Are the products gluten and wheat free?
Yes our whole range of products are gluten and wheat free, and has been laboratory tested. We are one of very few Asian related foods to be endorsed by The Coeliac Society of Australia.
Are your products vegetarian?
All our products with the exception of Singapore Curry Laksa (shrimp paste/belacan), Malaysian Satay (shrimp paste/belacan) and Thai Massaman (shrimp paste and fish sauce) are vegetarian.
Are your products vegan?
A number of our products are vegan. This includes all of our 5 of our condiments, as well, all our 3 relishes, chocolate cherry desert sauce, oil and two vinegars. Malaysian Rendang Terlagi-lagi and Indonesian Turmeric Kari Paste, Homestyle Seafood Curry Paste and Vindaloo. The rest of our Indian range may contain either unsalted butter, ghee, yoghurt powder, skim milk or carnation milk.
Why do you use unsalted butter in your pastes?
The unsalted butter helps to caramelise the onions to a sweet flavour.
Are your products sugar free?
We are not a fan of using sugar in our curry pastes and I actually believe there isn’t a need for that except when there is a need to balance some acidic flavours. So most of our Indian Range are sugar free with the exception of Vindaloo & Tikka which contain jaggery & sugar to balance the strong flavours. Jaggery is an unprocessed natural palm sugar. Some like our Biriyani and Kuruma contain dried raisins as the sweetener for balancing flavours. Our Asian range contains palm sugar specifically from Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand depending on the recipe and all our condiments contain mainly jaggery or brown sugar.
Are your products nut free?
Not all. In our Asian range only the Rendang is completely nut free. The remaining four contain either peanuts (Satay & Massaman) or candlenuts (Laksa, Satsy & Indonesian Turmeric). In our Indian range, Biriyani, Kuruma and Butter Chicken contain either almond meal, cashew nuts or both in some instances. Our Green Coriander Sauce contain sesame seeds.
Why do most of your products warn ‘May contain traces of peanuts’ even when peanuts is not an ingredient in the itemised list?
The kitchen I use is a contract kitchen that is used by many other small and large companies. It is not a nut free kitchen. And although all equipment are thoroughly washed and sterilised before each production, I simply cannot guarantee that some cross contamination can happen. So this warning is to help consumers make an informed decision with this allergy-provoking food.
How much of your concentrated product should I use?
Generally a jar can be used for preparing 2kg of proteins to serve at least 10 main meals. So for a family of two-three we suggest you use a ¼ jar of paste for 500g protein, family of 3 or 4 – ½ a jar for 1kg of proteins and so on. Of course this is all to personal taste and we suggest that you use the products creatively to get the flavours you desire. If you like it hotter, add more or add extra chillies and of you like it milder, use less and think of cooling options like coconut milk or cream, yoghurt, buttermilk or pouring cream for cooking with. If you are cooking for less than the required amount, we suggest you cook the whole dish, save some for later, or freeze the extras for another day’s meal.
Can you freeze the meals after it is cooked?
Yes, freeze for up to 3 months for your convenience and it will tastes just as good when thawed and reheated. Add some fresh herbs, like coriander, curry leaves or mint, a few tomatoes and fresh lemon juice to bring the dish alive again. You will love how easy, convenient and versatile our products are. I tend to freeze mainly meats such as lamb, beef, goat, pork but not chicken, or other poultry, dairy or seafood. With vegetables 1 don’t freeze potatoes, squash or pumpkin as they get too mushy.
Are your products suitable for pregnant women?
Yes, our products should be fine when eaten by pregnant women. Be careful to cook the pastes slowly and cook thoroughly especially when cooking with meat, dairy or seafood. Our products will provide pregnant mums and families healthy, nutritious meals that are quick and easy to prepare during this period. If you’re prone to heartburn check with your doctor, as we would recommend that you stay away from the really hotter pastes like Homestyle Curry Pastes, Homestyle Seafood, Vindaloo, Madras, Tikka and Eggplant Kasaundi. You will be fine with the milder flavours of Butter Chicken, Rogan Josh, Kuruma, Biriyani, Indonesian Turmeric as well as the rest of the condiments and relishes.
Do your products contain preservatives, additives or msg?
We do not use any preservatives, additives, msg, fillers or colours to any of our products. I personally view these as poison and cannot tolerate them even in small amounts. Our Rendang and Green Coriander Sauce need a lot of dehydrated coconut which contains a small amount of preservative 223. However I toast the coconut very well and only a minute amount is left.
Where is the best place to store my curry pastes, condiments, relishes, oil and vinaigrettes?
They should be stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight. As the products are natural, they may discolour in direct sunlight. Our products can also vary from batch to batch due to the seasonality of the produce. And the fact that we are not a mass producer but rather each product is made is very small batches. This is what makes us different – you will notice the texture, the aroma and the flavour are as though you have made it yourself in a mortar and pestle or home blender.
