Food Facts

I always take for granted that all the halal signs used in Malaysia are legal until the Islamic authorities highlighted this issue on TV. Only then, we really take our time to read the signs so that we won’t be cheated by fake halal signs.

So it seems that we have to be really careful in choosing what to eat even in Malaysia and never take things for granted. Remember the raid on a mee hoon and laksa (mee hoon [or bihun] and laksa are two types of Malaysian noodles) factory that was shown on TV? I never thought that mee hoon and laksa (that was made mainly from rice flour) can be non halal; but I was wrong. We do not only take into account of the ingredients to make sure whether the food is halal and toyyibah but also at the surrounding area and how the food is processed.

Mum showed me a type of vinegar that was commonly used in Kuala Terengganu at one time (in fact not only in Terengganu but also in other states in Malaysia) that actually contains rice wine. And the vinegar is still widely sold in KL stores in their vinegar section. And so are certain sauce, ketchup, chocolate, candy, cake and others that contains alcohol, or flavoured with liquor.

It is nice to see that Carrefour has taken the step to label foods containing alchohol but that is not the end of the problem. We still have to be sure of the halal status for food containing animal extract and of animal products such as capsule, ice-creams, cheese, marshmallows, chocolates, candy and a lot more. And as highlighted in TV about the cases of smuggled chicken and meat from other countries, we have to be more careful as we have no idea of where those smuggled items were sent to.

Then comes the issue of toyyibah – hygiene in storing and preparing food, the issue of over using pesticides, preservatives, colourings and other chemicals that makes food not safe to be consumed. There was a study showing that some fruits and vegetables were contaminated by over using the pesticides and other chemicals. And so are the uses of dangerous artificial food colouring and flavouring to make food looks good and appetising.

Next, we have to avoid too much salt, sugar and trans fat in our food. Since a lot of food in our market contains trans fat, grocery shopping is becoming more and more complicated. When I read that California is going to ban the use of trans fat in food shortly; I wish Malaysia can do the same for I’m tired of reading the food labels written in letters that were much too small for reading.

So, what can be done to ensure healthy eating when even fresh fruits and vegetables are not that safe to be eaten? We should turn to organic farming and since the organic vegetables are very expensive, we should plant our own vegetables. And that was what we did since last year. We may not be able to plant all the vegetables that we need but at least most of the green lefty vegetables (and some ulam/local salad) come fresh from our own garden.

[The potted bayam (spinach) and also kangkung (back)]

[The overcrowded sawi]

‘We buy more tube vegetables and beans; and as best as we could, we avoid buying agricultural products from China. The problem is, in most supermarkets and markets, traders do not label the country of origin for fruits and vegetables except for some like carrots and celery that come in their original packaging or certain fruits like apples, pears and oranges that have trademark stickers on them.

My grandma said that in the old days things were simpler when one just had to go out of their house to pick most of their vegetables and salads. Especially in Terengganu when we are blessed with lots of fresh fish; a meal of ikang singgang, ikang panggang, budu and lots of fresh organic ulang (Terengganu salad) is low in fat, nutritious and free of trans fat, preservatives, artificial colourings and pesticides. And so is our khepok leko ( a fish based food from Terengganu) especially khepok leko rebuh (the boiled version). Even the fried khepok only contains oil but no trans fat; so we have to go back to our traditional home cooked food for healthier eating. But since the Terengganu kue (traditional cakes) are sweet, please remember to cut down the amount of sugar in them.

19 thoughts on “Food Facts

  1. What a marvelous child you are. Must have inherited from your mom. Anyway, this is a good topic for further discussion. I believe, using halal label is not a good idea at all. Why should a true muslim products which already halal need such labeling. This halal label idea is actually promoting foods produced by non muslim to muslim. Certain quaters are indirectly cheating muslim into eating non halal foods. And we, muslim are helping them by promoting the use of halal label. In Jeddah where I’m working now or in KSA as a whole, there is no such halal labeling since majority are all muslim. So think about that.

  2. It must be wonderful to be able to live in Jeddah. Mum said grocery shopping in Jeddah is fun since in KSA there is no question of non halal food in supermarkets, markets or grocery stores. Furthermore the region is blessed with lots of very healthy and nutritious food such as dates, olives, the Habbatus Sauda and of course the zam-zam. I like the idea of writing about the pro and cons of halal labeling. Thank you for the encouraging words. Please do visit my blog again.

  3. Amani,
    Your intelligence is shining through your writes. You must be taking after both your parents.

    Talking about going green and organic farming…aunty has plentiful space all around to plant vegetation. BUT my daily constant visitors are here to pull them even before full grown. The other day, I took some tapioca stems from a friend’s house in Ampang. I planted them deep inside other plants but the monkeys came and pulled them out.

    I tried planting chillies. Before the plants could reach 6 inches in height, the siput babi came and ketam them all away. I pity them all, so there is no slug pallets sprinkled on the soil.

    My Kunyit leaves, were seen sprouting for a couple of weeks but was being ‘ketam’ by grass hoppers.

    What no body touched are the herbal plants that are plentiful and overgrown on the patch. BUT I am not in the know as to their proper name. I called them “pokol multi purpose”. A friend came by telling me it’s for cholestrol reduction, another said, its to lower blood pressure, another said to be for diabetes and gout…so I gave that name. Just boil the leaves and drink.

