Torch Ginger Flower

DSC03108is also called Bunga Kantan in Malay or Etlingera elatior. It is used a lot in Asian cooking. My school has got a patch of them – they are self-propagating and just multiply by growing roots along under the ground. Above ground, the leaves grow up to 7-8 feet and are so heavy that they keel over sometimes. I have had to ask the school gardener’s help to cut some down just so that other plants in the herb-spice garden get some sunlight.

Now and then, I organise a donation drive where I sell the herbs and spices from the school garden to contribute to the school’s fund for needy students, and the torch ginger buds are $2 a piece.

The teachers who cook often buy one to share – one is much too much.

What can they use it for? The recipes that come immediately to mind are:

1. RojakĀ 

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbs of prawn paste
  • 2 tbs of tamarind sauce (tamarind paste mixed in water) or lime juice
  • 2 tbs of sugar
  • half teaspoon of chili paste
  • half a teaspoon of belacan powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp thinly sliced bunga kantan (torch ginger bud)
  • cucumber, cut into small chunks
  • pineapple, cut into small chunks
  • green apple/guava, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • crispy yu tiao (dough sticks), cut into 2-cm chunks
  • crispy tau pok (roasted fried bean curd puff)
  • turnip (jicama or yam bean), peeled and cut into chunks
  • blanched bean sprouts (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons of crushed peanuts.


  1. In a large mixing bowl, toss the ingredients for the dressing.
  2. Stir and mix them well.
  3. Cut the salad ingredients into bite size and toss them into the bowl.
  4. Mix thoroughly all the ingredients.
  5. Top with the crushed peanuts and serve.

2. Steamed fish

  • 1 fresh seabass, grouper or fish fillet/steak
  • 1 fresh ginger torch flower thinly sliced (discard the stalk)
  • 7 bird’s eye chili thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass thinly sliced
  • 1 inch of galangal (Malay: lengkuas)
  • 6 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 2″ ginger thinly sliced
  • 3 kaffir leaves
  • Juice of 2 lime
  • tbsp fish stock
  • About 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp of raw sugar
  • Spring onions, chopped
  • extra lime for garnishing
  • salt to taste


  1. Clean the fish and then pat dry with paper towels. Make diagonal slashes (if using whole fish).
  2. Soak the fish in salt water for 5 min. Rinse off.
  3. Set fish in a heat-proof curved dish (to catch the gravy). Please make sure the curved dish can fit into the wok/saucepan.
  4. Mix the water, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar in a bowl.
  5. Stuff sliced ingredients into the whole fish and/or scatter them all over the surface of the fish.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture over everything.
  7. Finally, add the other half of the chopped green onions and garnish with slices of lime on top.
  8. Fill wok/saucepan with about 2 inches of water. When it comes to a full boil, set the dish on rack set in the wok/saucepan. Cover tightly. Steam for 8-10 min til cooked.

3. Assam laksa (too fiddly for me to cook – but you can try this recipe from Rasa Malaysia)

If you don’t want to use it for food, it will become a very beautiful flower for your centre piece!

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