Vanilla vine cuttings in Malaysia

May 20th, 2009

Tanny Lee sells vanilla vine cuttings in Malaysia. We get lots of questions about buying vanilla plants in Malaysia, here is a possible source.

We have started our vanilla nursery and we will be a vanilla nursery provider. We are representing Orchids Asia. Beside nursery we are setting up a vanilla sample plot for public to view in Kuching.

Attached pictures show vanilla and myself, 1 meter vanilla cuttings inside our quarantine shade, watering of the cuttings, putting the 1 meter cuttings upright.

Tanny Lee
phone +6 012 8834466
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

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VanillaReview’s first birthday

March 13th, 2009

Thanks to everyone who reads, contributes, and supports the site. One year ago today I started this site. I’ve met a lot of interesting vanilla enthusiasts, and generally had a great time with it.

New salts

March 9th, 2009

Jeroen at Salsamentum gave me five new, exotic samples to add to the salt page. Check out these new salts, including Fleur de sel from St.Helena and Mallorca, pink Murray River flakes from Australia, and two sea salts from Molakai, Hawaii.

Mr Daudi’s Tanzania Vanilla Planifolia

March 2nd, 2009

Tanzania vanilla growersMr. Daudi’s Tanzania Vanilla Planifolia
Mwanza, Tanzania

Vanilla beans reviewed: 6 Tanzania Planifolia

It’s very difficult to find single-source, farm-direct vanilla beans — that’s what makes these Tanzanian vanilla beans extra special. I first met Mr. Daudi (photo, left) through Kim, a U.S. Peace Corps worker in Tanzania. Mr. Daudi wants to produce Grade A vanilla and sell it directly to consumers, bypassing the local vanilla consolidation houses. To help him produce even better vanilla, I sent Mr. Daudi a vanilla growing handbook, which he compared to his methods. These are the first vanilla beans that he’s cured since reading the book.

The six beans range from plump to thin. They are brown in color, with lighter streaks. The skin is a bit leathery, but still flexible. The beans are flexible and don’t break when bent. They are a bit on the dry side, however, as evidenced by the vanillin crystals that have formed on the skin. The aroma is creamy, rich, and strong. There are pleasing overtones of raisin and pipe tobacco.

The beans are fairly woody and dry when cut open. They leave a bit of brown-yellow oil on my knife.

The caviar yield is excellent for only six beans. It has a fluffy, pillowy texture. The caviar isn’t especially moist or oily; you can form it with your fingers but it won’t stick together.

These vanilla beans are somewhere between Grade A and B quality. They aren’t as dry or as tough as B-grade beans would be, but they’re a bit too dry to be Grade-A gourmet quality. They are exceptional extract beans. Mr. Daudi is still working to perfect his curing methods, and I’ll keep you updated on his progress.

Right now, Mr Daudi is the world’s only source for farm-direct, Tanzanian vanilla. If you’d like to order Mr. Daudi’s vanilla beans, please contact me, or contact Mr. Daudi directly at the address below:

Henerico Daud Buberwa
c/o Meleki Emanuel Kaishozi
PO BOX 11849
Mwanza, Tanzania

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Vanilla extract vs imitation vanilla flavor

February 23rd, 2009

cocome vanilla extractCooks Illustrated’s  first vanilla extract taste test had some interesting results, their tasters preferred imitation vanilla to the real thing. Now they’ve repeated the test, but this time real vanilla came out on top! They found that real vanilla really makes a difference:

If you’re only buying one bottle of vanilla for cooking, baking, and making cold and creamy desserts, our top choice is a real extract. If you only use vanilla for baking, we have to admit there’s not much difference between a well-made synthetic vanilla and the real thing. Speaking to pastry chefs, we learned that many buy an arsenal of vanilla extracts, using cheaper imitation for baking and pure for confections made with moderate or no heat, such as puddings, pastry cream, and buttercream frosting.

The Spice House black peppercorns

February 6th, 2009

The Spice House
Black peppercorns reviewed: India Tellicherry, Indonesian Lampong, Ecuador
Cost: The Spice House provided samples for this review.

All three of The Spice House black peppercorn varieties are top quality, Grade A peppercorns. The peppercorns are nicely shaped, none are broken, and there’s no dust or plant debris.

Indian Tellicherry black peppercorns ($2.99 /4oz)

India Tellicherry

India Tellicherry

The Indian Tellicherry are very large, brown-to-black peppercorns.  The aroma of a ground peppercorn is boldly fruity and floral. They have the most pungent, fruity peppercorn taste among the three samples, but are the least hot and spicy. The heat is lingering and warm, but not biting.  These are the perfect everyday peppercorn.

