Tuesday, September 05, 2017

I Used To Hate Cilantro...

Do you like cilantro or coriander? Most people hate this herb because it is pungent. And most people mistake this herb for parsley.

The tiny sprouts of this herb are usually served as a garnish on top of steamed chicken, Cantonese-style. I never found out that this was cilantro until I asked my vegetable vendor in the market. 

When I was young, I hated the smell of coriander. It seemed too strong, too pungent. It smelled a bit like bugs. 

But then it seems our taste buds change as we grow older. 

I started to like coriander. There are times that I actually craved coriander. I'd go to the fridge and pull out a bunch and start eating them!

I believe I was lacking iron so my body told me to go get some iron! 

Coriander to me is the leaves of the herb. Another manifestation of coriander is coriander seeds or biji ketumbar (in Malay language) which you probably use if you cook curries or grind your own spices. 

I use ground coriander as a spice when I cook curries. The dried spice is a little different from the fresh herb. 

You can read all about coriander's benefits  but what I found most interesting is that coriander is a heavy metal detoxifier. It gets rid of mercury in your body. 

Another key benefit to cilantro is its ability to prevent hair loss and encourage hair to grow! (Which I like a lot as sometimes, I lose a lot of hair!) 

"Cilantro juice is a wonderful remedy for promoting new hair growth and combating hair loss as it contains essential vitamins and proteins which help in hair growth. You can make a paste from fresh cilantro leaves using few drops of water and extracting its juice. Apply this on your scalp for an hour before shampooing. This pack should be used twice a week for 2 to 3 weeks to get effective results. Alternatively, you can infuse your hair oil with a powder made from cilantro seeds while massaging your hair. You can also prepare a hair rinse by boiling a bunch of cilantro leaves in water and cooling it." - says this article. 

It's also high in iron which means women should really incorporate more cilantro in their diets.

So one of the easiest ways that I eat cilantro is to make a salad. This is my go-to salad for days when it's humid and hot and I don't have much of an appetite.

Do try out this salad and tell me how it goes.

Cilantro Salad

  • 1 ripe tomato, cubed 
  • 1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped roughly
  • half an onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 bird's eye chilli, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
  • 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • Juice from 5 ripe limes 

Mix all the above in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. It can be eaten on its own or served as a condiment with rice or taken with barbecued meats. It is excellent on its own but it also goes well with meats. 

If you have leftovers, make sure you drain out all the liquid from the salad before you keep it in an airtight container in the fridge otherwise your salad will be too soggy to eat. 

Bon appetit!

My cilantro salad that is great for a hot day! Perks up your appetite instantly.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Brewing Hakka Medicinal Ointment

One of the things that Nic believes (and strongly too) is that he is a healer.

Perhaps it is a past life connection.

But it's not just wishful thinking.

He does seem to intuitively know which parts of the body to massage whenever I start saying my body aches.

He is quite attuned to healing, I must say. I used to scoff at him, thinking he was just pulling my leg when he really wasn't.

Over the years, we've both had our own thoughts about health and healing and conventional medicines.

His younger brother is a neurosurgeon by the way so this is quite an interesting topic. His brother is in mainstream medicine while Nic believes in natural healing.

I believe in natural healing too hence this blog. I believe that you can eat your way to good health. We prefer non-mainstream healing because we strongly believe the body knows best.

Here's an example.

Sometimes, I crave certain foods. It's not a woman-PMS thing.

Lately, I've been craving peanuts and sunflower seeds and lamb.

I didn't know why until I read in Lelord Kordel's book (a fabulous book by the way) that these foods contained Vitamin B5 and Vitamin D which helped with hair growth!

Remember my hair loss episodes?

I wonder if it's work or the change in weather but my hair did drop quite a bit. I figured my body was telling me I needed these vitamins from these foods.

So I always listen to my body.

After munching on sunflower seeds and peanuts, I did realise my hair loss decreased. I am not kidding because I always look at the drain cover in my bathroom each time I wash my hair.

