress is a cheap and plentiful vegetable sold in most wet markets across Penang. 

I've often found that watercress or any vegetable or herb usually is a much better cure for ailments and illnesses compared to medicines or cough syrups or cough tablets.

I also believe that eating something green, natural and healthy like watercress is a more positive method to combat coughs.

In Cantonese, watercress is known as "sai yeung choi" which I believe translates loosely to Western vegetable.

There is a "Sai Yeung Choi Road" in Hong Kong and yes I have walked down this street before, but I didn't see anyone selling watercress!

I guess I am a big believer in Mother Nature. If you'd like a watercress soup recipe, try this.

If you don't take pork, substitute with chicken. It still tastes good.

If you want a vegan version of watercress soup, I have one just for you too.

watercress vegetable cure for cough
Watercress leaf 

For more research or studies using watercress, considered a super food, check out

For raw watercress recipes, check out Martha Stewart's recipes