Archive | July, 2013

Oh Sweet Cinnamon: Part 1

Posted on 25 July 2013 by admin

Cinnamon, and its relative Cinnamomum velum or C. cassia) have been valued highly for both flavor and medicine. This spice obtained from the inner bark of a tropical tree from the genus Cinnamomum is used in both sweet and savory foods.

Cinnamon is regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and some may claim, even for a god especially among ancient cultures and nations.

Cinnamon adds a distinctive flavour and aroma to any dish. Asians use this spice in sweet, savory and spicy dishes. The Indians use it in their curries and dessert. They also add it into their tea, The Arabs do the same for their coffee.The Romans use cinnamon to make strong, bitter wine palatable. The Greeks use it for their meat and vegetable dishes. Almost all other cultures use cinnamon in their baking especially desserts like pastries, cakes, biscuits, custards, pudding and breads.

Image via chatelaine

Cinnamon is best kept in an air tight glass container and refrigerated to maintain its freshness and potency. The sweet smell in cinnamon indicates its freshness. The quality of cinnamon is varied and determined by its size of its quill and the number of quills per kg.

The Sri Lankan grading system divides the cinnamon quills into four groups:
1. Alba, less than 6 mm (0.24 in) in diameter
2. Continental, less than 16 mm (0.63 in) in diameter
3. Mexican, less than 19 mm (0.75 in) in diameter
4. Hamburg, less than 32 mm (1.3 in) in diameter

These groups are further divided into specific grades. Any pieces of bark less than 106 mm (4.2 in) long are categorized as quillings. Featherings are the inner bark of twigs and twisted shoots. Chips are the trimmings of quills, outer and inner bark that cannot be separated and the bark of small twigs.

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The Complexity of Assam Laksa

Posted on 09 July 2013 by admin

It is no surprise that the assam laksa has been ranked 7th among the world’s 50 most delicious food according to CNN travel. Assam laksa is one of my absolute favourite authentic Malaysian dish. This delectable dish is known to originate from Penang island. You don’t find the assam laksa commonly made at home because it is such a complicated dish. I am definitely among the fortunate few to have a grandmother and father master the dish. Each time there’s assam laksa at home, I have no less than two servings per meal. It is so addictive!

This dish reflects the influence of Chinese and Malay cuisine. The proper term for it would perhaps be ‘Peranakan’. The story behind the name ‘laksa’ is uncertain. Some suggest that it could be derrived from the Chinese words for ‘spicy sand’ due to the sandy texture of the broth. Others believe it comes from the Hokkien word for ‘dirty’ which describes the appearance of the dish. Another notion is that it comes from the Hindi word ‘lakhshah’ which is a type of vermicelli. One thing we can be sure of is that it’s a true Malaysian dish!

What makes it so tantalising? The combination of the sweetness of the mackerel, the invigorating tanginess of lemongrass and ginger flower, the sourness of assam paste and leaves and chilli for spice equates to a dish of perfection. Garnish with julienned cucumber, sliced red onions, mint leaves, diced ginger flower and prawn paste and you’ll be in heaven!

Image via rasamalaysia

It is a complicated dish indeed because getting the right balance is tough unless you have the tastebuds for it. The most important ingredient is the fish. Some people would opt for sardine because they’re easier to debone but I assure you, mackarel gives the best flavour. Every part of the fish is important. First the fish is boiled until cooked. The water from boiling is then used for the broth. After that, the fish are deboned and the bones are pounded to be boiled again – a crucial step for complete flavour. Don’t worry about it tasting fishy. The lime balances it all.

The way some believe that the word ‘laksa’ originated from the Chinese words for ‘spicy sand’, is almost how the texture of the broth should be like. This sandy taste could be due to the flakiness of the fish and the blended ingredients such as chilli, ginger flower and lemongrass. If this texture is not achieved, the broth could be too watery. Knowing how intricate this dish is, I deeply appreciate every bowl. Now that you know as well, I hope you do too!

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