Are the wild portulacas edible?

Yes,they are not only edible but very nutritious as well.Chinese has been using wild portulacas as herbs and vegetables as well.It is known as Machixian(马齿苋) in Chinese.Hakka name is Laoshuer(老鼠耳).It tastes a bit sour and the leaves are crunchy and fleshy.Widely known as Purslane or Japanese Rose in the West,wild portulacas are sometimes mistaken for its ornamental counterpart,the portulaca grandiflora.These are not edible.

Lets look at the picture below showing the blooming and inedible Portulaca grandiflora.

Look at their flowers.What a feast of colours!

Notice the needle-shaped,succulent leaves and the colorful,multi-layered flowers.Some have single-layered flowers.

portulacas
The multicolored and inedible portulaca grandiflora

A close-up shot of the flower.

A close-up shot of portulacas flower
The showy flower of the inedible Portulaca Grandifloria.

 

“Prepare to survive in California” wrote in his blog :

“Regarded by many as a weed, common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is also known as duckweed, fatweed, pursley, pussley and wild portulaca.
Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste. Some people liken it to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried or simply make a wonderful fresh garden salad with it.

Purslane has high levels of soluble fiber help lower cholesterol, six times more vitamin E than spinach, is best known plant source of essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), seven times more beta carotene than carrots, rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorous.

Portulaca Oleracea Linn.(Machixian in Cninese,马齿苋)
The edible Portulaca Oleracea Linn.(Machixian in Cninese,马齿苋)

In addition to ALA, other omega-3s include eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids mostly found in aquatic plants and animals, especially oily fish. Nutritionists now think all forms of omega-3s need to be plentiful in our diets plants such as purslane may be part of the missing link to better nutrition. Ethnobiologists — scientists who study the relation between primitive human societies and the plants in their environment — believe that the plants humans ate long ago provided a greater proportion of nutrients than the plants we consume today. They estimate, for instance, that humans 40,000 to 10,000 years ago consumed an average of 390 milligrams per day of vitamin C from wild plants and fruits. In contrast, the average human today consumes just 88 milligrams of vitamin C per day.One cup of cooked purslane has 25 milligrams (20 percent of the recommended daily intake) of vitamin C.”

ClickTable 2 ,look for Germi(Iban name)for nutritional composition.

Picture above shows a bundle of wild portulacas bought from the market.Look at the picture carefully and notice its leaves are different from the ornamental portulacas.The leaves are small,oblong and fleshy which form clusters with unopened or half-opened, single layered and yellow flowers.That’s right,there are only yellow flowers,no other colors displayed by the wild portulaca flowers in Malaysia.

Purslane as Chinese herb is said to be good for hemorrhoidal bleeding.Steam for 3 minutes and blend to get thick juice for medicinal effect.Natives in Sabah and Sarawak cook them as vegetables.Hakka people in Kuching boil them for drink with rock sugar.

Wild portulacas in my garden.
Semi-wild portulacas in my garden.

Picture below shows wild portulacas growing near a drain in a market.Though these are wild too but they may be contaminated by the chemicals and highly polluted water in the drain.Eat those grown in vegetable gardens or from our own gardens.To grow wild portulacas in city area is difficult.I tried to grow them at the backyard of my house and they just wilted away after a few weeks.Most of this plant grow by itself in the village garden and thrive well with little care.

Wild portulacas growing near the market drain
Wild portulacas growing near a drain

The crunchy and fleshy leaves of wild portulacas make them the best choice for salad,salsa or mix with other vegetables in pickles before serving.Pick the young leaves only for cooking purpose.For medicinal purpose,chop the whole plant without the roots and boil.

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Wild portulacas in apple cider vinegar.

 

Recipe
Wild portulacas in apple cider vinegar
Ingredients
  • 500 G  wild portulacas
  • 1 green apple – diced
  • 1 tomato – soaked in hot water,peel the skin and diced
  • 1/2 cup diced small pineapple
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs plain water
  • 1 chili – sliced
Method
  1. Pick the young leaves and blanch them.
  2. Strain and leave aside.
  3. Cut all the fruits.
  4. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl,as easy as 1,2,3.

That is it,as simple as ………OR mix the blanched purslane with cooked potatoes.Add homemade cream cheese and honey.

Another way of enjoying its crunchy leaves is by preparing salsa with the leaves.

Recipe
Fruit salsa
Ingredients
  • 1 mango
  • 1 green apple
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 200g young purslane leaves(blanched)
  • 3  limes – juice extracted
  • 1 chili – minced
  • 1/4 cup of  homegrown cilantro(chopped finely)
  • salt to taste
Method
  1. Dice all the fruits.
  2. Mix all the ingredients.
  3. Serve with tortillas.
  4. Diced capsicums,pineapple and cucumbers can be added too for this salsa.

Simple to prepare,no fuss at all!

Cheese for vegetarians,yes or no?

Can vegetarians eat cheese ? The answer is ‘YES ‘and ‘NO’.

NO, because most cheese contain animal based rennet.And it is also a ‘no,no,no’ for vegans.Then what is ‘rennet’ anyway?

Rennet is an extract from the tissue in the fourth stomach of young ruminants,such as cows,goats and sheep.It contains enzymes that causes the milk to coagulate and form curds.Curds are then pressed to form cheese.Nowadays,animal-based rennet are mostly manufactured.As one can see, this type of cheese is not suitable  for vegetarians.

Nevertheless, it is a ‘ YES ‘ for lacto – vegetarians because there are cheese made from non-animal or microbial rennet.Better choice are homemade cheese such as panir,the Indian homemade cheese and cream cheese made from yogurt.

 

No-bake layered cheese biscuits cake.Sprinkle on top with almond flakes or dust with coco powder.
No-bake layered cheese biscuits cake.Sprinkle on top with almond flakes or dust with coco powder.

