Red naturally

Below is a red palm oil article written by my colleague at New Sunday Times, Tan Bee Hong.
When it comes to cooking oil, there’s more to the colour red than just good looks. The hue comes from natural carotenes and other nutrients that’s good for health, writes TAN BEE HONG.

THE bottle looks beautiful. The ruby red of the oil inside may seem unusual at first but therein lies its allure. Actually, the oil is more a deep golden hue rather than red.

Think of what that this gorgeous colour can do to food. Thus began my love affair with Carotino some 15 years ago. Though I must admit being drawn to the colour initially, that was not what sustained my interest in the oil.

I learnt too that the oil is rich in phytonutrients such as natural carotenes, tocotrienols and tocopherols (Vitamin E), co-enzyme Q10 and is cholesterol-free. The distinctive golden hue comes from the alpha and beta carotenes that give carrots, tomatoes and red peppers their colour.

Likewise, home economist and queen of nonya cuisine Florence Tan was drawn to the colour of Carotino cooking oil but for a different reason. “I first saw Carotino when it was first introduced into the market. It reminded me immediately of the crude palm oil that we had to make do with during the Japanese Occupation,” she says. “Everything was in short supply then and our Malay neighbours in Malacca told my parents to try the palm oil, saying it’s very nutritious. Of course in those days, it was just crude palm oil and was rather smelly as it wasn’t processed.”

She was totally excited to find that while Carotino retained all the goodness of palm oil, it was now very palatable.

“I use it everyday now. It’s great for making salad dressings like Thousand Island. I use it to bake breads and carrot cake. Oh, you should see the colour of the carrot cake... beautiful! When you fry eggs with it, it adds a lovely sheen... and use it for fried rice and nasi tomato.”

She admits there are certain limitations, especially where Chinese style stirfried green vegetables are concerned or dishes like Cantonese fried noodles. “But you can use it for mixed vegetables with no problems,” she says.

Tan is a youthful 64, who claims her lifestyle is so fast-paced that age hasn’t been able to catch up. “What’s my secret? I’m contented and I am relaxed. I never push myself to the max. If I’m happy with a slice of bread, I won’t stress out to get a whole loaf,” she says, chuckling. “Most of all, I’m thankful that I still have my passion for cooking. The fire hasn’t gone out yet.”

Looking slim and svelte, Tan says she has no problems with food. “Semua pun makan. That’s the joy of life. I must have my fruit juices in the morning as well as oats and raisin. I love roti canai and mee mamak. I eat lots of vegetables and I eat in moderation.”

Even before she started going to school, Tan knew exactly what she wanted in life. “My mother had a catering business and I used to watch her cook using firewood for fuel. She would pound the chili with her eyes closed – I only found out why much later,” she recalls, laughing loudly.

Today, Tan is a spokesperson for the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and works closely with Carotino to do cooking demonstrations at events, in schools and in colleges. She says: “It wasn’t easy in the beginning. When the Chinese see the oil, they immediately think of the red-coloured oil used to light prayer lamps. At that time, everybody thought corn oil and sunflower oil were the best. But now, the younger generation is much more receptive and they know which oil is better for their health.”

Tan will be sharing her recipes for Mysore Chicken and Quashry Rice using Carotino red palm oil at during the Malaysia International Food and Beverage Trade Fair at the PWTC in Kuala Lumpur on July 11 at 11am. The fair runs from July 9 to 11.

5 tbsp Carotino cooking oil
500g chicken, cut into pieces
1 tsp mustard seeds
2½ cm cinnamon stick
3 cloves
4 cardamoms
1 star anise
2 sprigs curry leaves
1½ tsp garlic, pounded
2 big onions, sliced
2 tbsp curry powder, mix with 3 tbsp water
125 ml water
1 red chili, seed and cut into squares
1 green chili, seed and cut into squares

Mix together:
6tbsp tomato sauce
½ tsp salt
2 tsp light soya sauce
A pinch of chicken granules
A pinch of pepper

1. Heat Carotino cooking oil and fry mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and curry leaves.
2. Add garlic, fry till fragrant and add onions and curry paste.
3. When fragrant, add chicken. Fry for a few minutes. Mix tomato sauce with salt, soya sauce, chicken granules and pepper. Pour in to pot together with 125ml water.
4. Cook till chicken is tender and sauce thick. Add chilies. Leave for two minutes. Dish out, garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice.

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