Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

346/365 – Dried Fish

August 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Fresh fish rapidly deteriorates unless some way can be found to preserve it. Drying is a method of food preservation that works by removing water from the food, which inhibits the growth of microorganisms.

Open air drying using sun and wind has been practiced since ancient times to preserve food. Water is usually removed by evaporation (air drying, sun drying, smoking or wind drying) but, in the case of freeze-drying, food is first frozen and then the water is removed by sublimation.

Bacteria, yeasts and molds need the water in the food to grow, and drying effectively prevents them from surviving in the food.

Fish are preserved through such traditional methods as drying, smoking and salting. The oldest traditional way of preserving fish was to let the wind and sun dry it.

Drying food is the world’s oldest known preservation method, and dried fish has a storage life of several years. The method is cheap and effective in suitable climates; the work can be done by the fisherman and family, and the resulting product is easily transported to market.


Salt cod has been produced for at least 500 years, since the time of the European discoveries of the New World. Before refrigeration, there was a need to preserve the codfish; drying and salting are ancient techniques to preserve nutrients and the process makes the codfish tastier.

The Portuguese tried to use this method of drying and salting on several varieties of fish from their waters, but the ideal fish came from much further north.

With the “discovery” of Newfoundland in 1497, long after the Basque whalers arrived in Channel-Port aux Basques, they started fishing its cod-rich Grand Banks.

Thus, bacalhau became a staple of the Portuguese cuisine, nicknamed Fiel amigo (faithful friend). From the 18th century, the town of Kristiansund in Norway became an important place of purchasing bacalhau or klippfisk (literally “cliff fish”, since the fish was dried on stone cliffs by the sea to begin with.)

Since the method was introduced by the Dutchman Jappe Ippes in abt 1690, the town had produced klippfisk and when the Spanish merchants arrived, it became a big industry.

The bacalhau or bacalao dish is sometimes said to originate from Kristiansund, where it was introduced by the Spanish and Portuguese fish buyers and became very popular.

Bacalao was common everyday food in north west Norway to this day, as it was cheap to make. In later years it is more eaten at special occasions.

This dish was also popular in Portugal and other Roman Catholic countries, because of the many days (Fridays, Lent, and other festivals) on which the Church forbade the eating of meat. Bacalhau dishes were eaten instead.


Categories: Food, General Knowledge

314/365 – Koottu

Kootu (Tamil:கூட்டு) is a Tamil word means ‘add’ i.e. vegetable added with lentils which form the dish, made of vegetable and lentils and are semi-solid in consistency, i.e., less aqueous than sambhar, but more so than dry curries.

Virundhu Sappadu (Typical Tamil feast) comes with the combo of boiled rice (‘Choru’ in Tamil), sambar, rasam, curd, poriyal, kootu, appalam, pickle and banana. All kootus by default have some vegetables and lentils, but many variations of kootu exist:

Poricha Kootu: A kootu made with urid dhal and pepper is called poricha (means ‘fried’ in Tamil) kootu. Fried urid dhal, pepper and fresh coconut are ground together.

The moong dhal and the cut vegetables are cooked separately. Then, the ground paste, cooked vegetable and moong dhal are mixed and heated. Vegetables such as beans and snake gourd are common ingredients in this kootu.

Araichivita Kootu: A kootu which has a ground (freshly powdered) masala in it; the word araichivita in Tamil literally translates to ‘the one which has been ground and poured.’

The ground paste is a mixture of fried urid dhal, gram dhal, dhaniya (coriander seeds) and coconut. The chopped vegetables and the toor dhal are cooked separately. Then, the ground paste, cooked vegetable and dhal are heated together.

Many other regional variations exist.


Categories: Food, General Knowledge

312/365 – Mustard Seeds

The mustard seed has a long history and religious importance in Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. The tiny size, 3 mm in diameter, has been significant and referenced in the texts of these major religions. Today, mustard seed is popular due to its distinct flavors and added health benefits.


Historically, mustard seeds are mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings dating back five thousand years. Evidence shows it has grown in Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean and the Himalayas.

The ancient Greeks used the seeds, but the Romans were the first to grind them into a paste which resembled the mustard condiment available today. Physicians in both civilizations also used the seeds for medicinal purposes.   Identification

The mustard seeds are the tiniest part of three different mustard plants and vary in color from yellow-white to black to brown.

The three mustard plants are Brassica hirta (white), Brassica nigra (black) and Brassica juncea (brown). They are available as whole seeds, ground powder or extracted oil.


Mustard seeds flourish in cold weather, moist soils and generally under temperate conditions. The mustard plant grows as a shrub, and the seeds take 3 to 10 days to germinate.

Brown and black seeds can grow far more easily than yellow seeds. Canada is the largest producer of mustard seeds today, but seeds can also come from other countries, including the United States, Hungary, Great Britain and India.


Two research studies, in 2003 and 2006, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, both state the major benefit of mustard seeds in relation to reducing all cardiac events such as heart attacks and strokes.

An article in the American Diabetes Association published in 2003 describes a study in which mustard seeds reduced LDL and triglycerides and increased HDL in rats.