How long do your products last?
Generally, our products have a BB date of 2 years from the date it is cooked and bottled. This doesn’t mean they expire after this date-far from it. It will still taste fantastic and be good for consumption up to 6 months later. So the date is generally a safe guard policy. I find that the pastes mature beautifully in the jars the longer they are in there from date of production. Once opened, you should use it ideally within 8 weeks although you can use some of it and freeze the balance if you’re going away. Always use a dry sterilised spoon and top the remainder with some cooking oil like rice bran or olive oil. When you’re next using the paste use this oil which will be quite a flavoursome oil, then repeat the process.
Are you bringing out new product flavours?
I am very much a creative person and often relax by thinking up new ideas. So, yes I’m always working on new products and will launch them as soon as it is feasible for us to do so. If you have a favourite, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me why you think we should bring it out. I would love to hear from you.
Why are your products premium priced compared to others in the grocery aisles?
I cook my products in a large stainless steel pot until they are reduced to half their volume. There isn’t any water used to dilute the end product. I don’t add fillers or thickeners to make the products concentrate. They take the form through a natural process using a slow cooking method. So these products generally offer half the yield as there’s hardly any liquid left and it is therefore a concentrated product that I make. Typically this means it’s a product that can be used multiple times for a variety of meals. For making a nasi goreng for two people you would only use 2 teaspoons of the Indonesian Turmeric. On the other hand, if you wanted to use it as a marinade for chicken, you can use the entire contents of the jar along with some coconut cream, salt and oil and turn it to a marinade for up to 3kgs of chicken. For more ideas visit our Recipe Pages. https://latasha.starfishbowl.com/recipes/
“I frequently get confused when a recipe calls for a small piece of brown asafoetida and some of my other recipes refer to it as yellow asafoetida powder. Is there a difference, what I should be looking for?” – Customer
The former is a resin extracted from one of a few species of a giant fennel. It is available in four main forms; tears, block, pieces and powder. The tears, blocks and pieces range in colour from red to dark brown and are the strongest in flavour. The powdered version is generally mixed with edible starch and is available in yellow and brown colours, yellow being the milder version of the two due to wheat and turmeric added in.
“I cook Indian very often, however why do my curries end up tasting so vastly different from the curries I have enjoyed at your restaurant?” John, Tuart Hill
Assuming one uses a similar mix of spices, the difference generally lies in the cooking time and techniques used. Specifically, the time each ingredient is cooked builds up the flavours for the final outcome. Onions are generally a base in most curries and requires at least 15 minutes of cooking time on low to moderate heat until caramelised. Adding a touch of salt will draw out the moisture from the onions and small amount of butter will aid the caramelisation process. When it is time for the other whole spices and masala mixes to be added, allow some more time for it to cook under low to medium heat. I suggest at least 5-10 minutes. Only then should you add the meat. Allow the meat to be coated properly with the ingredients in the pan and also allow the meat to release some of its juices to mix with the masala before adding any liquid water, stock, tomatoes, yoghurt or coconut milk. A good idea is to come to one of my classes, John!
What does the term masala refer to?
This happens to be a frequent query from various participants in our cooking classes.
Very simply, masala is a mix of various ingredients such as whole dry spices that are roasted and ground up; commercially ground spices that have been mixed with a little water into a paste, or a mix of fresh and dry spices that have been ground together.
Where did the term curry originate from?
Another common query from our customers. The modern term curry is very definitely English, however, that term is a derivative and trying to establish the source is most difficult. It almost certainly originated from the Indian subcontinent. It may have its roots in the Tamil term ‘kari’ or the Gujerati term ‘karhi’ or Goanese term ‘karil’. These are just a few.
“Why do I frequently get tummy upsets after an ‘Indian or Asian’ meal? As a result I tend to avoid them although I do enjoy the variety offered. I ate at your place a couple of weeks back for the first time and was pleasantly surprised not to suffer any setbacks!! Please explain.” Alison, Perth
This usually happens because the ground spices and/or masalas have not been cooked long enough before the main ingredients are added. Remember to cook ground onions, including fresh and ground chillies (if used), spices and/or masalas over low to medium heat for at least 15 minutes. The addition of various spices and or masala powders in raw form later in the cooking process can also create problems in the digestive process. Even seasoned cooks do this as a short cut when they find the dish they are cooking is too thin and watery. It is a definite no, no in my books and should never be practised. To rectify the consistency of a thin and watery dish, use a little wok, and fry the additional masalas over low heat and then add it to the dish.
“I noticed you always used to offer plenty of beans and lentils based dishes in your restaurant, but what exactly is the difference between legumes, pulses, beans, and lentils? I get so confused!” Mark, Sorrento
Legumes are plant species that grow in a pod where the seed pods split along both sides when ripe. Noted for their flavour, digestibility and protein content some common legumes are groundnuts, borlotti, boiler peas, black- eyed beans and soybeans. The dried seeds of the legumes are called dried beans or pulses. Lentils are the dried seeds of grain-bearing legumes.
