A simple dish that Dr Elly often cooks, using ingredients freshly harvested from her garden, is lemak pea eggplant and moringa. She soaks ikan bilis, blends a large onion together with turmeric and cili padi, adds equal amounts of coconut milk and water, and finally, when the mixture comes to boil, throws in the pea eggplants and moringa to make a tasty, spicy stew.
The moringa tree sparked Dr Elly’s interest in growing mainly edibles in her garden and she easily rattled off a grocery list worth of plant babies: “Ulam raja, basil, dill, kaffir lime, Chinese chives, Ceylon spinach, Brazilian spinach, kangkong, bak choy, American kale, curly kale, mustard, lettuce, watercress, roselle, pandan, mint, Black Face General tea, curry, melinjo, katuk (sweetleaf)…”
She added: “Sometimes as physicians, we are very into Western medicine, pills and all that. And then you find out about how food can actually be used to create healthier living.”
Of course, the doctor in her couldn’t resist extolling the health benefits of adopting a plant-heavy diet. “Most greens are nutrient-dense yet low in calories, full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and help in maintaining a healthy weight. Thus, they’re anti-diabetic, anti-hypertensive, anti-cholesterol, improve heart health and reduce the risk of cancers linked to obesity,” she said.