Additionally, mustard seeds contain a powerful anticancer agent, isothiocyanate, which protects cells and reduces the growth of existing cancer cells. They are also full of vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, fiber, calcium, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.


Categories: Food, General Knowledge

305/365 – Laksa

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan culture, which is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements found in Malaysia and Singapore, and Indonesia.


The origin of the name “laksa” is unclear. One theory traces it back to Hindi/Persian lakhshah, referring to a type of vermicelli, which in turn may be derived from the Sanskrit lakshas (लकशस्) meaning “one hundred thousand” (lakh).

It has also been suggested that “laksa” may derive from the Chinese word, meaning “spicy sand” due to the ground dried prawns which gives a sandy or gritty texture to the sauce. The last theory is that the name comes from the similar sounding word “dirty” in Hokkien due to its appearance.


There are two basic types of laksa: curry laksa and asam laksa. Curry laksa is a coconut curry soup with noodles, while asam laksa is a sour fish soup with noodles. Thick rice noodles also known as laksa noodles are most commonly used, although thin rice vermicelli (bee hoon or mee hoon) are also common and some variants use other types.

Curry Laksa

Asam Laksa

Sarawak Laksa

Laksa products

Laksa paste to cook laksa can be purchased from supermarkets. Laksa flavoured instant noodles are also available at supermarkets.


Categories: Food, General Knowledge

303/365 – Egg

Can’t remember if an egg is fresh or hard boiled? Just spin the egg. If it wobbles, it’s raw. If it spins easily, it’s hard boiled.

A fresh egg will sink in water, a stale one will float. Eggs contain all the essential protein, minerals and vitamins, except Vitamin C. But egg yolks are one of few foods that naturally contain Vitamin D.

Eggs also contain choline, which is necessary for healthy cell membranes in the body. Choline stimulates brain development and function and helps preserving memory.

Eggs also are good for your eyes because they contain lutein which helps prevents age-related cataracts and muscular degeneration. In fact, eggs contain more lutein than spinach and other green vegetables.

The color of the egg shell is not related to quality, nutrients, flavour, or cooking characteristics. White shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and white ear lobes.

Brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. Brown egg layers usually are slightly larger and require more food, thus brown eggs usually cost more than white eggs.

An egg shell has as many as 17,000 pores over its surface. A whole egg is about 3 tablespoons worth of liquid, the egg yolk measures about 1 tablespoon of liquid.

Older hens tend to lay bigger eggs but double-yolked eggs are produced by younger hens whose egg production cycles are not yet synchronized.

There are about 70 calories in an uncooked egg and 77 calories in a cooked egg. China produces the most eggs, at about 160 billion per year.

In the US, about 280 million hens produce more than 65 billion eggs per year. A hen can lay about 250 eggs per year.

Chicken are descendants of the red jungle fowl (gallus gallus spadiceus) that lives in Asia. The chicken is one of the first domestic animals, appearing in China around 1400 BC. The are some 150 chicken species and hundreds of chicken breeds.


Categories: Facts, Food, General Knowledge

276/365 – Fish Head Curry

In Malaysia and Singapore , Fish head curry (Chinese and Indian roots) is a dish where the head of an Ikan Merah (red snapper, literally “Red fish”), is semi-stewed in a Kerala-style curry with assorted vegetables such as okra and brinjals and usually served with either rice or bread.

In Mithila, Orissa and Bengal (Bangladesh and West Bengal) where the staple is rice and fish, one very popular fish head curry is made with moog or ung beans but other vegetables can also be used.

The gravy is very thick and very spicy and the Rui fish (Rohita) is most popular for this. Tamarind (asam) juice is frequently added to the gravy to give it a sweet-sour taste (see asam fish); this variety of fish head curry normally has a thinner, orange gravy. Additionally, a relative amount of coconut milk is often used in the curry.

It is a dish of relative popularity amongst Malaysians and Singaporeans and their tourists, although it is generally not categorised as cheap hawker fare.

The origins of the modern dish began in Singapore, with a chef wanting his South Indian-style food to cater to a wider clientele, notably Chinese customers who considered fish head a specialty.

Today, restaurants of not only Indian, but Malay, Chinese and Peranakan association, serve variations of this dish.


Categories: Food, General Knowledge

271/365 – Avocado

Avocados are a fruit, not a vegetable.

There are more than 500 avocado varieties.

Avocados are native to Central and South America, where they have been cultivated for over 10,000 years.

Another name for the avocado is the “alligator pear,” so-called because of its alligator skin texture and pear shape.

Spanish explorers could not pronounce ahuacatl, so they called the avocado aguacate. This is the origin of the word guacamole.

The origin of guacamole is the Aztec avocado sauce called ahuaca-hulli.

The Hass is the most common avocado in the United States and is the only avocado grown year round.

The average avocado contains 300 calories and 30 grams of healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.

Avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit.

Avocados contain more potassium than bananas.

One avocado contains 81 mcg of lutein, an important nutrient for healthy eyes.

Once an avocado is picked, it takes between 7 and 10 days to ripen. Keeping it in the refrigerator will slow down the ripening process, while putting it in a paper bag with a ripe apple will speed up the process.


Categories: Facts, Food