Monday, January 24, 2011

Is It Really Turtle Carapace In Gwai Ling Kou?

The weather in Penang is becoming unbearably warm, particularly in the afternoons when the heat really sears.

I decided to take a break from boiling Buddha Fruit and make something different. I was rummaging in my fridge and found a packet of Eu Yan Sang's Gui Ling Gao powder - it didn't have an expiry date so I thought, what the heck, I'd just use it.

The thing is, and this is what I haven't figured out, does it really contain the shell of the turtle? Or is it just a name for a cooling dessert thanks to the ingenuity of the Chinese in naming their desserts?

Anyway, I think there aren' that many turtles around these days so I hope the modern "gwai ling kou" is made from herbs.

You can see this post I wrote previously on how I made this gui ling gao dessert.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Rosemary Story

In tropical Malaysia, I usually steer clear of temperate plants and herbs. Planting them is an exercise in patience as it can be quite trying to get some plants to grow properly.

One of those herbs I love a lot is rosemary. I first bought a potted rosemary plant, about half a foot tall, for a princely sum of RM20 a pot some years ago. At that time, I was still at my old apartment where my balcony did not get direct sunlight. It worried me that my precious rosemary would not survive.

It survived all of 2 years before it started to wilt and die. I blamed it on the lack of sunlight.

Fast forward to 2010. I bought another rosemary plant, this time for RM16 at my local nursery. This time, I had a small plot of garden in the back of our ground floor apartment. It gets direct sun every day and I read that rosemary likes the sun (it is after all from the Mediterranean region).

I piled on the compost (made by yours truly) and it grew happily. However, the rainy season came and with it, came some black bugs which landed on the rosemary too. In the end, I had to trim off the leaves.

It's still growing (thank god) but slowly as the rainy season keeps the soil overly moist. I love running my hands over the spiny leaves and inhaling its fragrance. It refreshes me each time!

But here's something interesting - rosemary is good for strengthening Yang, thanks to Neil's blog. It is also a Qi tonic. No wonder I love inhaling the fragrance of rosemary. (I am tempted to buy the rosemary essential oil the next time I put in my order for essential oils.) At least I can still get my favourite scent should my little plant die on me.

What is your favourite herb? Do you plant it? Or do you get it as an essential oil? I'd love to know!

Friday, January 07, 2011

What Grass Jelly Really Is...

If you have always wondered what makes "cincau" or "leong fan" (Cantonese) or grass jelly, this post will definitely enlighten you. It's from a plant called the Mesona with shiny leaves.

Unlike "gwai ling kou" which I have associated with tortoises and their carapaces, grass jelly is less scary.
The grass jelly drink is very common in Malaysia. It consists of black chewy jelly-like bits in syrupy sweet water which also gets its dark tinge from the grass jelly. Usually served cold with ice, this drink is a thirst quencher on hot days. It also helps 'cool' the body especially if one gets too heaty.

Although it is a typically Chinese drink, many other races in Malaysia drink this too. For instance, Malays mix cincau with soya bean milk to make a sweet thirst quencher when they break fast during the fasting month. In fact, Yeo's usually sell their soya bean drink (1 liter tetrapack) with a can of cincau drink so you can mix them up at home!

Of course, over-indulging in cool drinks like cincau is not good. Moderation is the key. But at least,
now I know where my cincau comes from!

Monday, January 03, 2011

What 2011 Holds For The Soup Queen

Happy New Year to you!

Can you believe it? It's a new decade.

I woke up this morning feeling like I've been transported to a new era. Of course it rained very heavily this morning and what struck me was this thought: I am very glad I am not in school anymore.

I met a friend who had gone to his daughter's school during her recess to see if she's OK. I remembered how my nephew had the first day of school jitters last year this time. He's all right now but in the early days, he used to search for my mom (his Por-Por/ Grandma) to help him make sense of the Mandarin the teacher was using!

This year I hope to blog more at SoupQueen.

Last year took me away from my soup-making activities. Business has been good and I've been travelling too. And what with staffing and marketing and client servicing, it really left me very little time for experimenting in the kitchen.

SoupQueen will have a little diversion once in a while - for instance, dishes and such because I realized how important it is for me to remember my heritage. A lot features food (not just soups though they are still my favourites) and one way to preserve culture is through food.

So expect a few more recipes which I culled from my mom and my grandma. My grandma is too old to cook now (she's in her mid-80s) but when she cooked in her younger days, her dishes were typically Xining - which I characterise as salty but thoroughly flavourful! A lot of Xining dishes I had as a child involved a lot of salted fish, salted eggs, fermented black beans and pork!

My mom, who is not Xining, but typically Cantonese, still cooks but she cannot replicate my paternal grandma's Xining dishes. Dishes like salted chicken, braised terubuk fish with black beans, stuffed flower crabs with pork and more are very much my grandma's signature. I'm not the only one who misses these dishes - my uncles and aunts too.

So this year, I aim to diversify into these dishes once in a while. I also intend to feature some Malaysian herbs and plants which I am growing in my little garden. I've become quite the herb gardener because there isn't anything that compares to using fresh herbs plucked from one's garden. That's as organic as it can get.

As I'm doing composting daily now, I have rich, fertile soil for plants. This helps plants and herbs bloom well. The leaves are gigantic, growing up to 5 times their regular size. The plants are taller and stronger too. Just goes to show why we should really look deeper into organic compost and its uses for the home garden. I don't want to rename my blog - I thought about it though.

The SoupQueen will still feature Chinese soups and desserts, but it will also feature Malaysian herbs and some of my Xining food fetish. Sometimes I will also feature interesting blogs which I read. Or books which I stumble upon.

Thank you for your support of this little blog over the years. It awes me to think that people actually like the recipes I feature.

Thank you for honouring this little blog of mine.