Torch Ginger Flower (Etlinger Elatior)

I love flowers whether is just for decoration or edible flowers but there’s one flower that needs to be included in certain Southeast Asian dishes; in fact without this flower there’s no ‘ooomphh’ and no ‘marriage’ in the dish. Even if you can find dried version of this flower, it simply won’t do compared to fresh flower. Sometimes, because I can’t find this ‘special’ flower, I won’t cook the dish that have this ingredient in it, no matter how much I crave for that dish 😦 

I’m referring to… the edible Torch Ginger Flower (Zingibier Etlinger Elatior) or Bunga Kantan (Malay), Ang Hua/Red Flower (Hokkien), Kaalaa (Thai), Awapuhi-ko `oko` o (Hawaiian), Bunga Kecombrang/ Bongkot (Indonesian), Asam Cekala (Karonese) to name a few but mostly known as Laksa Flower. There’re other names for it as well such as Sceptre of the Emperor, Rose de porcelaine, Torch Lily and Philippine Waxflower. Don’t be confused with Heliconia… The stalks may looked the same but the flowers are totally different. The Torch Ginger came in several colours as well; PinkRedWhite. The one I had and most commonly available in Southeast Asian fresh market is Pink Torch Ginger.
The Pink Torch Ginger buds on its stems...
The Pink Torch Ginger buds on its stems…
The taste is unique… it has sourness (tangy), astringent, aromatic with a hint of galangal (will discuss about that in future entry) and colourful to be use as decoration in the garden as well as in ikebana which I had seen been used by some Japanese ikebana specialists.
There’s only one thing that caught my attention about this flower. The very young bud looks like myoga and since both were from same family, that made me wonder if I can use the tender young buds like myoga… 😀
Usage of this flower mostly as condiment in seafood-based dishes of Nyonya/Peranakan and Malay, Thai cuisines; like Assam Laksa, Fish Curry, Noodles or Salads to impart that unique aroma and taste to cooked dish besides colouring the dish with its pink petals… The seeds are used in soups for its sourness to replace tamarind rinds and tamarind pulp. I may try to add it to rasam next time… 😀 Some local remedies include drinking the filtered juice of finely pounded seeds with warm water to fight fatigue and increase appetite. Besides the buds as food, fresh long stems (after cutting of the flower buds) are use to get rid of body odor; chop the long stem into shorter lengths, pound into pulp and boil in water. After the mixture is cool, filter the mixture and use the water for bathing (that I need to try out 😛 ) 
The best and faster way propagates this plant is from cuttings compared to seedlings which may took several years before the plant starts producing flowers.
PS. Southeast asians – mostly women, love to eat raw herbs and vegetables with sambals and dips in their daily food supplement. It’s believed that eating raw herbs and vegetables preserves the youthfulness of individuals. The knowledge is passed down from great-grandmothers to grand-daughters… That’s why, we look younger than our age…Hahahahaa… 😉 Well, as long as we can sustain the supply of such produce, we will keep up with the tradition. That’s why I planted such herbs in my little terrace ‘garden’ as much as possible. The natural resource for such herbal remedies is fast depleting. Concrete jungle is growing faster than the plants themselves… 😦 I always advice my friends to eat raw herbs and plant them in their homes.

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