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Halia Restaurant at Singapore Botanic Gardens

The last time I was at the Halia Restaurant was in 2010 for dinner. Halia is Malay word for ginger. The restaurant is located in the Ginger Garden of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. My research says that here are more than 250 varieties of gingers growing within the Botanic Gardens. It was a Sunday and the Gardens were teeming of families, tourists, tour groups, joggers and others. The place was just buzzing with activities. The Halia Restaurant is set amidst lush greenery and has indoor and outdoor dining facilities.

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Workshop held on 29th March 2014

On Saturday 29th March 2014 , I conducted Cooking with the Spice Queen, a workshop, highlighting South Indian vegetarian cooking. More than 25 participants attended the event and they got to relish all the dishes. I shared recipes for Banana Stem Kootu (finely chopped highly nutritious banana stem cooked with spices and mung lentils), Cauliflower Satham (aromatic long grain rice, tempered and cooked with cauliflower florets and mildly spiced) and Pumpkin Prathamam (Kerala style dessert of pumpkin, date palm sugar and sago pearls.

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The Smell of Sambar

The sambar I once had at a railway station in Kerala is truly memorable too. Someone told me that it must be the Palagat brahmin’s way of sambar. Another friend of mine said he had a fantastic sambar in Coimbatore. He said the sambar was of blackish green (very unappetizing to look at it seems), but he also said that it was the best sambar he has ever had in his entire life. Apparently, a lot of ground coriander leaves and grilled onions were ground and added to the sambar. Sambar with radish and drumsticks ….mmmmmm mind blowing.

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I Love Rambutans!

These days I have sentiments towards rambutans that are sold with the stalks as I secretly believe that the fruits are newly picked. The rambutans must be bright red and the ends of the spikes can be still green. Do look out for some black ants when you buy from the stalls. I had the bad experience of not looking carefully and placed a whole bag of rambutans on my lap to enjoy the fruit slowly while watching TV and was attacked by the ants that emerged out of the bag, slowly and surely and eventually crawled all over my body!

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Know your Eggs

•Eggs can harbour a bacterium called salmonella. Salmonella can cause food poisoning and even death.
•The only way we can be absolutely certain of not being infected with salmonella is by only eating eggs that are well cooked, with hard yolks (yolks not being runny at all).

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Shrimp Paste

Shrimp paste or belacan as it is commonly known in Singapore is rich in protein and vitamins and essential ingredient for making chilli pastes and curry pastes in Asian cooking. It is cooked before consuming and it adds a delicious aroma to cooked food. The lighter type of shrimp paste is used mainly for making dipping sauces or as marinades and the darker ones for making curry paste.

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Ros Murukku

Also known as Bee Hives Crispies, Achimurukku, Ros Murukku, Honeycomb Cookies, Dok Jok, Kueh Goyang and Kueh Loyang

There are many versions of this – I mean there are the Chinese, Indian, Thai, Malay and Indonesian versions. Though basically they are all made the same way, the ingredients may be slightly different. The texture will be different too. Kueh Ros, as I call it has a very fragrant, sweet flavour from the coconut milk that is used and is an addictive snack. It is best to have someone to help you while you are making it. One must be quite agile if she or he wants to do it singlehandedly.

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Let Us Drink Tea

To many people making a cup of tea is either putting some tea leaves into a pot, pouring boiling water to steep the tea and then sweetening it with sugar and serving it with milk. For some it is even easier – just take a tea bag, put it into a cup of boiling water and tea is ready. But, making a proper cup of tea is quite an art. Tea is a source of antioxidants and has the ability to prevent skin cancer. Coffee may be invigorating but tea is soothing.

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Make the Most of Brinjals

Brinjals with dark purple skin contain a bitter liquid just under the skin. The bitter taste disappears after about 20 minutes of cooking. Lightly salt the cut brinjal and place it in a colander and let it stand for 20 minutes. The salt will draw out the bitter juice. You can rinse off the salt if you want, but this is not necessary. It is not necessary to salt brinjals that are small but it would be good to salt brinjals with lots of seeds. Another way to remove the bitterness is to peel the brinjal and to remove the layer of flesh closest to the skin. To peel the skin of the brinjal easily – hold it over the gas stove and let the skin burn.

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Good, Bad and Necessary Fat

•Essential Fatty acids – Found in soya bean oil, sardines and other oily fish, walnuts and dark green vegetables varieties. Take these in moderation. These kind of fats are necessary for keeping the immune system healthy and for regulating airflow through the lungs and blood flow throughout the body.

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