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When it comes to cooking oil, there’s more to red than just a lucky colour. Chef Florence Tan tells Tan Bee Hong that the hue comes from natural carotenes
DON’T you love the colour red? I do... whether it’s for clothes, shoes, bags or even my sofa. I also remember how I stopped in my tracks the first time I spotted bottles of ruby red on shelves of cooking oil in a supermarket.
That was 20 years ago. Now, Carotino occupies a permanent place in my kitchen, especially after I learned that it is rich in phytonutrients such as natural carotenes, tocotrienols and tocopherols (Vitamin E), co-enzyme Q10 and is cholesterol-free.
The distinctive hue comes from the alpha and beta carotenes that give carrots, tomatoes and red peppers their colour.
And I am not the only one. Home economist and queen of nyonya cuisine, Florence Tan, is also drawn to the colour of the red palm oil but for a different reason.
It reminded her immediately of the crude palm oil that her family had to make do with during the Japanese Occupation, she says. The family lived in Malacca.
“There was a shortage of everything then. Our Malay neighbours told my parents to try cooking with palm oil, saying it’s very nutritious. In those days though, it was really crude palm oil. It was rather smelly as it wasn’t processed,” she recalls.
But rather than being put off, she was excited about seeing red again. Then she found out that the oil was no longer smelly but yet, all the nutrients had been retained.
“I use it every day now. It’s great for making salad dressings like Thousand Island. I use it to bake bread and cakes. Oh, you should see the colour of the cake... beautiful! When you fry eggs with it, it adds a lovely sheen... and use it for fried rice and nasi tomato.”
She is a huge advocate for using palm oil in food. She says: “It wasn’t easy in the beginning. Most people then thought corn oil and sunflower oil were the best cooking oils. But now, the younger generation is much more receptive and they know which oil is better for their health.”
She shares three of her favourite recipes.
Tangy Pineapple Chicken
500g sliced chicken fillet
300g pineapple cubes, canned
10g wood ears, soaked for
30 minutes and sliced
100g red capsicum, deseeded
and cut into triangle shaped
100g green capsicum, deseeded and cut into triangle shaped
5 water chestnut, sliced
1tbsp garlic, chopped
4tbsp Carotino oil
1tbsp oyster sauce
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp BBQ sauce
100ml pineapple juice, from
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp chilli sauce
1 tbsp plum sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp corn flour
1. Rub chicken fillet with marinade ingredients and leave aside for 30 minutes
2. Heat Carotino oil and saute garlic till fragrant. Add chicken and fry till it changes colour.
3. Add wood ears, capsicum and the sauce. Cook for a few minutes.
4. Add water chestnut and pineapple. Thicken with corn flour mixed with a little water. Continue cooking for few minutes more.
5. Dish out and serve hot.
Creamy Spicy Steamed Fish
1 kg sea bass or red snapper
125ml Carotino oil
250ml evaporated milk
2 stalks polygonum leaves
1 stalk bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), sliced
2 tsp cornflour mix with 1 tbsp water
2-3 tbsp lime juice (optional)
Ingredients A: (pound finely)
25 dried chillies, soaked till soft
1 ½ cm fresh turmeric
2 cm galangal
2 lemon grass
1 ½ tsp shrimp granules (belacan powder)
1 ½ tbsp sugar
2 tbsp light soya sauce
Salt to taste
1. Clean fish and rub with salt. Place fish on a heat proof serving plate and set aside.
2. Heat Carotino oil and fry ingredients A until aromatic. Stir in evaporated milk and Ingredients B. Add polygonum leaves, torch ginger flower and cornflour mixture.
3. Spoon mixture over fish and steam for 20 minutes or longer depending on the size of the fish.
4. Sprinkle with lime juice if desired. Garnish with spring onions and serve hot
250ml Carotino oil
150g dates cut
140g green apple (cut into small cubes)
50g sunflower seeds
300g baked pumpkin (blended finely)
200ml natural yoghurt
2 tsp vanilla essence
90g castor sugar
300g whole meal flour
3½ tsp baking powder
1¼ tsp full bicarbonate soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
50g instant oats
1. Grease a tin 26cm x 26cm and line with grease-proof paper. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Beat eggs, sugar and essence till light and fluffy. Pour in oil gradually and continue beating.
3. Add yoghurt and beat again for 3 minutes.
4. Add in Ingredients B and C alternately with baked pumpkin till used up. Add in chopped fruits and sunflower seeds.
5. Pour cake mixture into cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes or until cooked.