    Another is the “anti-cancer” plant with red stems, creeping freely in the planter’s box. Those is the pots are regularly cut. Sometimes dried, sometimes thrown away. They grew
    very well anywhere at all.

    Some friends ask me to go and sell to the “kedai seh seh” but I am too lazy to do that.

    Sireh lived healthily for some time until we kept “getuh-getuh” uncontrolbaly and they looked limp now. Freinds sometimes dropped by and taking them home to plant. Some do not plant on time…I once caught her putting the plants on the ground in the pretext to plant. But she was laughing away when I saw how she planted them. Not into the ground but on the ground. Hahahhaha.

    Now, it’s almost 12.50a.m, Amir Harith has just woken up from the 10:00 o’clock morning nap…and not yet making a single sound…but he kept looking at me…

    so long aiman amani…perhaps aunty kena cari benih indoor vegetable and plant them in the house…like I now hang clothes in the house to prevent monkeys using them to wipe their mouths and toying with them.

  4. Once I had participated in the Halal Food Seminar in Malacca. True and noble indeed as what was intended by the authority…but some company’s do not reapply for renewal halal signs and they went unchecked by them. So, we keep eating them.

    About fats in the food…most times we use olive oil for cooking/frying. Other than that, we boil…either singgang ikan, boiled bayam – take 2-4 pods of garlic, ketok. I big red onion, ketok, ginger – 2 inches, ketok (give it a hard knock till broken), bilis or fish balls and the like….boil all. Add fish sauce or halagel salt …Lastly add cleaned bayam for just a few munites. Serve hot.

    Fish curry or chicken curry…don’t fry onions…???Yes, Just boil the curry powder (use more curry powder here), onions, ginger, garlic for half an hour and then add plain yogurt or coffee mate. No asam jawa required because the yogurt has taken its place. Ffinally add fish or chicken.

    Okay, okay I’ve to go…Amir Harith has maneuvered himself to the edge of the cushion platform now…he does that for ten times while I JELAJOH ur blog…

  5. Dear Aunty Royaltlady,

    Guess Muslims must be more serious about ‘halal and thoyyibah’ in choosing what to eat. We are lucky as there is no monkey around here. May be indoor garden is not a bad idea-daun bawang grows easily and looks nice in small pots.

  6. There is a tree, a legume tree, that I think we Malaysians (including Jabatan Pertanian) kind of miss out in our quest for herbal medicine.

    It is Moringa oleifera, the miracle tree. In Malaysia, it comes by various names- Munggai, Merunggai or Kelo. The Indians just love it.

    The leaves contain 7 times the vitamin C in oranges, 4 times the calcium in milk, 4 times the vitamin A in carrots, 2 times the protein in milk and 3 times the potassium in bananas. They also contain various anti-oxidant that we badly need.

    In Africa, India and South America it is said to even cure AIDS!

    I am now trying to propagate the cultivation of Moringa both for human as well as animal fodder. Right now about twenty seedlings are growing well in my house compouind. Trying to find seeds is a problem because the fruits are taken green by its lovers – for curry!

  7. In KT we call them buoh mmungga and I really love buoh mmunga in fish curry. We normally buy buoh mmungga from a pasar tani; sold by an Indian who call them something like buah murungga. The funny thing is he also brought along lots of buoh mmungga tua. And when mum asked him what are they for, he said that there are people who asked for them for a reason which he does not know. Hope we have not eaten all of the mmungga seeds that you need for your seedlings. Thanks for the information.

  8. I love merunggai curry so much. I can only eat it when I go back to my home town, TI. There used to be a merunggai tree infront of our neighbour’s house. Now no more. I can’t find any indian restaurant in KL serving the dish. What more in KSA. Mr Azahar, where do you get the seedlings from. I wish to grow them when I go back. So far I only planted 4 trees in front of my house, 2 mangga, 1 pulasan & 1 jambu air. I don’t know how the trees are doing now.

  9. What a coincidence, so do I.I love mum’s fish curry with merunggai. Mum used to tell me about a big merunggai tree by the kitchen of a bungalow rented by Tabung Haji in Jeddah about 20 years ago. The fruits are bigger than the ones found in Malaysia and tastier too. We have a mango tree that bears lots of sweet and juicy fruits and a dragonfruit plant that is too young to bear any fruit and lots of green vegetables.

  10. aiman,doc azahar,may 13

    re: murungai

    my indian friends suggest planting the limb (vegetative propagation) instead of seeds for better foliage and fruiting.

  11. may13

    according to my friends, just cucuk je(about a metre long). to be safe nurse it in a polybag first (or whatever bag).

  12. Seeds are difficult to get here as the pods are collected when they are still young for making curry, like what Aiman recently ate.

    Growing from cuttings is easier, but make sure you choose healthy stems measuring more than 2 incches in diameter and plant them in well fertilized soil.

  13. Sorry I can’t help it-moringa curry is simply delicious.The same goes to turtle eggs. One of the things that I wish to have when ever we go back to Terengganu. At least there are other ways to cultivate moringa.

  14. I’d love to grow vegetables in poly bag or plastic containers but i’m not sure about their safety, whether any toxic components being released to the plants which i’m going to eat. i’ll try to grow them in terra cota or clay container but surely they are rather heavy to move around.
    Anyway, best wishes.

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