Food Rotation and ‘exotic’ foods

Food rotation is something I have been thinking about for some time, but have never tried to implement it in any serious or organised fashion.

Recently, I came across the Special Foods website, a company which specialises in “products are for persons with food allergies and/or intolerances, chemical sensitivities, mold allergies, for persons on rotation diets, for persons interested in incorporating Special Foods!TM into their diets for a variety of nutritional and health reasons, and for the adventuresome gourmet.” The website doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2002 so I’m not sure if the business is still functioning.

In any case, I found the sample of a seven-day rotation diet to be very interesting because of the number of “exotic: foods included which really aren’t exotic to residents of the Malayan peninsula. See how many familiar foods you can spot:

Food Rotation 7 days

[N.B. ‘jicama‘ is actually our humble bangkuang; cassava = tapioca; malanga= I’m not sure but the photo sure looks like the mini yams found in the supermarket.]

All this is quite inspiring because it means that it’s quite possible to manage a rotation diet based on familiar tastes and everyday foods in Singapore. Entirely new ingredients can be confusing to cook and disconcerting in taste. Although I love soba, which is made from buckwheat flour, in my experience, buckwheat grains do not make an easy substitute for rice :P.

The meat section on this list looks a bit harder but it really shouldn’t be because even Carrefour sells crocodile meat :)!! Common Singapore dishes already include a large variety of fish and shellfish as well as lamb and goat. (An excuse to eat oyster omelette and sup kambing?!?…need to find a way round the various spices and garnishes, and given how oily both these dishes are, not recommended for regular consumption!) The oil section is definitely the most difficult. Unusual oils can be extremely expensive for one thing. I’ve not tried most of the oils on the list — I wonder if they have any strong and distinctive taste?

Since so many of these ‘exotic’ foods are already common in the local diet, perhaps we are already naturally rotating our foods a fair bit? As I have been on an extremely restricted diet for a while, I’m now trying to gradually expand my range but also to avoid triggering food sensitivities by making more of an effort at food rotation. Learning how to use non-wheat flours is first up on my list.

22 Responses

  1. i can help u on the oils bit, MMMM! :)

    i wouldn’t go for canola if i were u – check out my post here:
    (but one of my friends thinks this is an urban myth – i am still avoiding canola tho)

    coconut oil (i have 2 types at home – one bot by a friend who bot a bottle that’s manually processed (they boiled the coconuts themselves) by natives in Indonesia- and is yellow in colour, and another bot by her fren in Philippines that says “cold pressed” and is transparent in colour) – both types have this really really lovely fragrance, reminiscient of this coconut candy i used to eat as a kid more than 20 yrs ago.

    this oil tastes lovely in baking (bread, pancakes, etc) but if u stir fry, the taste will be quite overpowering (i liked it but hubby really didn’t like the idea of coconut-smelling stir fried kai lan).

  2. Hi CP,
    Thanks v much for the info on coconut oil. I’ll have to try some too! It seems like coconut oil is the ‘in’ thing in health food circles these days. You are lucky to have friends who give you good presents :).

    Yah, I heard about the probs with canola a long time ago too. But oils are very complicated also from the perspective of getting a balance between different types of fats (see Nina Planck’s ‘Real Food’, N.B.: she still uses some canola) and different food systems recommend different things. Some months ago, I tried to read up on oils to decide which was the ‘best’ one but I gave up cos it was too complex with all the different factors! Also, probably all the supermarket oils have been processed in a less-than-satisfactory manner. So my approach now is that rotation is the best solution for the time being. One step at a time, maybe one day I’ll figure out what to do about oils…

  3. hallo MMMM,
    i had the same dilemma about oils. it was very very frustrating. and like u, i have not found a solution yet. until now, i still use different oils in my cooking. olive oil for jamie oliver stuff, grapeseed oil for generic stir fry, extra virgin for those western recipes, and this coconut oil (just starting out) for baking. certainly no canola tho – i’m sure we get enuff of it in the outside food that we eat in our family.

    if you are interested in the coconut oil, drop me an sms or something (my galfren has frens who travel in the region very often, doing diving & stuff), i’ll ask them to get you a small bottle (they got me a small bottle too). i don’t think it’s very expensive. (can’t be more expensive than nature’s-glory – which sells in 1L bottle which i find rather too big portion cuz it takes a long time to use up). can try out first.

    the philippines oil is from this website which i found from its packaging –

  4. Hi CP,
    Aiyoh~! That’s very kind of you to offer to get the coconut oil. Paiseh paiseh~~!! Let me read up more first :).

