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Monday, August 6, 2012

Cook for your family by Faking It.

When I was living in Australia, I am the epitome of a perfect girlfriend. I’ll play with you, converse intelligently with you, clean AND cook for you. Little did he know, I was FAKING IT. Or at least, the cooking part.

I pulled up this old post because of the good effort, #CookforFamily, initiative started by Daniel, a renown food blogger and Radio 1003 DJ.

When you study overseas, you will soon realize that boys come knocking on your door not because they want to ask you out, but because they smell FOOD. Like vampire drawn to blood, like dogs drawn to bells, cats to laser pointers and women drawn to cash.

The Asian food store in Australia was my favourite place to check out, especially when you are missing home. I will visit the one closest to my house in Kardinya (affectionately Kardy) for a quick fix. With narrow shelves, you feel like a bull in a china shop. I will always buy a packet of cigarettes from DFS whenever I depart Singapore for SGD 10 and sell it to this Asian mart for AUD 40. It was certainly a quick buck made for a student; a rapport was built between the Uncle and me. ‘Twas was how the Asian community unite. When pay day arrives (from my café jobs), I will drive out to CanningVale market or Northbridge in the city where there is more variety.

Knowing a few tricks to fake home cooked meals, it comes in handy to win favour with those housemates, boosts your popularity and perhaps even a marriage proposal in tow.

After all, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Here’re my Top 5 kitchen secrets:

Lee Kum Kee Freshly Minced Garlic

Garlic forms the base of any Asian dish, or any dish for that matter. I’ve always used fresh garlic until I spot this in the shared fridge and stole some to try.

Boy, did it make the dish smell exceptionally good. However, Lee Kum Kee don’t come cheap ($3.90) and for a garlic lover like me, I will finish the small jar very quickly. To control usage, I become a garlic cheat when I am cooking for someone I want to impress. When I am cooking for friends or myself, I chop up garlic like Cinderella.

Needing nothing else, you whip up restaurant standard vegetables like this. Looking at the ingredients, this is one kitchen secret that is closest to its natural state without preservatives, chemicals and unprocessed.
Tip: Vegetables never need more than 2-3 minutes of wok stirring. 
The longer you cook them, the less nutrients it retains.
 Lee Kum Kee Chinese Barbeque Sauce
Ideally used for pork ribs, I found that baking chicken wings glazed with this char siew sauce was a real treat! This is perfect for the laziest of all laziest fake chefs. I make this dish sparingly because of its sugar and colouring (how else does the red come from?)

Seah’s Emperor Herbs Chicken Spices

Potluck happens a lot among students when living overseas because it’s difficult to cook for one. So everyone brings a dish to the table but when you are a student, you also pinch pennies.

Some cheapskate but greedy Singaporeans (usually the boys) will cook and bring a vegetable dish. You may think you’re generous by buying a huge bunch of kangkong, but when you cook it, it shrinks and it looks very measly on a huge plate.

Seah makes you and your chicken look good.
Tip: Remove the chicken skin so it will be less oily.

You smear the powder onto the washed chicken, throw in some wolfberries to make it as if you did it yourself, put into a huge wok with water below and steam. Remember to add water with the chicken to have soup to go! For only $1.90, you can buy the sachet that comes complete with the spiced powder, aluminum foil and plastic sheet.
The Singaporean students were so cheapskate that one potluck was themed VEGETARIAN party. So it was fair that everyone brought the cheapest dish possible to the table.

The rebel that I am, I brought a whole chicken. Everyone was impressed and the boys felt indebted to me for feeding them meat.
 Vermont Curry- a touch of apple & honey
Knowing that I cook a lot in Australia, my mum brought this when she visited. Made in Japan, it is like hardened Macdonald’s curry for nuggets. It is portioned into squares; you just throw the cube into boiling water to dissolve. This should be added last after you have cooked the chicken, carrots and potatoes. 

Pile on top of fragrant fluffy rice! I love making this dish when I am lazy (again) in washing up. Essentially, you only need to wash one pot!
Tip: Control the amount of water you use to dissolve the curry, 
the less water to use for thicker texture. 
Instead of rice, you can have curry udon!
        Yang Sheng Le Herbal Soup
The Asian dinner is always described as 三菜一湯 3 dishes and a soup. While Caucasians drink soup as appetizers, the Chinese drink soup along with their dishes. The Cantonese always say 補湯  soups always have a nourishing connotation. 

If only this Singaporean product with no preservatives and no flavouring existed back in my days away from Mum’s care! In Australia, I tried to replicate mum’s soup to some hit and misses. Most of them taste bland despite the handful of ikan bilis I threw in. Being a student, I didn’t think it was worthwhile to buy meat to boil soup (I will rather eat meat) so I used chicken bones that didn’t make it any tastier.

Also, I did not have the time to simmer the soup like Grandmothers do. With this concentrated herbal soup, you will definitely warm his heart making him think you’re just like his Grandma except in a hotter body!
Tip: Add in ingredients like Chinese dates, wolfberries, chicken to fake it seamlessly!

Just like playing the game of Bluff, you need to alternate the real and the fake. Besides the above kitchen secrets, I do have some very simple nutritious and yummy dishes I could whip up without concocted (by other chefs) help.

My favourites are:

Steamed Egg Toufu

Beat an egg, place some toufu, slice some Chinese dried mushrooms (soaked in water first), sprinkle pepper and a dash of soya sauce. Steam.

 Soya Sauce Salmon with Tomato
Drench the salmon with soya sauce, cut big slices of tomato and shred ginger.  Steam.
Baked Beans Omelette

A winning combination, it’s a undisputed skill to keep it wrapped and pretty.

ABC soup
The one and only soup that I can make with perfection that has vitamins A,B and C. Chop up celery, potato, corn and carrots. Throw into a pot with chicken meat and cook. I like to add in raw cashew nuts too!

So there you go, I am the epitome of a perfect Asian housewife. 3 dishes and a soup.

Until one day, I saw a stingray at the market and got SO EXCITED. I fantasized about recreating the famous Singaporean sambal stingray and gloated at being such a potential housewife buying such a huge slice of stingray at AUD 6 when it sells SGD 12 for a small thin piece.

Like how all liars get called bluff and cheaters get caught, my Bree cover was blown when I served the stingray as it looks. Raw, red and I thought it was cooked.

My then-boyfriend fed and fat from 2 years of cooking finally asked, “Do you Actually know How To Cook?"

Why don't you try? #Cookforfamily with these tips! After all, a family who eats together stays together.

Oh, but we broke up. Nothing to do with my cooking! Hahaha.


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