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Saturday July 7, 2007

The goodness of humble nutmeg


Photos by DARRAN TAN 

NUTMEG is available as preserved fruits and as oils and balms that soothe headaches, cough or muscular pain.  

Nutmeg powder is used as spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines while the Japanese sprinkle it into their curry. 

Aromatic: Nutmeg enhances the fragrance of Crab and Prawn Clay Pot Rice.
The fruit and mace (the reddish covering of the seed) are also flavoursome additions to sauces, soups and dishes in European cuisine.  

It is not a common ingredient in Chinese food, though. Nevertheless, Restoran Ngai Fong's owner David Chou is set to popularise nutmeg-infused dishes to make known its “irreplaceable goodness”.  

Added flavour: Chou with the nutmeg-infused dishes.
“Nutmeg is Malaysia's national treasure. All parts of the fruit can be used for something. I didn't know its benefits until my friend, who has an orchard, encouraged me to try some nutmeg juice to cure a bad cough. I thought it wouldn't work because nutmeg is not something pricey but I stopped coughing after a few days,'' he said. 

This piqued his interest and he read up on the subject, which left him more impressed with the fruit's many medicinal benefits.  

It also prompted him to add nutmeg into Chinese dishes. 

It took him three years to perfect the flavours as fresh nutmeg is pungent.  

“The trick is to cook the nutmeg for a certain period of time to kill its strong natural taste before adding it to the dishes,'' Chou said.  

As a start, the restaurant has introduced seven nutmeg dishes.  

“Nutmeg is such an amazing gift from Mother Nature. It can mask fishy tastes and add a lovely tang to vegetables. Apart from tasting pleasant, it helps one's digestive system and warms one's stomach,” he said.  

Shredded and diced nutmeg is sprinkled on Stewed Chinese Carp Fish Head and Steamed Cod Fillet. Both dishes lure with the subtle and appetising tang from nutmeg. Adding to the fla-vours are mushroom, cori-ander and turnip.  

Crab and Prawn Claypot Rice has an even stronger fragrance when nutmeg is added. 

When added to vegetables, the dishes taste slightly sour, like that of Thai dishes.  

Refreshing: Fresh (left) and double-boiled nutmeg juice.
“We have tried it out with many types of vegetables, many do not go well with nutmeg so we picked only the crunchy ones like lotus, sweet pea, lily pulp, baby corn and Chinese celery cabbage. It may not appeal to diners who do not fancy sour dishes,” Chou said.  

Also a widely recognised Chinese herb, nutmeg is used with three other herbs in a frog dish.  

“We do not put too many types of herbs in to prevent them from overpowering each other. These lend just the right amount of herbal taste to the frog,” he said. You will feel a nice warm feeling in your stomach after drinking the soup.” 

The restaurant serves two nutmeg beverages to complement the nutmeg spread - ice-blended fresh nutmeg juice with a dash of lemon juice and nutmeg double boiled with rock sugar.  

 

  • Restoran Ngai Fong, No 49-1-2-3, Jalan Barat, Off Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2145 3848, 2142 8734, 2144 9398. Business hours: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm (daily). Non-halal. 

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