Please check the labels behind the packs of the cheese products bought from the supermarkets.

Shown below are two types of cheese useable by lacto- vegetarian.

Left - cheese made from non-animal rennet Right - Cheese made from microbial rennet
Left – cheese made from non-animal rennet
Right – Cheese made from microbial rennet

 Of course,there are different brands of vegan cheese made from tofu available in the organic shops too, so vegans can easily replace the ingredients used in this recipe to vegan friendly version.Well,raw vegans can just ignore this recipe altogether.Most Malaysian vegetarians are lacto-vegetarians and hence for the time being,we have to use cheese made from diary products without animal-based rennet.

Most people need a period of transition to change or progress to another level.Bear in mind that not many people can afford organic food.For ordinary people like us to be able to march out the first step to become a vegetarian is by itself a great achievement and  let different individual  paves his/her own way towards vegetarian at his/her own pace.Segregation among vegetarians is totally unacceptable.After all,most vegans begin as vegetarians.

Panir,the Indian homemade cheese

Homemade cheese like Indian panir can be made by adding 1/4 cup of lemon juice to 2 cups of boiling fresh milk .Turn off the fire and stir.Collect the curds formed in a bag and then press between two chopping boards by adding a stone mortar on top.Collect the panir the next day.Panir is great for cooking Palak Panir, creamed bayam with panir and cashew nuts.

Left - Home-made cream cheese -Yogurt strained in a glass jar. Right - Biscuits arranged layer by layer in a tray
Left – Homemade cream cheese made by  straining yogurt in a glass jar.
Right – Biscuits arranged layer by layer in a tray
 Homemade cream cheese

Another homemade cream cheese made from yogurt is worth trying your hands on it because it is simple to prepare.

First make your own yogurt using yogurt maker or just buy the ready-made yogurt from the supermarkets.Pour the yogurt into a soya bean milk filter bag and strain the yogurt in a tall glass jar.Fix the bag in position using the lid and let the whey be drained overnight.What is left in the bag is homemade cream cheese.This cream cheese collected can be used in fruit and vegetable salad,just by adding honey to it.

Left - Cream cheese and milk mixture Right - Biscuits arranged layer by layer in the tray
Left – Cream cheese and milk mixture
Right – Biscuits arranged layer by layer in the tray

Shown here is a recipe using this cream cheese for making no-bake cheese layered biscuits .

 During Hari Raya or Chinese New Year festivals,there are a lot of these layered biscuits  for sale in the local cake shops,together with the colourful layered cakes called Kek Lapis in Sarawak.Some are homemade for sale.A bar of this layered biscuits cake sells at RM 25 .The biscuits used are super thin cheese biscuits.Since the contents of the cheese powder used for the biscuits are not clearly stated ,it is therefore not suitable for vegetarians.

 

Ingredients for making no-bake cheese biscuit cake
Ingredients for making no-bake cheese  layered biscuits

Recipe

No-bake cheese layered biscuits .
 Ingredients
  • 750 g   yogurt or  200 g cream cheese made from microbial rennet
  • 1 1/2 cup  fresh milk
  • 1 cup  condensed milk
  • 2 packets square soda biscuits or any thin biscuits
  • 30 g   processed cheddar cheese ( optional)- to add salty taste to the cake.Do not add this if salty manufactured cream cheese is used.
  • Almond flakes and coca powder (optional )
Method
  1. Prepare the home-made cream cheese from the yogurt one day beforehand.
  2. Blend the cream cheese,condensed milk and fresh milk together.
  3. Line  a 9″ x 9″ x 2 ” tray with aluminum or plastic sheet.
  4. Using a pair of tongs,dip the biscuit one by one into the mixture and arrange it layer by layer in the tray.
  5. Repeat  the steps above until there is no mixture left.
  6. Keep in the fridge overnight.
  7. Turn the layered biscuits over on a chopping board.

Sprinkle almond flakes on top or dust with coco powder (optional).

Cut and serve in paper cups.

 

Cheese biscuit layered cake
No-bake cheese layered biscuits

 

 Enjoy!

 

Pisang Raja Udang,the legendary banana

Malays are not supposed to eat Pisang Udang.Do you know why ? Well,there is a legend behind it.

 

A cluster of Pisang Udang hanging On the tree
A cluster of Pisang Udang hanging On the tree

A long ,long time ago,a prince was badly injured during a battle with another Royal family.He escaped to a jungle and fainted under a banana tree.He woke up the second day and found that he was nursed and cured by a young and pretty maid.He bled a lot until the ground was stained with blood and this maid had saved his life.He thanked her and went back to the palace and  upon learning that the pretty maid who saved his life was a spirit of the banana tree,he rushed back to the site and found that the blood stain was gone and a bunch of blood-red banana left hanging on the tree.The prince went back to his palace and ordered his countrymen not to cut the Pisang Udang trees and the fruits not to be eaten.So,that is why Malays are not supposed to eat this Pisang Udang.

Well,how about Pisang Badad? It is actually Pisang Udang with skin that turns yellow,not red ,when it is ripe.

 

Left - Pisang Udang Right - Pisang Badan
Left – Pisang Udang/Pisang Raja Udang
Right – Pisang Badad

 

Now I am coming to the real headache part – IDs of the different varieties of cultivated bananas.Please feel free to correct me.This writer is not a botanist, so making mistakes with ID of the plants is very possible.

After reading a book written by Mr Kueh Hong Siong, I finally come out with something more systematic.

The cultivated and edible bananas In South East Asia are mostly related to the two wild species called Musa acuminata from Malaysia and Musa balbasiana , mostly from India.The genome constitution of each hybrid can be diploid or triploid.Genome derived from Musa acuminata is symbolized by A and from Musa balbasiana symbolized by B.

