I used to be amazed by my grandmother making red eggs for birthdays especially for the first month celebration of a baby boy.
And in the earlier days of Sibu (50's) real saffron was used. And my aunts' and cousins' fingers would be red for many days. Nope rubber gloves were not invented yet then.
I went to town in search of saffron. And lo and behold I found some in Kwong Choon Tong which is located next to Judson Klinik. (Photos will be shown in Sarawakiana@2 later). I bought some saffron to prepare a nice little Saffron Chicken Rice. Instead of using tumeric I used a few strands of saffron ( at RM 5 you can allow the saffron threads to stretch a bit).
2 cups (480 ml) no-salt-added chicken broth
few threads of saffron
1 cup (180 g) raw Thai fragrant rice
2 tablespoons (21 g) golden raisins
3 scallions, white part only, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon (7.5 ml) grated orange zest
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh orange juice
In a medium saucepan, bring chicken broth and saffron to a rapid boil. Add rice, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook rice, undisturbed, for 15 to 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.
Remove from stove and add raisins, scallions, orange zest, and orange juice. Do not stir. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Uncover and fluff rice with a fork, mixing thoroughly. Serve at once.
Saffron is known as the most expensive herb in the world, due to amount of time and energy it takes to harvest. The term saffron actually refers to the dried stigmas and top of the saffron crocus.
In China, saffron grows predominantly in the Henan, Hebei, Zhejiang, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. The stigmas are picked by hand and dried. It takes approximately 75,000 saffron flowers to produce one pound of saffron stigma. In many cultures, saffron is used as a spice and for culinary purposes; however, it has many medicinal uses as well.
In traditional Chinese medicine, saffron has a sweet taste and cold properties, and is associated with the Heart and Liver meridians. Its main functions are to invigorate the blood, remove stagnation, clear the meridians and release toxins. It is typically used to treat conditions such as high fevers and related conditions that may be caused by pathogenic heat, and to help break up blood clots. There is also anecdotal evidence that saffron can inhibit the growth of some types of cancer cells. Small amounts of saffron can increase the incidence of contractions in pregnant women.
Dried saffron can be found at Indian sundry shops or Chinese Medicine shops especially the more reputable older ones. Always use only a few threads in your cooking.
There are many recipes which request saffron but because it is expensive not many people actually want to cook with it. But using it will definitely enhance one's cooking. Today we Foochows seldom make red eggs with saffron. Instead we use artificial colouring.
Safety Note : Because saffron can stimulate contraction of the uterus, it should not be taken by pregnant women. Extremely high doses can be toxic; symptoms of saffron poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness. In addition, because saffron helps break up blood clots, it should not be taken by people who are on blood-thinning medications or who have heavy menstruation. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking saffron or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.
(Sources: Wikipedia/Mr.Kuok - owner of Kwong Choon Tong)