Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rediscovering Plants in Malay Cuisine & Culture - WS


Almost a hundred participants gathered at Fort Canning Park on a Saturday afternoon to rediscover and sample the rich Malay culture through a guided tour of its sprawling 2-hectare Spice Garden.

Split into 4 groups, we got up close and personal to plants that play an important role in both the cuisine and culture of the Malays.


We were introduced to plants commonly featured in Malay cuisine, tradition and ceremonies. The walk was very tiring for me as it involved some climbing up and down steps and slope. Due to lack of regular exercise, I was not as fit as some of the elderly participants. :P

The fascinating tour lasted more than 2 hours.

The guide explaining the uses of the plants.

We were told the early Malays led a semi-nomadic way of life. In the early days, there was a scarcity of food. They sourced around their surroundings, looking for edible plants. They found many ways to prepare and cook them. Most of them have medicinal values.

These old wisdom were passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. Although known to be laced with superstitions and sometimes containing very little logic and science, these beliefs and practices have assimilated in the Malay culture and traditions and some are still practising them until this day.

This leaf tastes sour!

We got to taste some of the leaves plucked from the edible plants and trees. It's amazing how we thought some of the plants were weeds can be eaten! We learn some interesting ways to use these plants. I'll write about it in my next posts.

Thanks to NParks for this interesting tour of Spice Garden.

Note : Jemput is a term often used by Malays to invite guests into their home, start of a meal or just about any activities.






First Commenter - Gran

36 comments:

  1. Looks like fun! And I'm glad you got your exercise :)

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  2. Oops I missed being fc!
    I love botanical hikes like this.Wish I was there.The only wild things I remember eating as a kid in Katong were blingblings and jamboo fruit.My bro and I were scared of banana trees as our amah used to scare us with pontianak witch stories LOL!
    Did you taste any flowers ECL?

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  3. It looks like I have missed something interesting!

    Anyway, I was thinking if there could be a course on how to look for edible food in the semi-nomadic way of life. At the very least, if situation requires, one could still find food from Nature. (@_@)

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  4. That must be a fun and educational walk in the garden.

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  5. That's an interesting tour! There are also spice plants at hort park and science centre. ;)

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  6. Nice tour. I would participate too if there was one here. Great way of getting to know another culture and its cuisine.

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  7. I know I would of enjoyed this.

    Coffee is on.

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  8. Hi Gran!
    Congrats! You're my FC for this post!

    It was a good walking tour, I have to work out more often. :)

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  9. jean,
    I wonder what is the time difference between your country of residence and Singapore.

    Do you miss some of our local plants like pandan leaves, lengkuas, laksa leaves? I have Singaporean friends who are living overseas asking me to send them these plants for their home cooking. :)

    I lived in a kampong as a child and was able to identify many of the spices at the Spice Garden. I'm amazed by the many ways of using them.

    I didn't taste any flowers on this tour. There were so many participants, the plants or trees would be botak (bald) if each one gets to taste the leaves and flowers. :D

    I'll write separate posts on different ways of using and preparing these ingredients.

    My elders told us about the spirits dwelling in banana trees too. The stories are so scary.

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  10. oceanskies,
    I should have informed you. There were two sessions conducted on 2 Saturdays. I signed up for the 1st weekend but couldn't make it and had to attend the 2nd one as a walk-in. :P

    I'll inform you of future events. This is a very fascinating and educational tour.

    I know I would not die of hunger should I have no money to buy food or when there is a war. haha....

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  11. Ebie,
    It was an interesting tour. I learnt so much from it.

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  12. Dora,
    I think the Spice Garden at Fort Canning Hill has the largest collection of spice plants and trees. There's a lot of treasure on this hill. :)

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  13. Mei Teng,
    The place has been there for hundreds of years but not many people know of the huge collection of plants here. You would love this place.

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  14. peppylady,
    Yes, you would love this place, it's fun and there is so much to learn from it.

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  15. That must be an interesting and educational tour. It is also a nature trip. There are edible leaves in the forest. Even potable water could be derived from roots and trunks of some plants.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  16. Wow! These posts about your educational tours is very interesting.

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  17. Wow when was this? I wish I had known about this too...would have been an interesting tour!

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  18. i would love to participate in these kind of tours. Our own culture also uses herbs and plants extensively in almost everything but I don't know much about it.

    My WS is here

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  19. You always fun and interesting activities there. I'm sure all of you enjoyed!Have a great week, ECL!

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  20. Hi ECL, I'm back from my short holidays! Thanks for dropping by my blog when I was not around.

    This sure looks like an interesting and fun tour! I think I will definitely enjoy it!

    Btw, do drop by my blog and join in the Guess This Song contest : )

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  21. what an interesting activity. It'll be interesting to join such event and learn more about these plants.

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  22. You have the most fun events!!! take me along next time, pleaaaaase!

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  23. oh they've now renamed it the malay spice garden? I've been on one such tour w the school in the past. it's amzing how i learn u can plant many herbs at home even in our unforgiving weather.

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  24. Hi ECL France is 6 summer hours behind S'pore.When you wake up in the morn we're asleep here.
    There are major Asian stores here who have almost everything so I can't say we lack for anything except maybe imo authentic satay sauce in a jar.I have the recipe but too lazy.There are even Durians regularly!Anyway I'm not really a cooking fana so I get by.

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  25. wow, a spice garden! that is so cool! i love smelling various herbs.:D

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  26. such a huge collection of plants there, ECL!

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  27. That must have been a most interesting experience touching on old ways and finding a few surprises!

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  28. What leaf is that? Is the tour conducted on a regular basis?

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  29. oh no, ECL!

    Do you and all the visitors eat up the whole of spice garden leh?

    Just kidding la! :)

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  30. I didn't know there's a spice garden at Fort Canning Hill. Is it open to public? where can I find any more such tours? TIA

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  31. Oh..I didn't know there's such event over there.. I would love to go there..

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  32. it looked like a fun trip! i sure would love to put some of those into my mouth for a taste for two. :D

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