Basically there are three types of hybrids:

1)Those derived from Musa acuminata :

Genome constitution :

  • diploid (AA) –  Pisang Otel , Pisang Emas
  • triploid(AAA) -These are Musa paradisiaca which                                     include the following varieties:                                                                                                                Pisang Berangan,Pisang Embun,Pisang                          Serandah,Pisang Masak Hijau

2) Those derived from Musa balbisiana which include

                                  triploids (BBB) – Pisang Kapok/Nipah

 

3)Those which are hybrids between the two wild species and have developed triploid varieties are named as Musa sapientum.

Triploids (AAB) –  Pisang Keling,Pisang Seribu,Pisang Raja

Triploids(ABB) –  Pisang Awak,Pisang Kepok(?)

 

Note that Pisang Raja in West Malaysia may not be the same as Pisang Raja in Sarawak.

 

Of course,there are more details of the IDs related to those mentioned above.For the time being,these are sufficient for us gardeners.Getting more detailed ID would get us all confused.

I hope I can write a post on wild bananas in the near future.Got to keep fit first for hiking.

So gardeners,start planting some bananas,especially Pisang Kapok,great as cooking banana and Pisang Berangan for dinner or supper.

 Don’t forget to plant Pisang Serandah/kapal in a big pot.In the past,our boat people planted this banana in their boats.

 

  Happy Gardening!

 

Bananas,bananas on the wall,which is the fairest of them all?

Bananas are by far the most important tropical fruits of Malaysia.They are even more so for vegetarians.There were countless days when I ate them for dinners and they are still counted as a must-have item when I do my marketing.I have Pisang Kapok,Pisang otel,Pisang Keling and Pisang Tanduk growing by the roadside.I just cannot go about without bananas,partly because they are not expensive,easily available(not seasonal) and can be eaten raw without fuss,unlike some fruits which need paring,rinsing or even cracking it open like a durian,for example.

Pisang Udang cooked in tapioca soup.
Pisang Raja cooked in tapioca soup.

 

Before we get into the real stuff,I wish to remind our viewers of one important fact – The local names for all the bananas (pisang in Malay and Iban) listed here in this post may not be the same as our counterparts in West Malaysia.This may cause some confusions.I am trying my best to include the West Malaysian equivalents for local names.Please feel free to correct or add other names to my list of bananas.

Pictures shown below are the most common types of bananas found in the markets throughout Sarawak.More pictures of some wild bananas may be included in a different post.As for now,lets concentrate on the cultivated bananas.

Left - Pisang Udang Right - Pisang Badan
Left – Pisang Udang/Raja udang
Right – Pisang Badad

Shown above is a comb of Pisang Udang with maroon skin.It is round and not angular.Taste almost like Pisang Otel.The other one is Pisang Badad which is actually Pisang Udang in Yellow skin.They are green when unripe and turn maroon or yellow when they are ripe.Pisang Udang has soft texture which is good for nyonya kueh.They are not so great as dessert bananas.There is a legend behind the belief that Malays are not supposed to eat Pisang  Raja Udang.

Left - Pisang Emas Right - Pisang Otel
Left – Pisang Emas/Mas
Right – Pisang Otel/Empat puluh hari/Susu

Shown above is two types of look-alike bananas,almost same size but Pisang Emas is sweeter than Pisang Otel and its texture is very soft as compared to Pisang Otel.These soft and sweet features of Pisang Emas make it the best choice for banana cake.Pisang Otel has thicker skin thus not easily bruised.Notice the rounder body of Pisang Otel and also its green tips at the end of the fruits.Half-ripen Pisang Otel are always boiled or steamed by our natives here.

 

Left - Pisang Jari Right - Pisang Ambon
Left – Pisang Jari/Madu/Padi
Right – Pisang Embun

Shown above is Pisang Jari which is the smallest bananas found in local markets.It is about 8 cm long and 2 cm wide.It is given the name Pisang Madu which means honey bananas.Is it as sweet as honey ? I am not sure of that.Its other name is Pisang Jari,meaning finger banana,which best describes its shape and size.Pisang Jari looks like a mini version of Pisang Embun.Most people are familiar with Pisang Embun which is the most common dessert banana sold in the market.

Left - Pisang Serendah/Kapal (Dwarf Banana) Right - Fruits of Pisang Serendah
Left – Pisang Serendah/Kapal (Dwarf Banana)
Right – Fruits of Pisang Serendah

There is another type or banana called Pisang Serendah which is the Dwarf Banana.Their fruits look exactly like Pisang Embun except they are smaller and less sweet.They are not as small as Pisang Jari with length of about 12cm and width of 3 cm.Not popular among the locals here because it is not as sweet as other bananas and the fruits drop off easily.It is also known as Pisang Kapal meaning boat banana.As the name implies,in the past ,boat people used to plant these plants in their boats.

Left - Pisang Keling Right - Pisang Berangan
Left – Pisang Keling
Right – Pisang Berangan

Pisang Keling and Pisang Berangan are like cousins,they look alike but have different texture.Pisang Keling is soft and sweet with a hint of sour taste.Its skin is thin and easily bruised.Usually the skin has dark spots all over.Pisang Keling was my favorite banana until I had tasted Pisang Berangan a few years ago.Pisang Berangan is not native to Sarawak.According to the venders here,they were from the West Malaysia.Pisang Berangan has thicker skin and its body is more angular and bigger than that of Pisang Keling.It has fewer dark spots on its skin but it does look very similar to Pisang Keling.Its firm flesh of high fibre content makes it the best dessert banana. Two bananas are enough to fill empty stomach for one single meal.Isn’t it great for dinners ? It tastes like Pisang Keling,less sweet but more fragrant and filling.It is my favorite banana.