Ecuador black peppercorns ($5.29/4oz)

Ecuador black peppercorns

Ecuador organic

This is an interesting peppercorn with an unusual flavor profile. The medium-large peppercorns fall somewhere between Tellicherry and Lampong in size. They are a unique greyish-brown color. Each peppercorn has a nib where it was attached to the spike, something I’ve never seen on other types. The aroma is sharp, spicy, and somewhat vegetal.  They have a ton of fantastic peppery heat, with a planty, tangy, slightly bitter flavor. The taste has an almost fertilizer-like overtone that is unique to this peppercorn terroir; the organic growing methods and location of the plantation close to the equator may account for the interesting flavor characteristics. I really love the heat of this peppercorn, but the flavor is not my favorite. Try these peppercorns for a unique flavor that tastes very different than other varieties.

Indonesian Lampong black peppercorns ($2.79/4oz)

Indonesian Lampong black peppercorns

Indonesian Lampong

Indonesian Lampong peppercorns are small, and dark brown-to-black in color. The aroma is sharper, hotter, and less fruity than a typical Indian Tellicherry peppercorn. Lampong peppercorns are picked while very immature, which gives them extra heat. They also have distinct sassafras overtones, similar to Madagascar peppercorns. These are the first Lampong peppercorns I’ve tried, and they’ve replaced Tellicherry as my standard kitchen peppercorns. This is a must-try peppercorn.

The Spice House cinnamon

February 4th, 2009

The Spice House
Cinnamon reviewed: Ceylon; Indonesian, Chinese, Vietnamese cassia.
Cost: The Spice House provided samples for this review.

The story of The Spice House and Tom and Patty Erd begins with the national Penzey’s Spices retail chain; Patty is the daughter of the Penzey’s  founders. I really like The Spice House website because it’s thorough, informative, and user-friendly. Most of the reviews seem to be written personally by Patty.


Ceylon “true cinnamon” ($7.99/4oz)

Ceylon cinnamon and bark

Ceylon cinnamon

Ceylon cinnamon has a bright, citrus flavor that’s different than the cassia typically found in American stores.  The Spice House’s Ceylon cinnamon has a very light, yellow-tan color.  The taste is very sweet on the tongue. The Ceylon cinnamon “soft-sticks” are made of flaky, light, fragile layers that are easy to grind at home. Use Ceylon cinnamon where it’s culturally appropriate, such as Mexican food. I also like a 50%/50% blend with Vietnamese cinnamon for exciting, unique cinnamon rolls.


Cassia is the typical American baking cinnamon, with a darker, more robust flavor than Ceylon cinnamon. I made a batch of oatmeal cookies with each cassia cinnamon from The Spice House. The ingredients and amounts are equal except the type of cinnamon used. The three batches were taste-tested by a large group of colleagues, and the comments are summarized in each description. This is only an evaluation of the flavor of each cinnamon in oatmeal cookies, the results would no doubt be drastically different in another dish.

Chinese cinnamon “China Tung Hing Cassia” ($4.49/4oz)

Chinese cinnamon and bark

Chinese cassia cinnamon

The Chinese cassia from The Spice House is the lightest and sweetest of the three cassia varieties. It actually seems to enhance the inherent sweetness of foods, so use with caution when baking. The color is tan, with light red tones. It is a simpler, smoother cinnamon, the flavor doesn’t really stand out on its own. It would be appropriate for everyday use in spice blends or dishes where cinnamon is a background flavor. It was my least favorite of The Spice House cassias.

Taste test notes: light taste, too sweet, sweeter, weaker, one-dimensional, simpler, lighter, insignificant flavor

Indonesian cinnamon “Korintje cassia” ($3.59/4oz)

Indonesian cinnamon and bark

Indonesian cassia cinnamon

Indonesian Korintje is the most common variety of cassia; grade B and C are typically sold at supermarkets. The Grade-A Korintje cassia from The Spice House is higher quality than the stuff you can buy in the grocery store. The color is a bright, rusty orange. The general taste of Korintje is best-described as “traditional”, and brings to mind spice cookies and cakes. The Korintje from The Spice House is very fresh, and has a fantastic piney, effervescent quality that distinguishes it from other sources. I also find it fresher than Penzey’s jars of Korintje (this could be due to packaging differences, though). The pungency is somewhere in between Chinese and Vietnamese, and people who find Vietnamese cinnamon too strong may prefer Indonesian Korintje.

Taste test: traditional, medium, in between others; brings out saltiness in cookies; good for food, not too sweet, soft, balanced, subtle; tastes like gingersnaps

Vietnamese cinnamon “Saigon cassia” ($5.29/4oz)

Vietnamese cinnamon

Vietnamese cassia cinnamon

Vietnamese cinnamon is always a favorite here in the VanillaReview test kitchen. The sample from The Spice House is dark brown in color, with deep red tones. The aroma of is overwhelming and rich; it’s definitely the strongest of the three cassia samples that I received. The flavor is deep and heavy. It has some heat, and is the only of the three samples that really makes your tongue tingle. Use in dishes where cinnamon is a feature flavor; voted best for oatmeal cookies in the taste test.