Anyway, that's a sidetrack to what I wanted to talk about today.

Nic got a Hakka medicinal ointment recipe from Joe, who has been following my blog and whom I finally met this year.

See how amazing this blog is? One thing leads to another and he gives Nic a recipe for brewing liniment or in Cantonese, "thit thar zhaow".

A few weeks ago, we went shopping in Little India (Enrico's actually on Beach Street) to buy the cinnamon, star anise and cloves. I managed to find my stash of dried nutmeg seeds and we bought fresh lemongrass stalks.

Plus we bought Chinese cooking wine too.

I would've like to use vodka but hey, Chinese wine is a lot less expensive!

Anyway, this ointment is for external use so no point using vodka right? Might as well drink the vodka. (I use vodka to steep my dried vanilla pods and the results is a homemade vanilla essence of the best kind!)

First production of Hakka medicated oil or "thit that zhaow" - thanks to Joe's recipe! 

All the ingredients go into a glass jar (cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, smashed nutmeg seeds, fresh lemongrass stalks) and topped with Chinese wine. This sits in a dark corner for a good few weeks to get all the spicy goodness.

This is an intoxicating brew because it smells like fruitcake! It also reminds me of German mulled wine!

Nic is quite excited with the idea of producing his own medicated oil because he also wanted to design his own labels (he's also an artist) for the medicated oil bottles when they're ready.

We even managed to find a shop in George Town that sold all types of glass bottles - perfect for our oil when it is ready! (The universe works in mysterious ways. Nic was telling a friend that he wanted to get some bottles and this friend gave us this contact and we moseyed our way to the amazing shop of bottles and jars.)

He has always been keen on producing medicated oil ever since he recalled his grandfather (who came all the way from China and worked as a coolie in Kuching) had a special recipe. But as with all things, the recipe got thrown away when his grandfather passed away!

Apparently, this recipe required the fat of monitor lizards! The ointment or salve is used if one accidentally stepped on iron nails - the nail would be easily pulled out without any ensuing problems if one used this salve. I would think this would be useful for coolies back then who didn't have access to proper medical care or doctors.

But where the heck do we get monitor lizards' fat even if we did have the recipe?

Anyway, we decided to go with Joe's Hakka medicated oil recipe for now. Who knows, one day I might get some monitor lizard fat!

With all the ingredients costing quite a bit, this will be quite an expensive medicated oil. It can be used for painful joints and bruises and all manners of removing aches and pains. That's what Chinese medicated oils are used for.

According to Joe, we can keep topping up the jar with wine but the extraction will not be as concentrated as the first 'brew'.

I'll keep everyone posted on our Hakka medicated oil production. ;-)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Benefits of Black Goji or Black Wolfberry - Newest Herb in Town!

I ran out of my dang gui pills recently so I decided to pop by Veng Tatt Soon in town.

I usually try to eat one dang gui pill per day after my menses. I try to be as consistent with this but even so, I sometimes forget! I thought this would be a better option on days when I am too tired to double boil dried dang gui soup or even ba zhen soup.

If I am to make these soups, I must first check if my freezer has chicken drumstick. I find my soups more palatable if I have at least some chicken in it. Also, I read that protein combines better with the nourishing goodness of these soups.

So dang gui pills (RM25 for 100 clear capsules) will have to make do when I am not in the mood to boil any soups!

Anyway, as I was about to walk out of the herbalist shop, I saw some plastic jars stacked near the counter. I'm always curious about new herbs so I asked the guy.

He told me these were black wolfberry or black goji berry.

Looks like black peppercorns, don't they? They're black wolfberries though they look nothing like the red ones. 

I was surprised.

All this while, I only thought there were only (red) wolfberries or red goji berries.

As with most herbs, the black wolfberries are from China (I believe Qing Hai).

But they don't look like the red ones. They're not longish at all. In fact, if you look closely, they resemble dried blackcurrants. They're black and tiny and a little shriveled.