 

Left - Pisang Kapok Right - Pisang Awak
Left – Pisang Kapok/Abu
Right – Pisang Awak

Shown above are another two look-alikes and taste-alikes,Pisang Kapok and Pisang Awak.These two are great for cooking pisang goreng,the banana fritters.Usually I pan-fry them,tastes as good as the deep-fried bananas minus the excess oil.Pisang Awak has long tips at the ends of the fruits.Pisang Kapok is bigger than Pisang Awak and tastes sweeter too.Pisang Awak is less popular than Pisang Kapok due to its sometimes seedy flesh.Despite of its being unpopular as a dessert or cooking banana,its leaves are very much sought after.Its super soft and thin leaves make them the best choice leaves for lining the bamboo rice and also as wraps for nyonya kueh.It is said that the leaves are more fragrant than other banana leaves.Both of these two bananas have thick skin.The picture below shows the difference in cross-section of the two bananas,Pisang Kapok being more angular in shape.

X- Section view of Pisang Kapok and Pisang Awak. Notice the round shape of pisang Awak as compared to the triangular shape of Pisang Kapok.
X- Section view of Pisang Kapok and Pisang Awak.
Notice the round shape of pisang Awak as compared to the triangular shape of Pisang Kapok.

There are many more varieties of bananas out there in other parts of Malaysia and other countries.Shown below is fruits and flower of Pisang Bunga,the ornamental banana.Notice the upward pointing fruits and flowers of Pisang Bunga.The fruits are seedy and not edible.

 

Left - Pisang Bunga/Musa Ornata Right - Flower of Pisang Bunga
Left -Upward pointing fruits of Pisang Bunga/Musa Ornata
Right – Flower of Pisang Bunga

Among those not posted here are Pisang Seribu/belalai gajah,Pisang Pisang,PisangNangka,PisangSerendah,Pisang Kapas,Pisang Siam,Pisang Masak-Hijau,Pisang Gentu,Pisang Putar,Pisang Jari Buaya and the list goes on and on……Please click here on my next post on the legendary Pisang Udang and the ID of the banana plants.

Shown below is Pisang Raja,the King banana.Pisang Raja is the biggest in size among the bananas if plantains are not included.I did write a post on the plantain,Pisang Tanduk.

Please click here to find out about Pisang Tanduk.

Pisang Raja in other parts of Malaysia may mean a diifferent type of bananas.Pisang Raja in Sarawak is about 18-20 cm long and 6 cm wide.Its flesh is soft and creamy and like Pisang Emas,it is great for making cake and local desserts,the nyonya kueh.Bananas match perfectly well with the grated tapioca.Usually we buy tapioca from the markets and get them machine grated at markets that provide services for grating coconuts.

There are two recipes here to be shared with our viewers,so simple and yet delicious.

Left - Pisang Raja Right - Pisang Kueh,my own version
Left – Pisang Raja
Right –  Kueh pisang gulung ubikayu (simplfied version)
Recipe of  kueh pisang gulung ubikayu (simplified version)
– no wrapping required.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups grated ubi kayu
  • 1  1/4 cups coconut milk ( extracted from 300g of grated coconut)
  • 3/4 cup  brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2  Pisang Raja – sliced or cut into strips
Method
  1. Line the bread loaf tin with banana leaf.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together except the bananas.
  3. Pour half of the mixture into the loaf tin with all the cut bananas on top.
  4. Steam for 5 – 10 minutes.
  5. Then add the remaining half of the mixture into the tin.
  6. Continue steaming for 30 minutes.
  7. Leave aside for 30 minutes.

              Cut and serve with banana leaf.

 

Pisang Kueh
Kueh pisang gulung ubikayu(simplfied version)

 

Bananas in tapioca soup
(picture is shown on top of the post)

Recipe
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs grated tapioca
  • 2 Pisang Raja or Pisang Kapok(cut into thick slices)
  • A bundle of 2-3  pandan leaves
  • 1 tbs brown sugar or gula malacca(optional)
Method
  1. Mix the grated tapioca with the water.
  2. Boil the mixture together with the pandan leaves.
  3. Add in the banana slices.
  4. Boil for another 5 minutes.

Yeah,its time for soup!Lets go……..

                                       S l u r ppp…………..

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indian Lettuce as wraps for tofu,a Hakka traditional dish

Indian Lettuce a.k.a Lactuca Indica is known as ‘Goose vegetable’ among the local.Hakka name is Ku mak a.k.a Yao mak in Cantonese.In Mandarine  it is Ku mak cai (苦荬菜), daun panjang in Malay and sawi rana in Java.To the Hakka people,the Indian Lettuce is  relished as wraps for tofu.

Deep-fried tofu wrapped in Indian Lettuce.
Deep-fried tofu wrapped in Indian Lettuce leaves.

Indian lettuce is not native to Malaysia.It must have been brought in by the immigrants from China,most probably by the Hakka people based on their eating habit like Ku mak as wraps for tofu and as side dishes for lei cha.

The Indian lettuce is a herbaceous plant which grows upright to a height of 2 m when reaches its full maturity.Leaves are harvested to be eaten raw only when it grows taller.Pluck the leaves below the shoot at the top leaving the plant to grow taller again.

 

Indian Lettuce.Notice the  leaves lower down the shoot .
Indian lettuce in my garden.Notice the leaves lower down the stem.They are gone,gone into somewhere and you know where.

When the plant is mature,branched inflorescence with daisy-like flowers will emerge at the top of the plant.The tiny,black seeds which form later have fluffy white hair attached and this simply means the seeds can be dispersed by wind.

 

Indian lettuce bought from the market
Indian lettuce bought from the market.Notice the simple,oblonged and undivided leaves.

There are different varieties of this plant as shown by the different shapes and sizes  of the leaves.The leaves of Indian lettuce can range from simple oblong shape to lobed and pinnated leaves,like the salad rocket(arugula).The patterns of the lobed leaves of these two plants are almost identical.

In terms of shape and taste,the rocket resembles Indian lettuce in many ways.Both are best eaten raw.The salad rocket has a pungent,slightly bitter flavour which is very similar to the Indian Lettuce.The scientific name of the salad rocket is Eruca Sativa.

