Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bunga Kantan (Torch Ginger)

Torch Ginger or Bunga Kantan (as it is known locally in Malaysia) is known botanically as Etlingera elatior. It is a member the ginger family.

Torch ginger is believed to be a native to Indonesia. However, now this plant is grown in many tropical countries. It is grown for its extravagant flower and for food. In Malaysia, Bunga Kantan is considered as the "soul" of many Nyonya dishes such as Assam Laksa, perut ikan and assam tumis.

The bud of the Bunga Kantan is commonly sold in fresh market here. The pinkish color bud has a great aroma. They are normally halved lengthwise and used in curries and stews. When cooked, it imparts a floral fragrance and exotic aroma into the dishes. I would even use it when I cook fried rice. It adds a new dimension to the culinary palate.

I have a number of Torch Ginger plant in my garden. The plants grow from rhizomes. A mature torch ginger plant can reach a towering height of about 3 meters (10 feet) . It looks rather stately and it grows in clamps. The strap-like leaves that line alternately on the leafy shoots can
grow up to the length of 80cm.

They have given me a constant supply of bunga kantan to satisfy my taste buds. Whenever I am in the mood to cook Nyonya dishes, I just need to go to my garden to harvest a couple of torch ginger buds.(convenient and economical) So, those torch ginger in my garden never did have chance to blossom. Out of curiosity, I have left one of the buds behind when I last harvested them (as I would like to see how the flower looks like). After about a week, this is what I get ;

Very pretty. Unfortunately, as this is the rainy season in Malaysia, the flower has started to rot.

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