The use of spices existed since as early as 7,000 years ago. Traders from India, influenced by the Portuguese and other sailors, brought with them a variety of spices to South East Asia including Malaysia. Spices come in many forms, including as leaves, seeds, berries, roots and nuts and are used mainly as a flavouring agent. Today no meal would be considered complete without the addition of at least pepper.
In Malaysian cuisine, spices are almost essential ingredients that provide additional aroma and flavour to each dish. Many of these spices, including turmeric, which is often used in Malay and Indian cuisine, also possess medicinal properties and have been used as such for generations.
Malay cooking today utilises a wide variety of spices and ingredients, the most popular of which include the 'rempah empat beradik', loosely translated as the four spice siblings'essential to Malay cooking. These are star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and dove. The actual combinations and quantities of ingredients used are varied according to either meat, fish or seafood or other dishes. Other common spices used in Malay cooking include fresh and dried chillies, ginger, onions, shallots and garlic.
Spices are used more sparingly for Chinese cooking. Five-spice powder, a mixture of Jive spices, namely Star Anise, Cloves, Sichuan Pepper, Cinnamon and Fennel Seed, and encompassing oil five flavours of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty is popular in Chinese cooking mainly for seasoning meat and also for frying vegetables.
Spices play a major role in Indian Cooking. Indian cuisine is best known far its wide and liberal s-use of spices and this could include up to a dozen for a single dish. Spices such as cumin and coriander seeds are used in many spice mixtures, curries, vegetable dishes and pickles, Cinnamon adds a sweet and mellow flavour while cloves provide a strong, pungent and sweet aroma and is used in many meat dishes, marinades, pickles and "yaram masa/asl Dishes often vary depending on the quantity or combination of spices used resulting in similarly named dishes seldom tasting the same.
Other Malaysian communities have also developed a taste far and use a variety of spices in their daily cooking. However, most of these spices are used in dishes today enjoyed by all Malaysians regardless of their cultural backgrounds.
The 6osen stamp features Cinnamon; cinnamomum zeylanicum. The bark of the tree which is stripped off and dried and is used in a variety of ways including in smaller pieces in curries or ground up in pastries, cakes and desserts.
The 9osen stamp features Star Anise; illicium verum. A small fruit originating from China and has a taste similar to that of liquorice.
The RM1 stamp features Cardamom; elettaria cardomomum. These seeds are used in the cooking of a variety of aromatic rice dishes such as *berianis'as well as in curries and more. Cardamom is often added to hot milk tea to create 'masala tea', a fragrant concoction best enjoyed after meals.
The other 60 sen stamps in the stamp booklet features the following spices:
• Fennel Seed; Foeniculum vulgare. Used in curries and a variety of other dishes, fennel seeds are said to be useful in relieving a variety of ailments including indigestion and stomach upsets and are sometimes chewed after meals for this reason.
• Turmeric; curcuma domestica. Turmeric is similar in every aspect to the ginger and is used fresh or dried and ground up into powder. Frequently used in curries and in coating meat and seafood prior to deep or pan frying.
• Chilli; capsicum annuum. There is a wide range of chilli plants with a variety of colours. ChitK powder is generally derived from grinding up dried red chillies and used to spice up a dish.
• Coriander; coriandrum sativum. Coriander is used both in its plant form and as seeds which is most popularly included in curry powders and mixed spices. It is thought that coriander is useful in aiding digestion.
• White Pepper Powder; piper nigrum. Black and white pepper is derived from the same pepper berry. White pepper has the skin removed and is less pungent while black pepper includes the skin and seed.