 

Rocket bought from supermarket.
Salad rocket bought from supermarket.

According to Wikipedia,it is rich in vitamin c and potassium.In fact,most lettuce contain as high as 3545 mg of potassium per 100 g edible portion.The salad rocket,as an imported vegetable from Italy,is an expensive green sold at the supermarket.

The leaves of Indian lettuce are light greyish green in color.The faint bitterness of the leaves is very pleasant  to taste.In fact,that is what makes it so unique.The leaf is crunchy.Munching  the leaves is a good experience of eating vegetable raw.It is a pity that most people would cook it as a dish without realizing it can be eaten raw and what is more,it actually tastes better when eaten raw.Cooked leaves taste more bitter than the raw leaves and become much less crunchy.

Indian lettuce leaf and the rocket
Indian lettuce leaf and the rocket.Notice the similarity in their lobed and pinnated leaves.

I grew up thinking everybody eats tofu this way.I was quite surprised  to find out only Hakka people eat tofu in Indian lettuce wraps.Even to this day,I have found that in my area,not many people know tofu can be eaten in Indian lettuce wraps but  please bear in mind that unnoticed dish does not mean it is not palatable.

I think the main reason it remains unnoticed is due to difficulty in supplying Indian lettuce in big quantity and most of us only use Indian lettuce as wraps from our own gardens.Those bought from the markets are for cooking fish ball soup or as side dishes for lei cha.Indian lettuce as wraps for tofu will remain as a home-cooked dish unless it can be packed like the rockets in plastic bags with labels like ‘safe for salad’ or ‘eaten raw’.Certain varieties of Indian lettuce seeds are now available in China markets.

When we were young,we ate a lot of this vegetable as wraps for deep-fried tofu.Most of the time this dish was eaten with rice.My late mom would prepare a source made of preserved soya bean with green chillies,lime juice and a lot of garlic.Old people believe that garlic eaten raw can help to expel parasites and germs from our body system.In this recipe,garlic is optional for Buddhist and Hari krishna vegetarians who do not take garlic, onions,chives,leeks and other related vegetables with pungent flavour.

 Dipping Tofu with kumak wraps in preserved soya bean source
Dipping Tofu with Indian lettuce wraps in preserved soya bean source
Recipe
Ingredients
  • 2 tbs preserved soya bean
  • 2 tbs lime juice
  • 2 green chillies – sliced finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic (optional) – minced
Method
  1. To prepare the source,just mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Wash the leaves thoroughly under the running water from the tap.
  3. Rinse the leaves with vinegar if necessary.
  4. Remove the middle veins from the leaves.
  5. Wrap the tofu with the leaves.
  6. Eat with the dipping source.

Trust me.It is so appetizing.This dipping source may be a bit on the salty side so eating it with a bowl of rice is just so……tasty.Oh yes,oh ya,one mouthful of tofu followed by another mouthful of rice,a heavenly experience.Munch,munch,munch………..Yummy!

dipping in tomato chilly source
Tofu with Indian lettuce wraps in tomato chilly dip.

Another  to be shared here is the tomato chilly dip.

Ingredients
  • 6 local tomatoes – soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes then peel the skin.
  • 3 chillies
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
Preparing the dipping source

Just blend all the ingredients to make the chilly source.

No rice is needed for tofu dipped in this source.

 Enjoy this truly hakka dish,simple and yet unique!

 

How to prepare banana flower ?

For some,cooking banana flower can be messy if you slice the flower before it is steamed or boiled.My recipes save you from all the messy steps.Before touching on the recipes,just a few things we need to know about the banana flower.

The banana flower is the blossom hanging at the end of the stem or inflorescence.It consists of layers of crimson colour bracts with rows of yellow florets lying in between the bracts.Each floret has a plastic-like stamen with a black and hard stigma at the end.The banana flower is the male part hanging at the end of the clusters of bananas.

It is called Jantung Pisang in Malay.

 

Wild banana flower
Flower of wild banana a.k.a pisang hutan

Only flowers of pisang keling,pisang otel,pisang kipas,pisang kapok and pisang hutan are used.Flowers cut from other type of bananas are too bitter.Ornamental banana flowers are small and not edible.Notice that their flowers pointing upward so as the wild banana flowers.The wild banana flowers are big and edible.Both are beautiful flowers.Banana flower is rich in potassium as shown in the table at the end of this page.

Pisang bunga,the ornamental banana.Notice the upward pointing flower same as the wild banana.
Pisang bunga,the ornamental banana.Notice the upward pointing flower same as the wild banana.

In some recipes,you are required to peel the outer mini petals and the stigmas from the florets one by one,a preparation process not practised in Sarawak for that matter.

 

Left -  Steamed banana flower. Right - Fibrous bracts,mature florets with plastic-like stamens and stigmas are discarded.
Left – Steamed banana flower.
Right – Fibrous bracts and mature florets with plastic-like stamens and stigmas are discarded.

What our natives do is just peel off the outer bracts and cook the tender bracts and undeveloped florets nearer the heart of the flower.They slice or cut the flower into halves or quarters just before boiling and cook immediately for at least 20 minutes.

Shown here is another way of preparing banana flower.Steam the banana flower for 30 minutes prior to cooking.This is to avoid the bracts from being oxidized and turn black due to contact with air after cutting.Slice the flower only after it is steamed.

Left  - Sliced banana flower Right - Kerabu bunga pisang served in bababa flower bracts
Left – Sliced banana flower
Right –  Banana flower served in banana flower bracts
Preparing the banana flower for the recipe.
  1. Peel off some outer bracts to be used as ‘plates’ for serving the dish.Wash the bracts carefully and dip dry.
  2. Steam the whole blossom for at least 30 minutes or grill the flower for 20 minutes until the outer bracts are nicely charcoaled.
  3. Let cool and peel off fibrous bracts and mature florets.
  4. Keep only the tender bracts,undeveloped florets and the heart of the flower.At this stage,the flower looks like artichoke.

