01 March 2013

Grow your own herbs and spices

We feel like having asam laksa today, that spicy-sour and tangy fish-based soup noodle that's so Penang and so Malaysian! We all love it.

It's challenging to make mainly because of the amount of fresh ingredients required to produce that unique and powerful taste of asam laksa. And if you don't live in the SEA region, it would be difficult to source some of those leaves that are used.
I am slowly nurturing my herb garden so that I may have my own supply of fresh herbs whenever I need it. It's more convenient than having to run to the store or market for 1 stalk of lemongrass, for example!

The daun kesum (polygonum leaves) in the container on top and to the left of the chopping board  is an essential ingredient, otherwise you will not get that trademark asam fragrance. Then there is a large chunk of lengkuas (galangal), against which are resting 2 stalks of lemongrass.The pink buds are the buds of the torch ginger flower (bunga kantan). There's a whole bunch of mint leaves in the colander together with fresh red chilies and dried tamarind slices next to the pineapple.

Of the fresh ingredients, the daun kesum, lemongrass and galangal are homegrown!

It isn't that difficult to grow them, and you will draw immense satisfaction from the spice of your labour.

Growing daun kesum

  • After buying a fresh bunch from the market and using the leaves, keep the stalks.
  • Stand the stalks in a glass of water about 1 inch in depth.
  • Keep them in a place where there is indirect sunlight.
  • You may change the water daily to prevent any mosquitoes from breeding.
  • After a few days, you should see roots forming. There may also be new green leaves. Let the roots grow to a substantial length (just some guess work will do).
  • Transplant your daun kesum into a pot or straight into the ground in a sunny spot in your garden. Remember to water it.

Gingers and lemongrass

  • These are easy to propagate plants. 
  • Just get a medium sized rhizome to begin planting your collection of ginger plants.
  • To ensure your success, choose a rhizome that has already sprouted some roots or shoots.

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