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Ingredients

Is MSG Really Bad for Your Health?

More dining establishments are going MSG-free these days, reflecting widespread consumer concerns about the consequences of eating too much of this commonly used flavour enhancer. Formally known as monosodium glutamate, MSG is usually found in Asian cooking, as well as in canned soups and sauces. Some people try to steer clear of MSG completely, claiming it gives them headaches and causes weight gain. It’s perhaps most synonymous with Chinese food, thanks to a 1968 opinion piece in the prestigious New …

Is Vegan-Friendly Coconut Nectar the New “Agave”?

Natural sweeteners are all the rage in vegan-friendly or vegetarian kitchens, with products like coconut nectar or agave syrup appearing in everything from desserts to baked goods and breakfasts. Vegetarian or vegan cooks are employing these naturally sourced sweeteners not only for their perceived health benefits but also due to the widespread use of bone char in sugar production. Many manufacturers use bone char to decolourise or bleach sugars through an absorption process. Bone char is a byproduct of slaughtered cattle …

Milk Your Almonds

Easy-to-make almond milk Almond milk has long been a popular alternative to dairy milk for the lactose-intolerant. It is lower in fat, a great source of protein and calcium and, for those who avoid dairy for ethical reasons it is cruelty-free. With its creamy texture and naturally sweet flavour, it is the most viable substitute to dairy milk available right now. But it’s also a rather expensive: expect to pay SG$24 for a 1-litre bottle of raw almond milk from …

Candlenuts: Fire and Flavour

The candlenut bears a striking similarity to its cousin, the macadamia nut – both have cream coloured skins and similar rough textures. But the candlenut is more popularly used as a spice in Asian dishes to flavour curries, condiments and marinades. The candlenut is also known as buah keras, which literally translates to hard fruit, and originates from the flowering species Aleurite moluccanus (commonly known as the moluccana tree) that is found in the tropics and other warm climates. The tree can …

Discovering the Torch Ginger Flower

If you stumble across a torch ginger plant, you’ll soon find yourself staring into an exotic and beautiful pink flower – one that is synonymous with Malay and Nyonya (Peranakan) dishes. The torch ginger can grow up to 20 feet in height, and the flowers (bunga kantan in Malay) are buds that appear at the end of tall, straight stalks that can be 5 feet long. The name derives from its appearance: when the plant or flower is young, it looks like a flaming …

The Sweetest of Rivals

Palm sugar is a unique and versatile ingredient. While often found in Asian desserts, it’s increasingly a popular choice for savoury dishes or as an addition to broths in main courses. This natural sweetener is derived from palm trees and is sometimes known as coconut palm sugar. Different varieties of palms can be used to create palm sugar of varying textures but all go through similar extraction processes. Manufacturers usually process the sugar palm juice into three types of sugar: …