Steamed banana flower is to be sliced for cooking.

Here are two recipes simplified here to share with our viewers.

 

Banana flower stir-fried with potatoes
Banana flower stir-fried with potatoes
Banana flower stir-fried with potatoes
Recipe
Ingredients
  • 1  banana flower
  • 2  potatoes-diced
  • 2  dry chillies – seeded and sliced thinly
  • 2 tbs thick soya source
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp pepper powder
Cooking the banana flower
  1. Fry the diced potatoes until slightly brown.
  2. Add  1 cup of water and dry chillies.Simmer till the potatoes are well done.
  3. Add the sliced banana flower and 2 tbs of  thick soya source.
  4. Finally,add 1 tsp of brown sugar and pepper powder.
  5. Serve in banana bracts.

    Kerabu bunga pisang served in banana bract
    Banana flower in thick soya source

 Banana flower in thick soya source

Ingredients
  • 1 banana flower
  • 2 tbs lime juice
  • 4 tbs thick soya source
  • 3 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup roasted groundnut – coarsely ground
  • 1 chilli padi – seeded and thinly sliced
Method
  1. Steam the banana flower for 30 minutes.
  2. Peel off more fibrous bracts and discard florets with plastic-like stamens and stigmas.
  3. Slice the banana flower thinly.
  4. Prepare the source by mixing all the ingredients together.
  5. Serve the dish in the selected bracts.
  6. Sprinkle groundnuts on top.

 This dish is similar to the local kerabu,a simplified one,that is.Sliced mangoes,cucumbers and half ripen papaya can be added to the dish.

Bunga pisang kirin with crimson colour bracts and rows of florets.
Bunga pisang keling with crimson colour bracts and rows of florets.

There are Indian recipes for banana flower fritters and Thai recipe for banana flower salad.Most malays would cook Kerabu bunga pisang.Kerabu is local salad in which lime juice,coconut milk,kerisik,spices and herbs are added to the main ingredients.

Ulam is another choice for bunga pisang.Ulam is a local dish in which the raw or blanched vegetables or fruits are served with a paste of belacan,lime juice and chillies.

2signedImage (7)
Nutritional value of Bunga Pisang gentu (Musa hirta),the wild banana flower

Try your hands on this recipe.It would be fun to mess around with banana flower.

Enjoy cooking!

 p/s A facebook friend wrote a comment about the health benefits of banana flower.Please check the content in my comment.

Teochew clan’s secret to prosperity,the making of rice pudding

Rice pudding,Teochew’s secret to prosperity ? Am I exaggerating? Well,a bit,may be.However, it was partially true because the Teochew people did earn a living by selling chwee kueh during those earlier days in Malaysia.Even today,we still can see Teochew people selling these small bowls of rice pudding, beside shop houses and at the markets near my area.

 

Rice pudding with chai poh topping
Rice pudding with chai poh topping

When the Teochew people first set foot on the land of Malaysia,just like chinese of other dialets,not all of them came with barrels of gold.For many,life overseas had to start from scratch.Many earned a living by selling their traditional food like ‘chwee kueh’ along with other nonya food.Their younger generations thrived and many had succeeded in business and professional field.In a way, chwee kueh represents their fighting spirit to be able to survive in such an adverse condition far away from their ancestors’ homes.

Rice pudding is called ‘chwee kueh’ in Teochew dialect.We used to have this for breakfast.My late mom would grind the rice using the stone mill.Today we can use a good blender to grind the rice.

Here I would like to share one simple recipe that is popular among the Teochew hawkers.

For babies and the sick,use the second recipe.
Left-Rice flour used in the recipe.  Right - rice pudding ready for steaming
Left-Rice flour used in the recipe.
Right – Half-cooked rice pudding ready for steaming.

 

Chwee kueh,the Teochew rice pudding
Recipe
Ingredients

1 cup  rice flour

1 – 2 tsp corn flour

125-150 ml tap water

3 cups boiling water

 

Left-Ready chopped Chai poh bought from market Right - Stir-fried chai poh and mushroom ready for topping
Left-Ready chopped Chai poh bought from market
Right – Stir-fried chai poh and mushroom ready for topping

 

For the topping,we need the following ingredients :

200 g   sweet chai poh,the preserved turnip

50 g  mushroom,soaked overnight and chopped finely

2  dry chillies,seeded and minced

1 tbs  light soya source

3  shallots (optional) – sliced

Method

Prepare the topping prior to cooking the pudding.

  1. Fry the mushroom,sliced shallots and chillies till fragrant.
  2. Add chai poh and continue stir frying until the mixture turns slightly brown.
  3. Season with light soya source and pepper powder.
Cooking the rice pudding
  1. Add corn flour to the rice flour.
  2. Mix the flour with 125 ml of water.Add more water if the mixture is too thick.
  3. Pour in 3 cups of boiling water to the batter.
  4. Keep on stirring until the batter is no more lumpy.
  5. Spoon the half-cooked pudding into the bowls till  3/4 full.
  6. Steam for 15 minutes(10 minutes for smaller bowls).
  7. Serve with chai poh topping and black soya source.

Make 6-7 porcelian bowls of chwee kueh.

 

Inverted Rice pudding served with chai poh and thick soya source.
Inverted rice pudding served with chai poh and thick soya source.

 

For babies and sickly people,it is better to make chwee kueh using rice instead of rice flour.