As with most black coloured herbs, these black wolfberries (Lycium ruthenicum) are supposedly excellent for the eyes and kidneys.

I'm a sucker for anything that helps maintain good eyesight because I believe the eyes are important and much more so in my business - where I need to be online mostly.

Did I tell you that I have developed some farsightedness? I did my iLasik surgery years ago and did away with my short-sightedness. I can see into the distance and read words most people can't. That's the beauty of ilasik!

However, now I am having problems reading small print.

I need to hold the small print further away in order to see the words! I have been trying NOT to get reading glasses because I don't want to rely on them. Glasses are like crutches. The more you rely on them, the more you will rely on them and never give your eyes the ability to regain their ability.

I looked a little hesitant until the guy told me I could buy a bigger packet for far less. Plus I was attracted to the idea of just steeping these tiny berries and drinking them as a warm tea. Always a plus point for me if I don't have to do lots of preparation.

So what are black wolfberries good for?

They're good for people with fatigue, with tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and maintaining eye health.

Apparently, these tiny black goji pack a punch of goodness in antioxidants and vitamins galore like 50x more vitamin E (but compared to what?). This information came from Eu Yan Sang. But theirs is super pricey. I am still a tad doubtful of the veracity of their claims but I do believe that these berries should be good for eyes and kidneys.

That's how tiny they are! Taste-wise, they're slightly sweetish. 

So how do you eat them?

You can eat them as a snack or steep 1 teaspoon in a cup of warm water (do not use boiling water). You don't need to boil or simmer. So it's perfect for lazy asses like me haha.

Just pour warm water over them and you can drink them in 5 minutes. Even faster than drinking chia seeds.

There are no instructions if they're safe for daily consumption but as with all herbs, go easy. If I am in doubt, I usually space my consumption out in a week.

There is too much of a good thing sometimes! (Even with burdock which I love to bits, I take it easy too. Just 2-3 times a week will do!)

So I'd say, maybe 3 times a week of this black goji tea (if you take it as a tea). I've heard it being called Russian gojiberries too.

Here's a regular red wolfberry tea that you can make at home.

In the meantime, I shall try this and update everyone here if I feel any different after consuming this black wolfberry tea. The tea looks dark purple. I bet you it's similar to my clitoria ternetea (bunga telang) purple!

And if you're curious what the plant looks like, take a look at this video.

Have you tried this black wolfberry before? What are your thoughts?

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Weekend Of Learning How To Use Prana To Heal

Last weekend, I was immersed in a two-day workshop on learning how to heal with prana. I didn't plan on going for this workshop called Prana Violet Healing or PVH for short as I wasn't even keen on healing or becoming a healer.

That's Mr Siva right up front. 

But life is strange. Nic had attended the PVH workshops before - in fact, how he came to know of this healing modality is in itself a story of strange incidents. He attended one session last year when I was back in Banting taking care of my mum and as everyone who reads this blog knows, my mum passed away eventually.

While she was fighting for her life in the ICU, PVH came to her via Nic and me. I was desolate and didn't know how else to help my mum. PVH came to mum through the forgiveness affirmations - affirmations that my mum managed to read before she passed away. I believe that forgiveness is the basis of all humanity. I was glad in a way that my mum managed to read the forgiveness affirmations - forgiving herself, her family and more.

That was last year.

In February this year, PVH came to Penang again. Nic went for the 2-day workshop - a totally free one, by the way - and was taught by its founder, Mr Siva, how to use the healing wand to help oneself and others.

The healing wand looks like a cocktail stirrer. It is plastic with a square end on one side and a tiny knob on the other.

This healing wand is the instrument that participants will learn to use during the workshop. It is used to clean the aura, sense the aura and heal the physical body.

I didn't give it much thought until my sister told me she was flying into Penang from Singapore to attend Mr Siva's workshop. My sis is a big fan of Joey Yap and Bazi and all kinds of metaphysical stuff. Nic was already planning to go. So I thought, what the heck, let me go and check it out even though I had a pile of work that I thought I wanted to tend to during the weekend.

