Pronunciation: /spʌɪs/ noun
1. an aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to flavor food.
Or, as Wikipedia say, a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or vegetative substance (except the leaf, which is known as "herb") primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food (oh that's what the guide said too!).
To know spice better, in terms of variety and it's use, we should always go to the expert. Academically a scholar is a good reference. But if you are looking at "less book but more practical" way, you should go to someone who almost live, eat, sleep and even breath spices.
I call it "the making of a wonderful world (of spices)" - machine running non-stop processing the main player of a thousand interesting dishes (ahh.............. *Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" playing in background).
Anyway, if the last thing you want to experience when you walk into a shop wishing to know more about something is to get shooed away with a cold-I am too busy for your questions unless you are buying-face, I suggest you come to this one here because the owner is nice enough to explain their merchandise patiently.
Look, I have proof!
(p/s: isn't the straw hat something? Look at that flower! Geez, sorry Jaime, I just can't help it but keep on noticing your "topi"!)
Penang got her name after the malay name of betel nut - Pinang. Penang's "full name" is Pulau Pinang, where Pulau means "island". Thus Pulau Pinang means "the island of betel nut". Today, many part of the world still maintain the habit of chewing wrapped betel nut but you hardly see people practice this locally (except some older generations). A typical betel nut wrap is less common these days. Instead, they come in "flavors" now. Yes, some smart merchants make it fancy by adding in chocolate or cherry to make it.....well, let's just say, "taste trendier".
I was told betel nut wrap played a medical role, like antiseptic to kill the germs that cause bad breath (ewwww!!!) in the olden days. So how does it taste like? Err, sorry folks, I brush and gargle Listerine. :P
Another specialty is Nutmeg. The fruit can be made pickle, or dried and grated then rind with sugar then eaten like titbits or the latter can be used as garnishing for local desert - ice-kacang. Or made drinks, white in color if it is juiced raw and red with it's cooked. When processed, it's oil and balm, being used as medicine; and made powdered to be widely used as seasoning for food.
One interesting fact that I learned from this trail is: nutmeg has sex! I mean there are male and female nutmeg. Now I don't know whether it is related to something/anything in our world, it is said that every tree that produces nutmeg fruits has (much) less male than female.
The difference between two? Well, I am not into writing a thesis about nutmeg so I am going to make it short here - one has 2 sections and another has 4.
(to be continued)