 

Recipe
Ingredients

1 cup local rice

3 cups of water

Method
  1. Soak the rice in one cup of water overnight.
  2.  Strain the rice.
  3. Blend the rice with 3 cups of water.
  4. Continue blending until the rice batter becomes very fine.
  5. Keep aside and let the rice batter stand for 1 hr or longer.Omit this step if your blender is a good one.
  6. Add 2 tsp of corn flour if it is not for babies and sick people.
  7. Filter if necessary.
  8. Blend again until the batter is very fine.
  9. Cook the batter in the wok until it becomes thick like pudding.
  10. Spoon into small bowls till 3/4 full.
  11. Steam for 10 minutes and the pudding is done.
Children under 1 year old and the sick should be fed without salt and the chai poh topping.Chwee kueh with thick soya source is allowed for the sick.

The rice used in this pudding is the only factor affecting its flavour,so good rice is the keyword.

Rice pudding in Taiwan has minced meat and mushroom as topping.Here in Malaysia and Singapore,the ingredients of the topping are chai poh,dry shrimps,shallots,chillies and pepper powder.

Normally,those we buy from the stalls are mini bowls of chwee kueh.The Teochiew vender would scoop out the rice pudding and add topping on top.In my recipe,I use medium-size bowls(4″ diameter),easier to wash if you want to know why.Also try to use porcelain bowls for steaming because one can easily take out the pudding using a wet plastic knife.

Remember to try your skill on this recipe.Who knows you might earn a business from it? Share your fruit of efforts with us by posting on our page (coming soon).

Chwee kueh in small bowl
Chwee kueh in small bowl

Enjoy the fruit of your labour by cooking chwee kueh!

 

 

How to cook durian flowers ?

Durian flowers,anyone? This is an eye-opening dish for people outside Sarawak.I am not sure whether Sabahan and Brunei people do cook durian flowers as vegetable but for some people, it is a dish probably unheard of.As for the Kalimantan side,I am quite sure they too,enjoy this wonderful flowers as vegetables as we do .In Chinese is Liu lian hua (榴櫣花)。

 

Fresh durian flowers.
Fresh durian flowers.

Some interesting facts about the durian flowers:

The genus Durio has about 30 species of which 19 are native to Borneo ( known to be original centre of diversity),11 to Peninsular Malaya and 7 to Sumatra.The most common durian sold in the markets is the durio zibethinus.

Durian tree blooming flowers
Durian tree in full bloom in my friend’s garden.

The durian tree has straight trunk and horizontal upper branches.Durian flowers are borne along big branches.Durian flowers buds appear in clusters of  2 – 45 flowers  over a period of 3 -4 weeks during dry season.The flowers are mostly greenish white or yellowish in color.Flowers of the wild durian ukak (durio kutejenis) are bright crimson in color.Its fruits are bright orange in color.

 

The floor full of durian flowers
The floor  is fully covered by durian flowers.Notice the mats placed under the tree.

The flowers blossom in the evening and at night, all flower parts fall to the ground except the pistil.We do not pluck the flowers but wait for them to fall on its own.The flowers are pollinated by fruit bats(Eonycteris Spelea).I was asked by my friend to collect flowers in the morning,as early as 6pm,and went back in the afternoon at 5 pm to take pictures with my silly point and shoot.Luckily there were some lower branches with lots of flowers dangling,otherwise I would end up with blur pictures for this post.

Notice the mats placed under the tree in the picture above.They are not for dating.

Just imagine one romantic scenario in a Malaysian movie plot,Namewee’s style i.e., two lovers decide to spend a romantic night underneath a blooming durian tree and wake up in the morning with creamy yellow durian flowers as blankets on their bodies.How romantic! But the reality is ,they will be bitten all over by the ants,mosquitoes and probably snakes !

Usually people in Sarawak collect durian flowers very early in the morning,as early as 5 am because the flowers will turn yellow and appear less fresh under the hot sun.

A cluster of durian flowers dangling from a branch
A cluster of durian flowers dangling from a branch.

 The durian flower buds are enveloped by the pale green ,leaf-like epicalyx which cover all the flower parts before the flowers blossom.When the flowers blossom,the flower parts revealed are the yellowish calyx,the five creamy yellow petals ,five bundles of stamens and a pistil.The calyx are crown-like,having 5 yellowish green sepals fused at their bases.

The edible stamen bundles consists of many fused and branched filaments having numerous anthers.Each filament within bundles is fused at its base.The pistil consists of an orange stigma at the end and an ovary at its base.At night ,all flower parts fall to the ground except the pistil with an orange stigma.

flower
A single durian flower showing the single pistil with orange stigma.

 Harvesting durian flowers is fun but have to be careful with all the insect bites.I had sweet memory of harvesting durian flowers with my late aunt.We stayed overnight in a small tilted hut(3′ X 6′) called langkou in Iban and waited for durian flowers to fall.By the time I woke up,not much left for me.Actually the langkou was meant for durian season but collecting durians was too risky for kids so I was grateful to her for giving me the chance to spend one night under the giant homegrown durian tree.

The crimson coloured flowers of the wild durian
The crimson coloured flowers of the wild durian

Durian flowers season falls on the month of August or September.They appear suddenly in the markets and disappear within one week.For those who seldom go to markets, they might miss the durian flower season and have to wait for the next season to come.They come and go in a hurry and not easy to catch them in time.Three months after the durian flower season will be the durian fruit season.Durian flowers do not taste and smell like durian fruits.They are crunchy with a tinge of fragrance and sweetness.

DURIAN
A heap of durian flowers to be picked carefully.Notice the pale green flower stalks.This may take 1 hour unless you have more hands .

 

Most of the durian trees in Kuching area are homegrown.Collecting durian flowers from big orchards is not a wise move,especially those which are near oil palm plantations,unless they are labeled as organic farms.

Picking durian flowers is a tedious job.A heap of flowers may take hours to finish picking.That is why they are not served in restaurants here in Sarawak.During peak seasons of durian flowers,some fast food cafes,including the vegetarian cafes,do sell durian flowers in curry or sambal belacan.

