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A Touch of Spice

A Touch of Spice
  The history of Southeast Asian Spices, originates from India about 3000 B.C. From the Botanic Classics of Acient Indian medicines, The Vedas, it records medical herbals such as basil, cinnamon, ginger, myrrh, sandal, etc. In ancient times, spices were mostly used for medical, preservative and perfuming uses. As trade during navigation period rised, all kinds of spices were gradually spread from Indian continents to surrounding Southeast Asian countries.

  Spices are extracted from seeds, buds, leaves and stems, and roots of plants, or their extracts. They exert provoking smell and add wonderful flavour to food. Spices can stimulate appetite, help digestion and absorption of food. Content of essential oil extracted from spices is high; it may add strong flavour and smell to food. In addition of improving appeitite and flavour to food, spices can be used for preservatives, sterilization and anti-oxidation. Common Types of Southeast Asian spices are as follows:

Lemon Grass
(lemon grass)

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Also known as lemongrass. It is gramineous perennial herb, native to India. Named after its strong lemon flavor. The whole plant exudes the aroma of lemon and looks like silver grass.

檸檬香茅

Effect:

Eliminates fatigue, relieves muscle pain, treats flu, improves endurance, aids digestion, moisturizes the skin, beauty treatment.

Usage:

It suits a lot to increase the flavor of food, such as the Thai famous dishes – “Steamed Lemon Fish” and “Tom yam kung”, can’t cook them without lemon grass. The fresh or dried leaves are both suitable for making tea. The flavor of slight lemon aroma produces a light and fresh taste and a delightful fragrance.

Kaffir Lime Leave
(kaffir Lime )

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The aroma of kaffir lime leaves is fresh floral citrus flavor, neither completely lemon nor lime.

檸檬葉

Effects:

Warm in nature, spicy and sweet taste. Acting on the lung and stomach meridians. Effects on removing phlegm, stopping coughing, regulating qi and stimulating appetite.

Usage:

Many Thai cuisines use kaffir lime leaves to increase the aroma in soups, salads, and stir-fry dishes.

Basil
(basil)

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Annual herb, erect stems, up to 50 to 100 cm high, oval-shaped leaves, white flowers. Basil is native to India and one of the earliest uses of spices. Divided into Asian and European varieties. Indians believe that basil can purify the air, not only to avoid air being contaminated by bacteria, but also make the human mind in peace. Therefore, it is regarded as “Holy herb”. Dutch introduced Basil into Taiwan. Unexpectedly, its special flavor suits Taiwanese appetite. With the suitable climate for growth, it is very common in Taiwan.

九層塔

Effects:

Great helps for uncomfortable stomach, digestive aids, blood circulation improvement and nerves stability. Medical researches prove that it can also ease hemicranias, improve the stuffy nose, reduce abdominal distention, sterilize, increase perspiration, induce diuresis and etc.

Usage:

Aromatic herb with strong flavor. Ease urgent symptoms. It is used mostly in cooking, especially the cuisines of the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia. Thai dishes use it to sprinkle a handful in stir-fry and before dishing up the curry. Its rich aroma and coconut milk can set each other off.

Chili
(chili)

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Native to Central and South America and the Caribbean Islands. Perennial shrubby herb. Leaves are oblong-ovate, long edge with long stems. Fruit shapes are long, spherical and conical, usually red or green. The feature is spicy stimulation. Especially, those ones with thin skin and small fruits are extremely spicy. Chili seeds are very spicy themselves, but the spiciness of the skin is moderate. When frying with chili, the irritating spiciness will be exuded. That is one of the features. There are a lot of varieties, the commonly used are chili (aka Cayenne pepper) and red pepper.

辣椒

Effects:

High nutritional value, rich in vitamins A and C. Effects on preventing the cold, stimulating appetite and ventilation. External application can treat rheumatism and arthritis.

Usage:

Used as seasoning in cooking can also remove the fishy smell of dishes and sterilize. Besides cooking with fresh chili, there are some products made mainly of chili in the market, such as dried chili, chili powder, chili oil, chili sauce and etc. They are also good helpers in cooking.

Galangal
(Galangal)

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Perennial herb. Spicy and warm in nature. It belongs to warm food therapy. Compendium of Materia Medica noted that the best Galangal is three-year Galangal. Galangal can be divided into Pinecone Galangal and Lesser Galangal. Lesser Galangal has spicier flavor. In Asian medicine, Galangal can improve Catarrh and breathing difficulty symptoms. Researches in recent years show that the Curcumin inside Galangal has a function of anti-cancer.

南薑

Effects:

sed to warm the stomach, analgesic, carminative, and relieve the cold, accelerate blood circulation, allow the body to maintain combat effectiveness.

Usage:

Take the underground young rhizomes parts, slice or mince and add other spices into the dish, make the cuisine with a spicy flavor. It is the best de-fishy condiment in cooking. Regardless of sweet or salty, ginger can also bring out the flavors of other ingredients. Galangal seasonings are used in Thai coconut milk chicken soup, Tom Yam Kung, spicy cuttlefish. In Thailand, the young leaves or tender bud are cooked together with other leaf vegetables. In Malaysia and Indonesia, people use galangal to cook with curry and stew food.

Turmeric Powder
(Turmeric Powder)

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Turmeric is grown mostly in tropical regions with a special smell. It smells the rich aroma of wood with a hint of floral fragrance, citrus and ginger taste. The taste is spicy. Its Bitter taste is a bit less than that of ginger. It is one of the important ingredients used in curry. The attractive color of curry is attributed to the turmeric powder.