“Latasha, what exactly is the difference between spices and herbs? Aren’t they the same thing and interchangeably used?” Gina, South Perth
Spices are dried seeds (e.g. pepper, cardamoms, poppy seeds), roots (e.g. turmeric, ginger, galangal), bark (e.g. cinnamon), leaves and fruit. When we refer to herbs, we almost always mean fresh leafy green parts of selected plants like oregano, basil or coriander. Herbs are also used in a dry form – usually for medicinal purposes.
“I understand that spices often have a variety of health benefits. What are some of the common ones as I’d like to start using more of the most beneficial ones?” Penny, Kalamunda
Before modern medicine became popular, people used various spices, roots, leaves and bark. Some of the more commonly used spices include:
- ginger – either dried or fresh – to relieve indigestion and flatulence
- cloves – for treatment of toothaches and to improve digestion
- cinnamon – to relieve pain, it has sedative properties and to improve blood circulation.
- fenugreek – noted for its prevention of colds and to lower blood glucose levels.
- turmeric – antioxidant properties and prevention of colds and flu.
- cumin – relieves indigestion.
- caraway seeds – eases nausea
- carom or ajwan – relieves upset tummies.
“My curries almost always end up being thin, watery and quite frankly, rather tasteless in my opinion. I have eaten at your cafe frequently and am always impressed with the various consistencies in your dishes. Where am I going wrong and can you suggest some ideas so I can rectify my cooking style? Simon, West Leederville
Usually, it is a simple case of adding too much liquid early in the cooking process. This then gets compounded by the moisture released by onions, tomatoes and all he the other ingredients used in the curry. As well, cooking the dish in a pot with a lid on or using simmering processes throughout the cooking time tends to increase the liquid content in the dish.
Through trial and error, you will work out – more or less:
- how much spice powders you will need to mix to cook;
- how to compensate for the liquid that is contained in the added tomatoes and vegetables, if us
- the quantity of water to add;
- how to adjust liquid content with the type of cooking e.g. simmering with or without a cover.
A relatively simple way to fix this problem is to add some potato mash to thicken the curry but this has its other problems. Another option is to remove all the meat, and then to reduce the watery gravy over high heat (being careful not to let it burn!) until it reduces to your requirement. As a general rule, you must focus on what you do at the start of the cooking process. Never add curry powders later to thicken the gravy. It is a sure way to end up with a stomach upset. And Simon, it is time to book a class with me!!
“I always thought curries are meant to be hot, and very spicy. But I’ve recently been to your place for a meal and was blown away by the flavours in your chicken curry and a thick dal dish with chopped spinach in it. They were not even hot, but so very flavoursome. Is there a misconception about curries being ‘hot’? Sara, Joondanna
Certainly, this is a common confusion. Many people think of a curry being hot and spicy. In my opinion, spicy, yes it should be, but not necessarily always ‘hot’. The heat in curries is simply attributable to chillies, and the variety and the quantity used. For some people a curry isn’t a curry unless it’s screaming hot, and for others having a hot curry spoils the experience for them, and sometimes forever! To me a spicy curry has many different spices and is fragrant and flavoursome. An uncomplicated curry may have as little as 5 spices and a complicated one would have at least 10-15 different spices if not more!
“I’ve always been told that curries taste better a day or two after cooking? Any truth to this? Vinod, Willetton
Generally, it is true for meat dishes with pickling spices such as vindaloos as the flavours mature best given some time.. However, much depends also on the time that the meat is allowed to marinate prior to cooking. Marinating meat allows the spices to permeate the meat and sets it off to a good start. Many cooks tend to marinate meat to tenderise it; this is especially true for larger cuts that need to be slow cooked. For tandooris, it is not uncommon to marinate overnight or even up to 48 hours for a leg of lamb. If marinated properly and slow cooked, the curry will taste good fairly straight after cooking. Of course, for tender cuts of meat it is best to consume straight away, while slow cooking cuts can be reheated excellently for consumption the next day.
“I tend to avoid cooking with lentils and beans as they make me uncomfortable and ‘gassy’. How do you reduce the incidence of this?” Wong, Beechboro
First, when you soak lentils and beans (usually overnight to soften them), make sure you drain the water and use fresh, clean cold water for cooking. You may get some froth or foam rising to the top. Remove and discard that. Always add a piece of ginger and asafoetida when cooking. This will make a difference. If you are not used to lentils and legumes, it may take a while to adjust. Start with easily digestible lentils such as moong dhal, red lentils, yellow split peas and toor dahl. Then gradually try out the harder ones. As for beans; black eyed beans, adzuki and chickpeas, when cooked thoroughly until soft and buttery are excellent.