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Archive for the ‘Asian botanic garden’ Category

Tom yam kung … a dangerous path! The hottest of all Thai soups owes its burning effect to a small pepper in the shape of a “mouse shit” (1). A generous spoonful of this soup nicely tints in »aubergine » the incredulous face of ill-informed consumers. Hilarious initiated neighbours will rejoice in remembering their own baptism of fire. Burnings in the mouth, puffs of heat, intense sweat, all hardly calmed by large glass of ice water.

Thai kitchen abounds in traps! Sometimes red, sometimes green, the small peppers are hidden everywhere and appear in the most unexpected places, even penetrating the apparent sweetness of certain desserts.

« Vegetable-spices », these condiments are so perfectly integrated in several Asian kitchens that their South American origin comes as an amazement. The flow of exchanges fostered during the century of the famous explorers, some 500 years ago brought them to this continent.

Chillies have a near to neutral taste. The strong sensations linked to their consumption are produced by an intense signal on the pain sensors located in the mouth and throat, simulating for example the swallowing of a too hot coffee.

The culprit of this « apparent » burnings is the capsicum oil contained in the flesh and seeds of the peppers. Not very soluble in water it binds with the sensors and resist the washing with drinks usually available to consumers. The casein of a glass of milk or yoghurt would be a good detergent. Without this available, a piece of bread or a spoonful of rice is of some help.

Peppers are found in various forms in the different Asian kitchens. Usually fresh, in powder or incorporated in a sauce (nam preek) in Thailand, they are a component of Sambal  in Indonesia, Sichuan chili paste in China, kochujang in Korea and tuong ot toi in Vietnam.

iThe feeling of pain produced by peppers has also positive effects. The brain reacts by producing endorphin, generating a sense of pleasure. Once the practice is acquired, eating hot meals becomes addictive. Consumption of chillies brings many other benefits linked to their content in vitamins and the therapeutic effects of capsicum.

Thai « Singha » beer, popular with travellers, can be replaced with a glass of milk to accompany spicy dishes. Instead of this, one might prefer to indulge in the « attaching » warmth of hot Asian meals.

  1. Preek Kee Noo

Reference : Wikipedia

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Markets in South East Asia and Chinatowns all around the world are sometimes filled with a strong and slightly strange odor. It is the season of durians (1), the king of fruits. They look roughly like prehistoric rugby balls, covered with large trianguler spins and so generous is fragrance that they do not have to be opened to be recognised from far.

«Smells like hell, taste like heaven»! The reputation to be one of the most stinky thing precedes the encounter of this fruit by travelers. This arbitrary qualifier is a disrespectful manner to treat a fruit, little known out of Asia, but held in high regard in this continent.

The durian is originally from Malaysia and Indonesia where his name means “covered of spines”. It matures on trees reaching sizeable dimensions, at the image of the fruits that they carry. The cultivation of the durian also extended towards Thailand, in particular the South, in the province of Chantaburi, the greatest zone of current production. It’s popularity is reflected in it’s prices which depends on the variety and quality, but remains always high. It is a fruit of great luxury.

For the Chinese the durian heats the body and is often eaten with fruits reducing this effect. In Indonesia and Malaysia people believe that his consumption has aphrodisiac virtues. Despite popular devotion, he is usually banished in public transportations, hotels and other places where his strong presence is not compatible with promiscuity or lack of ventilation.

The king of the fruits is appreciated for his delicacy and his nobility by millions of Asians, often shocked and puzzled by the scatologic qualifiers that foreigners use to describe him. This huge difference in appreciation cannot be objective, it is a state of mind. In a striking way, the example of durians illustrates more subtle conditionnements of our brains, that we are often not aware of.

In himself the durian has neither nauseous odors, nor a delicious taste. These qualifications are given by our conditioned mind, in reaction to measures transmitted by the nose and the mouth. The scent of this fruit is strong, that’s all! The other appreciations refer to our life experience, analysed and filed by our brain. This system generates useful signals, like warnings or attractions. Nevertheless, if left without control, our mind also produces less advantageous associations.

Bad taste, disgusting smell, unbearable vision, unpleasant feelings, cacophonous music, these are all conditionnements related to negative experiments or not controlled associations of our brain. In the later case, and without even trying, we might miss many opportunities to discover new treasures. Indulging a durian is just one example. If we fail to open our mind and to prepare ourselves for a neutral approach, we might remain estranged to a whole culture.

What millions of humans finds delicious, beautiful, fragrant, sensual and harmonious cannot really be completely reverse for the others. The difficulty is to master our mind and to keep an open and neutral approach of new experiments. The benefits of such an attitude are immediate, for example the satisfaction to appreciate a durian.

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Durian discrimination

Durian discrimination

These are some qualification of the odor of the durian found on Internet sites :

« smelling like stinky socks » , »it smells like a poorly maintained public convenience », »It smelled like someone's 2-year-old had a stomach ailment about a week before and no one had carried off the soiled nappies yet ». « Like eating custard in a sewer ». "It smells like a poorly maintained public convenience but the taste is worse!".

References:

1(May – Octobre).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durian

http://www.durianpalace.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odor

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Interview is in French … the “fruity” part (durian and sambal chilies) is somewhere in the middle. No harm to watch the whole video if you like French jokes or if you are a fan of Anggun.

C’est en français … la partie consacrée aux fruits d’Asie se trouve vers le milieu (durian et piments sambal). Il n’est pas gênant de regarder l’ensemble, pour les amateurs d’humour gaulois ou les fans d’Anggun.

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The Banyan does not come to life in a fairy tale. A fruit-eating bird might one day drop a seed on an elevated spot of an appropriate tree. Starting as a parasite (an epiphyte) is not an auspicious birth. The following years are creepy as the young plant disserves his common name “strangler fig”. Dropping a strong system of aerial roots, he will hug, envelop and finally integrate his dyeing host.

Then the new tree, a majestic banyan, begins his horizontal colonisation. From his big branches, roots are reaching toward the ground, growing into new trunks. This amazing ability allows him to spread over sizeable areas, sculpting a landscape of natural cathedrals.

The banyan originates fro India and Sri Lanka where he is worshiped by Hindus but he is also respected by Buddhists (like in Thailand) or seen as home of spirits in the Philippines.

Without value as timber and with fruits only eaten by insects, birds and bats, the banyan has nevertheless an important role to play in the ecosystem. Humans are (still) respecting him as a big tree, as they are amazed by his tortuous architecture and enjoy the possibility to rest under his wide canopy.

Banyan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banyan references see French text

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