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 http://www.watercress.com/watercressresearch.aspx

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

He Shou Wu Herb For Hair Growth

Remember I mentioned about he shou wu, a herb that helps hair growth?

It's also called Fleeceflower Root or Polygonum Multiflorum.

(My hair shenanigans were a big deal to me. You can read about Shou Wu Chih or my hair darkening tea posts.)

I bought some - actually RM5 worth of it - and boiled it a couple of times. Each time I also added some dried black dates too. Initially I'd simmer the herb over the stove but later decided to use my slow cooker. When i couldn't finish drinking it all I'd store it in an old-fashioned thermos flask.

Two weeks ago I was in town buying dried scallops and Chinese sausages for my mother in law when I decided to ask the shop assistant if they had he show wu.

Mind you, this was a Chinese medical store cum grocery store. 

So below was what they recommended to me.

he shou wu slice chinese herb for hair growth and preventing hair loss

It was RM16.50 for a 200gm pack. When I opened it, the slices were thicker and darker. It wasn't sliced thinly - in fact it was hard and knobbly like tree roots.

he shou wu slice chinese herb for hair growth and preventing hair loss

The herbalist said just use 2-3 pieces each time.

he shou wu slice chinese herb for hair growth and preventing hair loss

See how different this is from the previous he show wu that I bought? I used these he show wu pieces and simmered them in my slow cooker for a few hours. The resulting brew looked the same - a light black soup. It tasted the same too.

But the next time i shall ask the herbalist why the difference in the herb's appearance. Nic thinks it is different due to the different parts of the herb that's sliced. One could be from the outer root while the other is from the inner root. 

So now the results of drinking he show wu on a weekly basis. 

I did notice that my hair fall was less obvious. However I also added one more hair care step - i would apply coconut oil to my scalp and leave it on for 30 minutes before I shampooed my hair. 

I read that doing this pre-conditioned the hair and prevents hair loss. Plus hair is also more manageable and I didn't need to use a conditioner after shampooing (not that i am a fan of using conditioner).

I am optimistic about the outcomes of using both he show wu and coconut oil. Another thing is I also drink a tablespoon of coconut oil every other day. It's not as gross as it sounds. Coconut oil from organic stores are aromatic and not as oily as imagined. I started drinking it as I heard a friend's elderly father grew black hair after drinking this for a month. 

It's still quite early to say anything really conclusive but i do feel he show wu works.

The other outcome is that I feel more energised the morning after whenever i drink warm he show wu brew before I go to bed. 

Anything that benefits the liver should also benefit hair. 

I am writing this on my iphone while on a Chinese New Year break in Kuching. 

Before I forget, let me wish you a Goat Year of Goat Fortune and Goat Luck. Lots of goaty puns this year! 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

What Finally Helped Get Rid of My Persistent Cough

Happy New Year everyone!

That's me with that funny Xmas hair band and in a beige dress with Nic, my husband. This photo was taken at our Christmas party with our website clients - Kester (in green) and Wei Min (in red) are from KesterMusic.com

I am actually blogging this on New Year's Day because it's a holiday and I just got home after a lovely lunch of pork porridge at the famous Hon Kei cafe in Jalan Kampung Malabar, off Penang Road.

This pork porridge seller used to be just a simple stall on the same road, nearer Ho Ping Cafe, a corner coffeeshop.

My late grandmother used to love eating this pork porridge because it wasn't just minced pork - it has all the pig innards, pig brain, liver, kidney etc. It does sound gross but you just have to love pork and the old style porridge to enjoy this.

Hon Kei has upgraded itself into a two shop lot business - it's literally buzzing with customers all day. Of course besides pork porridge, you can also have lor bak,  toast bread with half boiled eggs and also noodles or rice with salted vegetable pork soup.

I think of my grandmother whenever I eat at this (upgraded) Hon Kei. It's a lovely memory.

And I think most of my memories, like most Asians, are tied to food and home. It's how we live and breathe.

If you are in Penang and I know most of my readers are from Singapore, try looking for Hon Kei Cafe. Try their food. It's old style, robust porridge served in a modern cafe. I must say they are quite hi-tech - their waiters take your orders with an iPad mini.

Drum Roll Please....

Anyway, I wanted to update this blog because remember my persistent cough?

Thank God that my cough is already gone! Hurray!

You know what finally helped ease my persistent cough?

The steamed orange was great but I still had oodles of phlegm. It did make my sleep at night better as I wasn't coughing and staying awake.

You can take it from me - it did help. But along the way I chanced upon a tastier remedy.

Watercress soup!

I was at the market and saw fresh watercress for sale. Decided to make watercress soup. To tell the truth I did buy a lot of watercress this time. So the soup was really good.

And when I do boil soup, I make enough for 3 servings (meaning, 2 bowls each time multiplied by 3 so this means I made about 6 bowls of watercress soup).

Soups are always best on the day they're made BUT they're tastier on the day after. The flavours have had time to combine and settle.

This holds even for regular dishes - if you braise or cook something, say chicken feet with mushrooms (and here's a tip - use a claypot and you spend less time braising the chicken feet because the heat retention in claypots are much better), after it's done, do not serve it immediately.

Cover the pot or kuali and let the food "rest" for 15 minutes at least before you serve it. I find the flavours are completely different this way.

So I had watercress soup 3 nights in a row (I usually attempt to eat a homecooked meal since we eat out for lunch a lot). Slowly the phlegm eased off, I felt better and slept the whole night through. And I managed to organize a Christmas party for some of our clients and hosted my mom, dad and nephew when they visited the week before Christmas.

So my verdict? If you are coughing a lot, make yourself some watercress soup. The recipe is here.

Since there has been a lot of bleak news last week concerning Malaysia (first our monsoon floods on the East Coast of the peninsula and then the crashed AirAsia plane), let's pray for a good year this year.

Plus, Thank You 

My grateful thanks to you too for keeping me blogging about soups, life, family and more. It isn't easy for me to find time to blog here since my business keeps me busy most of the time. Yet I would feel lost without this blog.

All of you have been generous and amazing with your shares and comments even though I am just like you - learning my way through this passion which I love, herbs and soups. I started this in 2006 because I could not read Chinese and yet I was deeply fascinated by the use of herbs in our Cantonese food.

I remember always as a child that my mom used to rattle off "pak kei, wong tong, kei chi" to the Chinese herbalist and he'd pack up these herbs in a pink paper packet. I was always curious about this trio of herbs. But my mom never knew much. She memorized these herb names so she could get the herbalist to make up the herbs for her.

I realized as I grew older that I HAD to know. I can't stand NOT knowing. I don't want to follow something blindly and not know why the herb was useful.

And of course, my late grandma instilled in me the love for soups. She always had a huge pot of soup simmering on a charcoal brazier in her wet kitchen a.k.a backyard. She'd fan the charcoal and let the soup simmer for hours. I guess that's her way of keeping the family together. You can refuse to eat rice but you can never say no to grandma's soups.

I have lots of plans for Soup Queen this year and I intend to make them all happen. I hope you will have your own soup tradition for your family. If that's one thing I am proud of, I am proud that I have continued blogging here and kept my love and passion for soups and Chinese herbs alive. I have more to post and more to get excited about!

Thank you for reading this.

Thanks for being a supporter of Soup Queen (I am amazed at my readership statistics!) and I wish you a brilliant, exciting, incredible year this year!