薑黃粉

Effects:

Turmeric is used in Asia to treat stomach problems and liver disease. Taking it orally can clean the bladder. Cook it with milk and sugar can cure the flu. Or make into ointment for skin diseases.

Usage:

In the cuisines of Southeast Asia, turmeric powder is most commonly used in the dishes of vegetables and beans. Vivid color can stimulate appetite. It applies to pickles, season French salad dressing and others. In traditional Indian usage, turmeric can be used for dyes of weaves or made into mud to coat as a mask.

Tamarind
(Tamarind)

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Tamarind is commonly known as Indian jujube, native to India. Since long time ago, it has been one of the flavoring spices used for curry powder. The flesh has high content of sugar, acetic acid, tartaric acid, citric acid and etc. There is more tartaric acid among them with a sour, sweet and delicious taste. Tamarind pulp is rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron and other elements. The content of calcium is the highest in all the fruits.

羅望子

Effects:

In Indian tradition, it can be used for treating dysentery with a laxative effect. For the rich vitamins, it benefits both the liver and kidney.

Usage:

Tamarind fruit can be eaten directly or made into processed food such as candied fruit and etc. It can also be used for seasoning in cooking. Dilute Tamarind fruit with water to make Tamarind juice (sauce). Many Thai sauces have Tamarind juice inside for seasoning. The sour taste is not less than that of lemon. Don’t soak it in hot water, the acidity will be lost.

Pepper
(Pepper)

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Pepper is perennial climbing vine. Growing area is tropical region from sea level to 1500 feet above, such as Indonesia, India, Brazil, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore and etc. The colors of peppers are black, white, green and red. The commonly used are black and white pepper. Black pepper has spicier flavor with rich stimulative aroma and high content of essence, used commonly in cooking with a delicious and appetizing effect. White pepper is mainly for medical value with functions on inducing diuresis, reducing abdominal distention and etc.

胡椒

Effects:

Use for diaphoresis, carminative, stomachic tonic. Mainly cure weak stomach, indigestion, nausea and vomit, diarrhea, abdominal pain and other symptoms. For general medical use is white pepper.

Usage:

As for cooking, the use of pepper is widespread, suitable for shrimps, crabs, fishes, seafood, meat, vegetables and etc. Besides, it is also suitable for soups, seasoning, pickles and etc.

Lime
(Lime)

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A kind of evergreen shrubs in Southeast Asia. A unique seasoning vegetable in Southeast Asia. The taste of special strong lemon aroma can’t be replaced by any other citrus. When using it, fully expand the hardened blades to produce the richest aroma. The blades of twigs have fewer aromas.

萊姆

Effects:

Increases appetite, improves physical function, anti-scurvy, sterilization and etc.

Usage:

When used for cooking, add it when starting heating ingredients. Use the heat to produce the aroma and flavor. Famous Thai dishes as Tom Yam Kung, Curry Crab, Coconut Milk Hotpot and etc. It can be used for seasoning and de-fishy when cooking with chicken or fish.

Curry
(Curry)

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Spice mixtures, native to India. Besides for increasing the flavor, it is also one of the Indian herbs. It is made of three parts, flavoring, spicy and colored spices. Curry has a spicy aroma and an attractive color. The general mixing ratio are 40% flavoring, 20% spicy spices, 30% colored spices and 10% others. Of course, the specific approach is not limited to this. Mixed with different ratio can make all kinds of curry powders with special styles.

咖哩

Effects:

It can stimulate appetite, smooth digestion, improve blood circulation, induce perspiration to lower the body temperature and combine with gastric acid to sterilize inside the body. It has the effects on reducing inflammatory, analgesic and anti-aging (prevention of Alzheimer's) However, curry and turmeric are hot in nature, people who have high internal heat, feel thirty easily with high temperature, constipation and dark yellow urine, take it in moderation.

Usage:

In medieval Europe, spices were not only for seasoning, but also used as medicine and preservation of meat, they were the necessity in life.

Shallot
(shallot)

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Perennial herb. Stems are hidden under the ground with spherical scales. Named after the purple peel. Shallot is native to Palestine. Introduced to Europe during the Crusades. Therefore, Netherlands, France and United Kingdom are the important growing regions. Shallot is also planted in Asia. It is also the one of essential ingredients to increase the aroma in cooking.

紅蔥頭

Effects:

Effects on improving the freshness, remove the fishy smells. Taking it often can produce the food therapy effects on coordinating the function of stomach, excitement, sweating, removing phlegm, inducing diuresis and etc.

Usage:

After chopping the shallot and stir-fry, it becomes shallot crisps, one of the ingredients used commonly in Chinese cuisines to increase aroma. There are dried shallot crisps in the market, very convenient for use, just the aroma is less than fresh-fried shallot. In Thailand, shallot is one of the major ingredients for spicy sauces, commonly used to dress cold dishes.

Coconut Milk
(Coconut milk)

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Coconut is the treasure of the tropical area with rich fat and protein. The ripe coconuts randomly picked from the tree can provide the required nutrition of a meal. When the fruit is ripe, scrape the flesh and grind with water. After filtration, what left is the milk-like coconut milk. The aroma of coconut milk is strong and rich, suitable for making desserts and putting into the curry to ease the spicy taste.

椰漿

Effects:

Coconut meat benefits the spleen and stomach. Coconut juice can nourish, help produce saliva and induce diuresis.

Usage:

Coconut milk is the essential seasoning food in salty or sweet dishes in Thailand. Not just for making desserts, snacks, cakes and cooking food, Many Thai cuisines also need coconut milk to cook with. Thai coconut milk is famous for making the dessert Bubur Cha Cha. It is essential to add coconut milk when cooking curry.