 

 

flowers
Left-Retain only the petals and the filaments without the anthers.Right – Discard the cup-like calyx,the leaf-like sepals, brown durian flowers and the flower stalks.
Preparing the durian flowers

Durian flowers cannot be cooked right away.There is a tedious process to be done before cleaning the flowers.Do not wash the flowers immediately after collecting from the gardens.First task to complete is to remove the anthers from the stamens.Just wipe off the anthers from the stamens with finger tips.Discard all the flower parts except the stamens and the creamy yellow petals.

Usually we need extra hands to help otherwise we will end up spending at least 1 hour just to pick the flowers.Most people would pick only the stamens and do not bother to pick the tiny,curly petals.Failure to wipe off the anthers completely from the filaments will end up a slimy dish instead of a crunchy one.

Next step is to blanch the durian flowers,then rinse  thoroughly,drain them and keep in the fridge.It can last for about 3-5 days in the fridge.Can we keep it in the freezer ? No, unless you want the flowers to turn rubbery and tasteless.It tastes best on the same day of the harvest.

flower
Durian flowers in sambal belacan

 

Recipe

Durian flowers in sambal balacan

Ingredients
  • 20-30 g vegetarian belacan – made from fermented soya beans (can be replaced by 2-3 tsp of miso)
  • 3 dried chilies – minced(OR 1 tsp of chili powder)
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 3 shallots – sliced(optional for Buddhist and Hari Krishna vegetarians)
  • 3 stalks of lemon grass( serai) – crushed
  • 300 g picked durian flowers – blanched and rinsed under the tap
  • 1/2 tsp mushroom powder
  • 3 tbs of oil(more or less)
Method
  1. Blend the shallots,belacan,chilies and curry powder together.Add water to form a paste.
  2. Fry the belacan paste until fragrant.
  3. Add in the durian flowers and serai.
  4. Stir fry for a while and add some water.
  5. The last step is to add the mushroom powder and salt to taste.

Quick stir-fry this way will ensure you a super dish of crunchy durian flowers.Enjoy its unique texture and exotic flavour.

Durian flowers as vegetable,as exotic as ever !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Telur tebu (Sugar Cane Flower) , the Fijian Asparagus

Telur tebu or tebu telur,the Fijian asparagus a.k.a duruka in the Fiji islands.

It is also known as terubuk in Indonesia ,bunga tebu or tebu kerdil.Its Chinese name is 甘蔗花。

Its scientific name is saccharum edule hasskarl.

 

Telur tebu
Telur tebu

 Telur tebu looks like baby corn and has natural sweetness of sweet corn, even their leaves too look alike.Telur tebu or the vegetable cane is very common in the pacific islands especially on the Fijian Islands.Wild varieties are also found in this area.Telur tebu found in South East Asia are mostly cultivated.

To cook them one have to remove the sheaths and carefully take out the fish egg look-alike, crumbly flowers inside.The unopened flower heads called telur tebu can be eaten raw with tomato sauce or cook in soup.

Mature telur tebu
Mature telur tebu

The picture below shows telur tebu plants along the roadside in my neighborhood.Notice the thin stems of this variety of sugar cane and this differentiate it from the medicinal plant ‘Ma Cao’.Besides the thin stems,telur tebu and ‘ma cao’ do look very much alike.The difference lies in their stems.Ma cao stem is like bamboo whereas telur tebu stem is sugar cane stem.Their flowers are also different.The dwarf,edible Ma cao is Pennisetum purpureum cv.Mott.


Telur tebu plants in my neighbour's garden
Left-Telur tebu plants in my neighbour’s garden.       Right-Telur tebu ready for harvesting in my garden

The best way to cook it is to cook it in thick soup with pumpkin or tomatoes.The creamy soup of pumpkin blends very well with the soft yet dry telur tebu.

It tastes best in simple dish.Spicy ingredients would cover its natural sweetness.It goes well with sweet corn and cucumber shoots too.

telur
Telur tebu in creamy soup of pumpkin.


Recipe
 Ingredients
  • 250 g pumpkin – cut into bite size
  • 3 stalks of  crushed serai (lemon grass)
  • 3 red chili padi
  • 2 tbs corn oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk

 

Method
  1. Fry pumpkin till slightly brown.
  2. Simmer with 1 cup of water till pumpkin turns soft.
  3. Add 1 cup of milk with telur tebu,serai and chilies as well.
  4. The dish is ready once the milk starts boiling.
  5. Season with light soya source.

Enjoy the dish without rice.

Another option is to cook telur tebu in soup with cangkuk manis. The sweet and tasty cangkuk manis soup adds juice to the soft and tender texture of the telur tebu,thus enhances its flavour to a new level.

tebu
Telur tebu in cangkuk manis soup.

 

Recipe
Ingredients

  •  5 stalks of telur tebu
  • 150 g  cangkok manis leaves – crush the leaves using both hands and then chop finely.
  • 2 tsp light soya source
  • 3 dry chilies
  • 1 cup of water

 

Method
  1. Just fry chilli and add the cangkuk manis.Cangkuk manis should be shredded finely.
  2. Add 1 cup of water and let the soup boil for a few minutes.
  3. Add in the telur tebu which get cooked very fast.
  4. Season with light soya source.

Enjoy the soup with or without rice.

 Click here to find out more about ‘cangkuk manis’.Scroll down that page to view the photo.

Another simple and yet delicious way of cooking telur tebu is by boiling the flowers in milk or coconut milk for a few minutes and then pan-fry or grill them till slightly brown.

Pan-fried telur tebu
Pan-fried telur tebu

Indonesians and local malays deep-fry or cook telur tebu in masak lemak.Telur tebu can be one of the ingredients for our vegetarian curry together with coconut shoots.

Enjoy cooking this sugar cane flower and don’t forget to share with us your photos of great dish with telur tebu together with your comments.


   Yeah,lets cook telur tebu.

 Monkeys love them too,so do us!