All PVH workshops are conducted for free by Mr Siva who is of Malaysian Indian descent. He is a 56-year-old man who is rather humorous and engaging. He also owns his own business in KL but travels around the world giving his PVH workshops for free in the hope that more people can use his healing modality to help others. You can check him out on the many Youtube videos. He usually travels to India so the videos are mostly in Tamil.

The workshops he conducts in Malaysia are in English of course but if the audience is made up of Indians, he lapses into Tamil which is fine by me as I am reacquainted with Tamil - the language that I grew up hearing my neighbours and best friends speak!

I know a few words here and there but that's the beauty of growing up in Malaysia, well at least back when I was a child. These days, kids are all mixing only with their own race. I had Indian neighbours on my both sides of my house (we lived in a terrace house) and I had plenty of Indian and Malay friends.

Anyway, this time the workshop was held at Bodhi Heart Sanctuary, right smack in the middle of Mount Erskine. For those not in the know, Mount Erskine is where the Chinese cemetery is!

We had to drive through a narrow pathway where both sides were Chinese graves and tombs. However, the venue itself was serene.

So what is PVH? PVH is premised on these principles and if you don't believe in these principles, it's not for you.

1. It's a no-touch, no-drug healing modality that anyone can be engaged in, if they learn how to do it properly, practise regularly with the intention to help others get well. It is also non-religious.
2. It's based on the idea that the body can heal itself. Good health is our birthright.
3. Prana plays a role in healing. Prana is qi, life energy or ki. It flows in all living beings, from trees to animals to humans. PVH encourages good thoughts, good words, good deeds which is Buddhistic in nature.
4. There are only a few simple steps involved - cleansing the aura, then using the healing wand to sense the aura or sense for "cords" or sense for health issues and using the healing wand to heal.
5. PVH is also about being grateful to Nature, understanding our connection and link to the Cosmic Universe and therefore, reading the forgiveness affirmations is a must. It is about existing harmoniously with others and others can mean other people, other living beings, other spiritual beings.
6. Cords are emotional connections of a strong nature, usually negative that affect people and causes health and emotional issues. They can't be seen but they can be sensed using the healing wand. Part of why some health issues are longstanding is that they are ill-will sent by others towards a person or emitted by you towards others.
7. Karma and reincarnation play a role in understanding PVH. Part of the affirmations is to understand and accept that we are all here on earth to "balance our karma". Because we are all in some way or another connected to each other, we are not individuals living individual lives but spiritual beings coming back on earth to learn lessons before we move on to the next phase of our 'journey'.

It sounds challenging for many people to accept. One lady remarked at that she was skeptical. But during the workshop, Mr Siva did eliminate a longstanding soya milk allergy of an Australian woman in the audience using the method he taught us all. She said she would have a terrible migraine if she took soya bean milk. We saw her gulping down a small cup in the morning and throughout the day, she finished the bottle of soya bean milk and she looked finer than fine in the evening. She even told a friend that she thought it was magic that her allergy of 28 years suddenly disappeared!

Maybe that's the problem. After years and years of being indoctrinated that medicine/drugs were the only way to heal the body, our logical selves cannot comprehend that a simple purple wand, waved over soya bean milk and over a Caucasian, can destroy whatever allergies she had.

It seemed too simple. Surely there must be a more complicated way! Surely something so difficult must have multiple steps and involve many days and nights of callisthenics, incantations and invocations. It must involve some guru and some medical equipment so expensive that no one can even pronounce its name.

And yet, the healing wand worked.

It worked by channelling universal prana to the affected area. It worked by thanking the universe. It worked by thanking our organs - yes, we thanked our kidneys, liver, lungs, heart.

We took turns to practice on each other - sensing each other's aura and cords. We took turns to send collective prana to a Mr Nadarajan who was in a wheel chair and whose glazed eyes took on an alert look after some 70 people focused their prana on him.