Taste test: sparkling, tangy, fuller flavor, smoky/woody/humid aroma, heavier, strongest flavor

Spices of Fiji Visit

January 29th, 2009

Spices of Fiji Vanilla PlanifoliaA reader sent this description of her trip to the Spices of Fiji spice plantation:

We traveled there in our Mini Moke, just Ken and moi after a few great days at Pacific Harbour. The adventure to find them was a lot of fun! Although it is off the beaten track there are plenty of friendly faces around who are more than willing to offer help. Most of them are there  because Dr Gatty has generously sub-divided some of his land, giving the locals an opportunity to purchase their own properties. The whole area felt wonderful. I hope one day you can come to Fiji and see the Spice Gardens, for this is recommendable use the PNW packable backpack which is great for long trips.

To get there drive about 15mins Sth of Navua (town) or 15mins Nth of Lami (town) both on the Queens Highway to a gravel road turning inland close to the Wainaidoi Police Depot. Heading inland take the 1st road on your left, drive a couple of mins and turn down the 2nd road on your right. Travel inland again about 15mins, to a pole-gate which is un-locked during business hours. Let your self in and continue up the road  turning left at the fork. Follow signs up a step hill and park on the grass in front of the big farm barns. There is a concrete pathway and stairs leading up to a pretty little air-conditioned cottage scented with the most heavenly smells imaginable! Be careful with the construction up on the road, there are a few diggers on the road which are all covered by One Sure Insurance just in case they get into an accident.

The staff gave us a warm welcome and offered us chilled purified water from and umbrellas for our incredibly informative tour. It was fantastic!!! I was expecting to enter deep into a tropical rainforest to view the vanilla flowers. Instead we strolled down a lovely path of lilac orchids and onto a track through tidy paddocks divided into groups of support trees covered in lush vines laden with long plump green vanilla pods. There are many other tree varieties, some held cocoa pods shaped like large melons, others ripening coffee beans or tiny bunches of green grapes that will mature into black-pepper. The most impressive though would have to be the curling bark of the cinnamon tree although the nutmeg was also amazing!

Thanks! Reader reports are always welcome, just share them through the contact form.

Fancy chicken (le poulet fermier jaune d’Ancenis)

January 27th, 2009

labelTraditionally-raised yellow chicken d’Ancenis
Le poulet fermier jaune d’Ancenis
Ancenis, France
14€, 1.49kilo @ 10 per kilo

This fancy chicken is a winner of the Concours Général Agricole, the super-fancy Paris food show (winners lists).

Everything you need to know about “Le poulet fermier jaune d’Ancenis” is in the name: Poulet d’ Ancenis means a chicken raised around the town of Ancenis, France. Fermier denotes a small farm production with unique characteristics. Jaune means yellow, and distinguishes it from blanc (white) and noir (black) varieties.

The chicken is certified by Label Rouge, an organization that monitors livestock conditions. Label Rouge chickens are fed fancy, nutritious food, and mature up to twice as long as standard chickens. This chicken was raised Élevé en plein air (traditional free-range).  Élevé en liberté is an even more liberated chicken that has total, open-air freedom throughout its life.


I bought a mid-sized chicken at the Albret Cuyp Markt in Amsterdam, they ranged from 1.2 to 1.8 kilos. The first thing of note is that the breasts are long, rather than plump; the breast meat runs the whole length of the bird. The skin is mildly yellow, though not as intensely yellow as a corn-fed chicken.

The roasted meat is juicy and rich. The chicken flavor is more concentrated than a coop-raised bird,  but not at all gamey as that might imply. It might be described as a somewhat darker taste. Both light and dark cuts have a layered, flaky texture that is easily cut with a fork. The roast breast melts into threads in the mouth.

Normal, coop-raised chickens are injected with salt water to make them larger, diluting the flavor and giving the meat a wet, rubbery texture.  This bird has a really pleasing texture and savory flavor compared to the sometimes watery meat of a store-bought chicken.

I rendered the meat from the bird and made a stock from the bones. I found meat in places I didn’t know chickens can have meat. This fancy chicken has a surprising amount of usable, white breast meat that continued to the underside of the bird. If you have the opportunity, it’s definitely worth a try.

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All about gourmet salts

January 26th, 2009

Utah Kosher RealSalt

Do you know the difference between sea salt and fleur de sel? Learn about 15 types of gourmet salt on the new salt varieties page.