    So do you buy your regular oils at Nature’s Glory? Right now, I’m still using supermarket stuff, the same as what we use for general family cooking. Am using rice bran oil at the moment (NTUC brand, don’t see it in other supermarkets) cos it’s a different oil from the usual and can’t find any info about it on the internet about it being nasty and it seems OK for salicylate-intolerance. Before, I had to watch out for oils that might trigger a salicylate reaction but now I’m ready to try out new stuff (and resume olive oil) on a limited & rotation basis.

  5. hi MMMM,
    don’t mention, me and my galfren very ‘sui2 bian4’,we receive favours from others, we just pass them on. we like to share our blessings! i dont really “count $$” with her – like sometimes she passes me her extra baking ingredients and i do the same thing for her, or i return her favour by baking her cheesecake or something like that. her fren didnt even charge us for the coconut oil. (i got a tiny bottle 320ml from philiipines – that cold pressed thingy – doesnt look suitable for stir fry. would suggest u eat a tablespoon wiht breakfast or something like that.)

    if u r interested in healthy stuff like vanilla pods, my fren also got lots of them from indonesia or something!!

    no lah, i dont buy my regular oils from natures glory. i find it very expensive to buy everything organic, so i just pick and choose, u know what i mean :). most of the time, i try to get whatever i can from NTUC.

    anyway, i find natures glory a bit difficult to get to – and like u, i am also using NTUC brands. (i intend to add rice bran oil also, based on food rotation principle:) )

    the very strange thing is, when i went to HK, i didnt seem to suffer from any intolerance to the wheat there. i also ate bread there. i now even suspect that my problems mite be caused by oats (which is the only thing i consume daily and which i didnt eat at all in HK!!!).

  6. Hi CP,
    Arrghhh!!! I know what you mean…food intolerances are like playing Russian roulette, don’t you think?!? Never know what/when/where you will react to or not. Hang in there!

    I agree, to buy organic everything is v expensive so I do a mix like you. Some organic is better than none at all.

    You have good friends :).

  7. yes!!! russian roulette!! that’s how i’m feeling like!
    anyway, u know u can always gimme a ring or something if and when u do decide to give that coconut oil a try yah? :)

  8. Hi CP,
    I went to check out Nature’s Glory just now – thanks to yr recommendation – and guess what, I cldn’t resist and bought the coconut oil there (plus lots of other stuff) :D. It smells very fragrant, can’t wait to try. Will probably have to suffer plenty of scolding and interrogation from family & friends about cholesterol though…

  9. wow!! u actually bot that huge bottle!?!?!?

    wah, how are you going to finish it man! goodness. pls do write about your experiences of using it so that i can have more ideas!! (right now i only put it into oats and baking breads).

    and, u mean u managed to find so many things to buy there!?!?!? like what? apparently that kind of cholesterol is not as bad as all the transfat and bad cholesterol we are eating tho, so u can tell them that. heheh. :)

  10. I stocked up on various kinds of basic dried goods: oats, noodles, beans.

    As for using coconut oil, my family’s Indonesian domestic helper makes her own coconut oil back in her kampong. They cook everything in it, and she says chicken cooked with coconut oil is delicious :). I think I’ll prob try rotating oils rather than eat coconut-flavoured everything all the time though :D. I fried the Chewy Pumpkin Cakes in it today.

    While you & I have already read the new thinking on coconut oil, it will be quite hard to convince most ppl as the idea that coconut milk=cholesterol=bad has drummed into us for so many years!

  11. hey can u ask your helper for me this question? my bro bot a bottle of coconut cooking oil when he was in manado last month also, but when i opened it, it smelt terrible, not like the other 2 bottles of coconut oil. i have since not dared to use it at all. can u ask if she knows why?

  12. Hi CP,
    She says that if it smells funny could be because it’s been kept too long & gone rancid.

    Hey, my throat was hurting after dinner (one dish was stir fry using coconut oil) and I thought maybe cos too much heaty coconut yesterday? After all I had the fried pumpkin cakes in coconut oil in afternoon then the stir fry at dinner. What do you think?

  13. hi MMMM,
    thanks ! i’m throwing away the terrible smelling oil. I read from my TCM book (Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford) that coconut is slightly warming only, and if your constitution is same as mine (cold), it shouldn’t act up so much.