I cannot explain why it works. Because it comes in 2 parts - you can heal yourself using the wand and you can heal others in need. And Mr Siva encourages us to practice so that we can continue to be healers and help others.

When I got home, the big toe on my right foot was throbbing. I took out the healing wand and did the steps he taught and to my surprise, the throbbing disappeared in 5 minutes. I cannot explain what it is that took away the pain.

I tried the wand on emotional issues. Nic was upset with me (now that I'm writing this I can't even remember what it was all about) and I used the wand to remove his anger and all of a sudden, he came into the room to make up with me! That was the fastest cure-all for anger.

If what I've said intrigued you, attend any one of the PVH workshops if it comes to your city. Have an open mind but know that you will come away impressed, skeptical, amazed and in wonderment.

I'm not here to turn you into a PVH believer but what I experienced over the past 2 days was nothing short of out of this world. Lest you think Mr Siva is one of those guru types, he's not. He's one of those down-to-earth guys who think that we all have the power to heal ourselves if only we believe it. He charges no money and even the food he provides during the 2 days are free for all. The affirmation pamphlets and healing wands are freely distributed.

Check it out http://www.pranaviolethealing.com

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Bleeding Under The Skin

This is a quick post and a shout out to one of my readers who found my blog because he was helping a friend find out more about Five Flower Tea!

You see, it doesn't surprise me anymore now as I meet more and more people who come up to me and say they read my blog. In fact, it gives me a glow of pleasure even though I've been blogging for years and years!

Once at an event, a man in his fifties tapped me on my shoulder. He asked if I was the Soup Queen! He was from Ipoh but he had come to Penang for this particular event (where my friend was promoting powdered ginseng) and he recognised me in a sea of 50 or so people.

Anyway, back to Joe.

I'm not sure if Joe would like me to describe him but suffice to say, we've met! He came to our marketing event called Marketing Mojo in March because he won a ticket.

He is a fount of knowledge about Chinese kung fu, Chinese medicinal ointment (Nic is adamant that one day he will produce his own "tit tar jau" because this husband of mine believes in some far off life in his past, he was a medicine man) and Chinese herbs. And Joe is Cantonese (yay, my kind of people haha).

Joe has been emailing me interesting links and articles to Chinese herbs and health.

Just this week, he sent me a link to this article about bleeding under the skin. The article also recommends some herbs and one of the helpful herbs/vegetables is lotus root.

As you know, I am a huge fan of lotus root soup. I love its simplicity. I love eating the crunchy roots and as a child, I was always fascinated by the holes!

In my Lip Sin market, I usually get to choose from 2 types of lotus roots. It's not that they're 2 different species. They're the same. It's just that the origins differ. The larger ones usually come from China. The thinner, longer and scrawnier ones are local. I prefer to buy local. Or maybe I am too scared of what the Chinese farmers put into their fields and ponds!

So have a go and read this article on bruising under the skin and the healthy and natural kitchen remedies that can help you.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Jamu Kunyit Asam From Freshly Grown, Organic Turmeric & Tamarind Paste

A friend gave me a packet of freshly harvested turmeric from an organic garden and I was wondering what to do with this when I remembered the jamu that I tasted at an Indonesian Consulate event last year.

(Did I mention that I love tempeh, sambal pecel and all things Indonesian? I was in Bali last year and loved eating Indonesian food. In fact, tempeh chips are still my all-time favourite. In Bali, they're sold as snacks in supermarkets.)

fresh turmeric root
Fresh turmeric root, tamarind paste/asam jawa & gula melaka. 

tamarind paste
Tamarind paste mixed with water. Strain before using. 

sliced turmeric root
Sliced turmeric root. Look at the bright orange colour. It's been called Indian saffron but beware, the orange does stain! 

Turmeric is getting into the news for all the right reasons. Fresh turmeric is getting popular in the Western world though us here in Asia have been using this root in curries. I usually use turmeric powder when I marinate fish before frying. (If you marinate fish with turmeric powder, add a few sprinkles of grated black pepper.) Apparently, turmeric and black pepper pack a powerful combo and black pepper makes turmeric more bio-available! Plus if you add fat, it's even better. Who would've known?

