IT has been a challenging period, that’s for sure. And many of us are struggling to survive while being stuck indoors. But it has been fascinating seeing how people are responding to this Movement Control Order.
In the last few weeks, people have been posting dance videos on Tik Tok; photos of their Dalgona Coffees on Instagram; and most interestingly, they’ve been showing off their cooking skills on Facebook.
Malaysians everywhere seem to have put on their chef hats and sharing their kitchen creations with the world. It’s been really lovely seeing this, but for me, the situation has taken on a completely different turn.
Instead of testing new recipes and cooking complicated dishes, I’ve started to learn to cook simpler, more affordable meals during this time.
I call it “Darurat Cooking” (“State of Emergency” cooking) because I aim to prepare meals with the least amount of ingredients as I can while ensuring that I re-use leftovers to make the best possible dishes.
Why? It’s because I live with my parents, siblings and young nephews. So going out to the grocery store to source for ingredients regularly isn’t an option.
We only venture out when we absolutely need to ensure everyone’s safety. We’re also trying not to participate in panic buying, so I’ve been stretching my meals as far as they can go. Cooking for fun is no longer an option.
USING LEFTOVERS EFFICIENTLY
The trick to cooking like you’re in a “darurat” is to pretend like you’re stuck in a state of emergency. You need to believe that you have a short supply of food so you do the best you can with what you have at home. And you need to learn not to throw anything away.
For example, I made French onion soup with garlic bread on the first day of the MCO. I had a lot left over so instead of wasting or freezing the leftover soup, I used it as a base for kacang pol that I made on the second day.
I still had extra kacang pol left, so I cooked it into a bolognese for the third day. Ever since then, I’ve restarted this cycle twice — by making a soup or broth and using it as a base for a stew and a pasta sauce. This way, you don’t even need to bother freezing your leftovers or throwing them away. Use it for your next dish.
The best part is that this doesn’t just apply to soups and broths. Make a whole chicken and use the leftovers for salad or a sandwich. Dump your extra cold cuts or sausages into a veggie stir fry. Be a little bit more open to saving your ingredients instead of throwing them out.
SAVING ON INGREDIENTS
Another key thing I’ve learnt is how to use the minimum amount of ingredients in a dish because I never know when it will run out at the grocery store.
For example, instead of using two onions per pasta sauce, I use one. Instead of using 800g of beef in a stew, I use 500g.
Consequently, my best friend is now instant chicken, vegetable and beef stock cubes, to make up for the reduced meat and veggies. I don’t particularly like using them in recipes but they help maintain some semblance of flavour without having to make an ingredient-heavy stock.
But cooking like this isn’t all bad. I’ve come up with many new recipes to keep my family happy during the MCO.
For example, when they were craving curry laksa, I made an “instant” version where I made it with a vegetable broth, coconut milk and added in Maggi curry seasoning.
It ended up tasting like a variation of Penang White Curry Instant Noodles, but they were happy enough.
When they were craving meatballs, which requires a lot of time and ingredients, I made a beef mince stir-fry with mushrooms and onion, flavoured like a meatball so they could eat it with frozen bagels. It’s all about being as creative as you can with what you have at home.
Another recipe I just developed is an Ayam Bubur Lemak with Roasted Chili Flakes and Eggplants.
My family was craving nasi lemak and I didn’t want to use all my chillies for sambal or all the coconut milk for the rice — at least not just for one dish.
Instead, I made a porridge version that was easier to make and uses far fewer ingredients! The best part is you get more yield from your ingredients as well. Three cups of rice and six pieces of chicken can feed a family of five, twice!
Feeds a family of four
For the porridge
1 cup of white rice
6 cups of water*
1/3 cup of coconut milk
1 inch of ginger
1 yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
1/6 cup of cooking oil
4 pieces of chicken
Salt and pepper to taste
* In my experience, bubur always needs more or less water, depending on your preference. But you need to start with using at least six cups of water to get it going.
For the eggplant
1 large eggplant
2-3 tbsp of cooking oil
1 tbsp of chili flakes
1/2 tbsp of honey
Salt to taste
1.Wash your rice, set aside.
2.In a blender, blend onions, garlic, shallots, and ginger with a 1/6 cup of oil.
3.In a large pot, sautee the blended mixture until its aromatic.
4.Pour in the water and coconut milk and add in chicken pieces.
5.Pour in your rice.
6.Let it cook on medium heat for about 20 – 30 minutes, or until rice and chicken are fully cooked. Make sure to stir the pot regularly so rice doesn’t stick to the bottom. Add more water or coconut milk if the mixture gets too thick.
1.Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C
2.Dice eggplant and coat with oil and salt.
3.Roast eggplants for 20-30 minutes or until tender.
4.Coat in honey and chili flakes.