    But if you want to temper it with something “warming & moisturising” (what they call “run”4 (as in zi1 run4) in chinese), i suggest the following desserts: (hopefully u r not intolerant to anything in them)

    1. red bean soup with pandan & tangerine peel
    2. double boiled dessert with snow fungus, sweet & bitter almonds (im lazy and sometimes use only the sweet ones), and papaya and rock sugar. (apple or pear can be substituted for the papaya).
    3. boiled dessert with pear, sweet & bitter almonds & honey.

    i read from some books that slow cooking / double boiling things like pear cause them to lose their lethal “cooling” properties somewhat.

    for my home boiled daily soups (for dinner), i use this base which i find counters the cooling vegetables i sometimes use (like watercress and old cucumber) – pork bones, tangerine peel, ginger (i use lots!) and dried figs. the source i read the recipe from (sunday times) used honey dates instead of the figs, but dates is highly estrogenic, so i went ahead and used figs instead of the dates.

    u hv to simmer the base for approx 2 hrs (or until u think its nice enuff) and then add the veges – and up to u how long more u want to simmer it. u can use any vege (corn, carrot, those 2 above, etc)

  14. P/S I’m thinking of making coconut yogurt next, still lazy to go and monitor the yogurt. :)

  15. Hi CP,

    Hey! I got the same book by Paul Pitchford :)! After eating the Carob Cashew Paste my throat also hurt for a while (I haven’t made it again):
    I think individual organ systems can have individual yin/yang levels that are different from one’s overall constitution. Hence I have a cold constitution but liver too yang. It’s so hard to manage yin/yang balance *sigh*…

    Thanks a mil for those recipes!! Will let you know if I try any (tho I’m more into dry Asian sweets/snacks than the watery ones). Your daily soup is pretty different from the one we do in our home – which is chicken bones (usually no pork lah otherwise our helper can’t eat it) and if anything else, lorbak/daikon. Right now in my staple food, I prefer to keep ingredients to a minimum except for one-off dishes to minimise chance of reaction. Just had a bad one last night – big headache and muscle tightness and had to go straight to bed ;_;.

  16. hey MMMM,
    Hey! great minds think alike! :P (but believe it or not, i’ve had that book for so many years but still havent read it from front to back. i keep referring to individual food sections, and that bit about making baby grains was very useful for me last year)

    oh my gdness, cashew carob sounds like a very ‘organic’ dish! but it looks good and yes, it does sound very yang. it reminds me of ‘walnut paste’ – the chinese dessert – which had the same effort on me (it’s made by dry-frying the walnuts and then blend into a paste and boil).

    i understand what u mean about the individual organ yin/yang thingy becuz that’s what happeend to me just, when i had that cough that lasted 2 mths. even tho my overall constitution was cold, the ginger caused my lungs to be overly yang and led to ‘wind’ which then caused the cough.

    yes, this balancing thing is really really tough! like i’m lazy to stir fry veges (my traditional wok gives off too much fumes which cause my kitchen to be oily), but have to do it because of my constitution – i can’t keep eating steamed vege.

    i would love to make those snacks u make – but too time consuming lah! right now i’m trying to make a spelt sourdough, dunno if it’s gonna work! (p/s do u eat bread very often? yeast is not failsafe is it?)

    my daily soup can be easily replaced by chicken instead of the pork :) in fact, the article said to use pork tendons (but market where got sell!?!?) and if thicker soup is desired, to add chicken feet (i never even knew chicken feet could thicken soups). but, what is lorbak??? isn’t daikon very yin?

    oh my, i hope u r alright now? for me, i just had another allergy attack upon return from HK. now, i’m abstaining from oats (my favourite!!!) just to see if it’s the cause!

  17. Hi CP,
    The Pitchford book is like a huge reference encyclopedia! Impossible to absorb everything :P but a great book.

    Good luck with the spelt sourdough! Yeast is failsafe but I have had candida probs before so I do bear that in mind. These days I’m not sure if it’s the yeast per se or the wheat or the gluten or what, but I limit myself to one slice of bread per day (I try not to eat bread daily anyway) or else likely to start itching. So my breadmaker bread is mostly for my other family members to eat and basically they still prefer soft, commercial white bread :P; ‘strange’ things like spelt sourdough would be rejected immediately!!

    You are right, lorbak 蘿蔔/daikon is cooling but the slow cooking will help to balance that out, like with old cucumber etc. It gives the soup a sweet taste and it’s supposed to have various healing properties including helping digestion. Actually I’ve heard Hong Kong friends said that pork is more neutral than chicken but I’m not sure.

    Oh no~! Sorry to hear abt your recent attack! My food reaction the other day seemed to coincide with my other migraine problems (or cld the usual migraines be partially food triggered??) so I was down for more than 24hrs including a few excruciating hours…. but am OK now, thank goodness!! Hope you get well soon :).

  18. i just had another attack! my spelt sourdough failed!

  19. Oh no! Sorry to hear that! Hope you feel better soon!!

    Perhaps you might find this interesting:

  20. thanks niceties!! will go chk it out! and i’m definitely going to make your mantou this week!

  21. Hi CP,
    Just found this other page on same topic as the other website, but a condensed summary:
    I managed to use it to get some relief to a horrible skin reaction that started an hour ago.

  22. wow! so it really works!

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