I didn't want to just make curry with the fresh turmeric root. I wanted to make a jamu. I googled an Indonesian jamu recipe which called for a few simple ingredients - ingredients easily available in an Asian market - such as gula melaka, asam jawa and of course, turmeric. I counterchecked with my Indonesian friend who lives in Penang and yes, she confirmed that those were the ingredients.

She didn't give me any measurements so I used the "agak-agak" method which is a handful of turmeric root, sliced. Beware when you're slicing turmeric root. The orange does stain! I still have orange stains on my nails hours after cutting up the root.

I placed these root slices into the inner pot of my magic cooker (a new kitchen gadget I bought before Chinese New Year) with a block of gula melaka and reconstituted asam jawa paste. Add about 1 liter of water and bring it to a boil on the stove for 20 minutes. Add a pinch of salt to balance it all out.

Taste after 20 minutes. It shouldn't be too sourish/tangy. If it is, add more gula melaka. Then remove the pot from the stove and place this pot into your magic cooker. Close it and let the brew "cook" in the magic cooker for about 7 hours.

Boil for 20 minutes before placing in magic cooker. 

I made it during lunch time and let it brew till past dinner.

So did my jamu taste after 7 hours in the magic cooker? I came home after a day of shopping to drink this unbelievably smooth and warm beverage that is a little tangy, a little peppery but all goodness! It tasted absolutely wonderful. It had a lovely flavour of turmeric and asam jawa, leaving a slight spicy taste on the tongue. I'm no Indonesian but I'm quite proud that my first ever jamu came out pretty damn good.

I shall weigh the ingredients the next round to ensure the recipe is more "scientific" rather than go by the "agak-agak" method.

Jamu is basically an Indonesian herbal drink drunk for health maintenance purposes. This jamu kunyit asam is meant for slimming and helps to reduce bloated tummies (which is great for all of us with flabby bellies!). I was supposed to peel the skin off the turmeric root but I didn't. I just washed the turmeric and sliced it, skin and all.

According to WebMD, "turmeric contains the chemical curcumin. Curcumin and other chemicals in turmeric might decrease swelling (inflammation). Because of this, turmeric might be beneficial for treating conditions that involve inflammation."

In fact, there are some 9902 studies referencing curcumin and its healing properties. If you want a full list of what turmeric or curcumin in turmeric does, read this article by Dr Axe. One of the biggest discoveries is that curcumin kills and prevents cancer cells. It also reverses Type 2 diabetes and is able to neutralize free radicals (that's why it is such a good antioxidant).

This website states that taking whole turmeric is more advantageous than its extract (curcumin). Whole turmeric includes three different curcuminoids: curcumin, bisdemethoxycurcumin, and demethoxycurcumin plus volatile oils like tumerone, atlantone, and zingiberone. And all these components are all health-giving! 

And did you know that satay - my favourite food of all time - uses turmeric in its marinade? Turmeric also helps prevent the formation of HCAs (heterocyclic amines) in grilled meat. HCAs are the culprits in health risks in grilled meat protein. Turmeric, when combined with carrot or pumpkin, reduces the loss of beta carotene from these vegetables. 

What I am learning these days that the best way to get the benefits of turmeric or any other herb for that matter is through cooking. Many studies use the extract of turmeric on rodents in lab research and some websites have stated that they would rather see effects of the actual herb on humans instead of the curcumin extract. 

I agree quite as much. I think the best way to get the most out of herbs is using the way our grandmothers did - eat your food as medicine. Make them into teas, soups, broths or dishes. Because certain herbs complement vegetables. You can't get one to work without the other. 

But I underestimated the humble turmeric. It is arguably Nature's pharmacy without the side effects. (Planting turmeric is easy. Just pop the root into the ground and it will grow. The leaves can be used in cooking. I have a small pot of tumeric in my garden though I've never harvested the roots!)