The best thing about living in Malaysia is the availability of a wide array of food choices, particularly spicy food originating from Indian and Malay cultures. However, adding spices into foods is nothing new- it is believed to be practised thousands of years ago by ancient societies.
All over the world, spices have been used for different reasons, such as for worship, as currency, even to launch wars (to conquer spice-rich countries). Today, the role of spices continue to evolve, as they are now being used to preserve food, for cosmetics, aromatherapy and as medicine.
The most common spices used in cooking include chilli, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, pepper, cardamom, ginger and star anise. Combined, they form a unique, delectable taste and aroma that stimulate appetite and mood.
It is not uncommon to break out into sweat or tears after taking a fiery curry or laksa. This gives diners a cathartic effect, as spices release endorphins and provides a pleasant but temporary ‘high’. Spicy food, although an acquired taste, is now well-received around the world as people start recognising the health benefits of spices.
Culturally, most spicy food in the Indian and Malay cultures are eaten with the right hand instead of using cutlery. Using the left hand is considered rude and culturally disrespectful particularly for the Malays.
Raw, uncooked vegetables such as four-angled beans, long beans, cabbage, young mangoes and herbs such as pegaga, dill and mint are usually taken with spicy food to offset the spiciness and heaviness of the meal.
- Believed to be good for cardiovascular health and hypertension
- Anti-bacterial effect
- Certain spices such as garlic believed to contain anti-cancer elements
- Many spices are natural antioxidants
- Natural aphrodisiac and fertility booster
- Flavourful and delicious
- Meals are often heavy and not easily digested
- Will worsen heartburn or other digestive problems
- May lead to over-eating and loss of control of weight management plans
- Tend to be more meat-oriented