Most Favourite Spices

Scientific name:Piper nigrum Linn.
Vernacular name:Prik Thai

Pepper is native to the monsoon forests of the Malabar coast in southwest India. The pepper vine is now grown in much of tropical Asia. Pepper is the most popular spice in most of the recipes in cookery, to aid digestion, to preserve food and to enchance its flavour. Pepper has a warm, woody smell that is fresh, pungent and agreeably aromatic. Pepper is neither sweet nor savoury, just pungent, and can therefore be used in both types of dish. It is so popular that it has given its name to a wide rang of dishes.

Pepper is perennial vine with stout stem, dark green leaves, white flowering spikes and green to dark red fruit. The vine takes seven to eight years to teach full maturity, and continues to bear fruit for 15-20 years. It is trained up posts of the tress grown for hade in coffee plantations.

There are black, white and green peppercorns. The black pepper which are the whole berries picked unripe and sum dried until shriveled. Is the most widely used, while the white peppercorns are ripe berries with the red skins removed before being bleached white by drying in the sun. it is hotter and less subtle than the black. It is mostly used by sprinkling it in powdered form in many cooked dishes. Green peppercorns are the immature berry pickled in brine or freeze-dried while still fresh, is not as hot and has a clean, fresh taste.

Pepper is said to help relieve flatulence and to have diuretic properties. It is the main source of heat in tropical Asian food.

Lemon Grass
Scientific name:Cymbopogon citrates Stapf
Vernacular name:Ta Khrai

Lemon grass is found throughout Southeast Asia. The culinary stem and leaf have a distinct lemon flavour. The base and lover shoots of the plant are used in cooking, and give a fresh, elusively aromatic taste in many Thai dishes.

A perennial tufted grass, up to 1.5 n has clumped, bulbous stems becoming leaf-blades and a branched panicle of flowers. Lemon grass grown readily in almost any soils, its bulb and leaves constantly multiplying. It is easily grown and thrives in a hot, sunny climate with some rainfall. It is better suited in sandy soil, which produces a higher content of the essential oil.

It is a common ingredient in Thai cooking. The coarse, long flat leaves are normally discarded, and only around 10-15 cm of the bulbous base used. If the lemon grass is to be eaten raw, the outer layers of the bulb should be peeled away until the pinkish ring inside appears; the tender portion is then finely sliced. Lemon grass is also bruised and added whole to many curry dishes, or sliced before pounded to a paste with other ingredients and added to many dishes. Lemon grass remains fibrous safer cooking so avoid chewing it. It combines well with garlic, shallots and chillies, and with fresh coriander to favour fish, shellfish, chicken and pork.

In the past, lemon grass was prescribed to relieve flatulence and as sedative. The culinary stem is used for stomachache, diarrhea, headaches, fevers and is antiseptic. The essential oil is used for cosmetics and food, and in aromatherapy to improve circulation and muscle tone. The antiseptic oil treats athlete’s foot and acne, and when sprayed, reduces air-borne infections.

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