Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Making of Sago Pearl

Sago is a starch extracted from the pith of sago palm stem, Metroxylon sagu. It is a once a major staple food for the Melanaus of Sarawak.

The sago palm grows in the swamps of Sarawak. It can grow up to 30 meters in height, at 1.5m/year. The palm will only reproduce once before dying. They are harvested at the age of 7 – 15 years, just before flowering, when the stems are full of starch stored for use in reproduction. 1 palm is estimated to yield 150 to 300 kg of starch.

Sago flour contains almost pure carbohydrate. It has very little protein, vitamins, or minerals. 100G of dry sago contains 355 calories, some 94g of carbohydrate, 0.2g of protein, 0.5g of dietary fiber, 10mg of calcium, 1.2 mg of iron, and negligible amounts of fat, carotene, thiamine, and ascorbic acid.

The Melanaus uses the sago flour to make tebaloi cracker. The pearl-sago are consume directly together with peanuts, grilled prawns , or umai.

Process of making sago-pearl
1. first, the sago palm is felled
2. the pith is crushed and kneaded to release the starch
3. the crushed pith is wash and strained to extracted the starch
4. the raw starch suspension is allowed to settle
6. a sieve is used to separate the pearl form the flour, flipping is continued to produce more pearls
7. finally, the pearl sago is heated over fire to dry it up.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

CNY Decorative Plants : Pussy Willow 银柳

银柳 ( pronounced yin liu in Mandarin ) is Pussy Willow, a shrub of  Salix family.  Salix is a big family of around 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, distributed all over northern hemisphere.  Most Salix are known as willow, some narrow-leaved shrubs are called osier.

The Salix used for decoration during CNY could be S. gracilistyla, a shrub native to Japan, Korea and China.   However, any Salix with furry flower buds along a long straight branch is qualify as decorative cutting during the spring festival.  Thus the list could extend to S. caprea, S. discolor,  S. cinerea etc

The furry flower buds are actually male flowers.  The buds appear early spring, before the leaves emerge, after the long cold winter.

Pussy willow ( yin liu ) in Mandarin sounds like “money” ( yin liang ), thus having the pussy willow around symbolizes abundant luck and prosperity.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

CNY Decorative Plants : Ribbon Dracaena 万年青

The ‘Lucky Bamboo’ is actually not a bamboo.  It is Dracaena sanderiana, a small shrub of the family Ruscaceae from the tropical region of west Africa.

The Chinese called it 观音竹(Buddha’s bamboo),万年青 (Evergreen).  Others called it Ribbon Dracaena, Belgian Evergreen … 

Its name after Henry Frederick Conrad Sander (1847-1920), a German-English gardener.  Dracaena means "female dragon" in ancient Greek.
The Ribbon Dracaena is germinated from short cuttings, arranged into multiple tiers; or trained into spiral-shaped ; or shaped to resemble a pineapple.