Cooking Hints

As I was about to send the daughter off, she asked me to type out some easy recipes for her. She knows basic cooking but living away from home, she found meal planning and cooking more difficult than she had anticipated.

Eating in Singapore is easy and cheap. There’s a huge variety in hawker centres and food courts, it doesn’t cost much more than doing it yourself and is very convenient. In many homes, domestic workers take over the chore of cooking. Many working women I know don’t cook and proudly declare they cannot cook.

Though Mom worked, she used to cook all our meals when we were young. I don’t know how she coped. We helped her out occasionally, if only by telling her what we wanted to eat to spare her from having to plan. As far as I can tell, Mom cooked normally until a couple of years ago when she probably gravitated to simpler dishes as forgetfulness set in. Months before her stroke, she seemed to have prepared the same one pot meal everytime I checked. Apparently, a loss of cooking skill is an early sign of dementia but being apart, I hadn’t really noticed.

For myself, I’m a rare cook, often relying on cookbooks. I consider my meals edible, and perhaps “homely”, but certainly not anything to shout about. Anyway, to help my daughter, I wrote the following email in twenty minutes flat, filled with many items I haven’t cooked in years! It is written in a shorthand offhand way, with the understanding that the reader knows cooking and just needs a bit of prompting. I hope she finds it useful, and adjusts the quantities and seasonings successfully!

1. Egg

Fried egg
Omelette – onion. Fry onion with bit of salt until softened. Add beaten egg mixed with bit of soya sauce.
Omelette – green beans
Omelette – mushroom
Omelette – any vegetable
Omelette – minced meat. Mix meat and beaten eggs, add pepper and bit of soya sauce. Fry in well-oiled and heated pan.
Steam egg – beat egg into ceramic plate/ shallow bowl. Add chicken stock and pepper. Put on rice in rice cooker.

2. Veg

Stir fry – any veg stir fry with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Fish
Fish in ceramic plate – season with salt and pepper, or teriyaki sauce. (Make own teriyaki sauce – one tablespoon each dark soy sauce, mirin, sweet rice wine). Put under grill or in toaster about 20 minutes basting every 5 mins until cooked.
Steamed fish – add one tablespoon soya sauce, slivers of old ginger, put on top of rice in rice cooker.
Asam fish – buy bottle of assam paste – follow instructions on bottle.

4. Tofu
Steamed tofu – put in ceramic bowl, add one teaspoon soya sauce, one tablespoon oyster sauce, spring onion etc, put on top of rice in rice cooker

5. Pork
Slice pork thinly, season with cornflour, 1 tablespoon dark soya sauce, 1 teaspoon soya sauce. Stirfry with ginger strips.

6. Beef for pasta
Dice one onion and 3 cloves garlic. Fry until soft. Add minced beef and fry until brown, keep stirring. Add one can/ one bottle pasta sauce, bring to boil.

Boil pasta according to packet instructions.
Eat with salad.

7. Claypot chicken rice in rice cooker.
Soak four black mushrooms until soft, slice up. Slice one chinese sausage.
Season chicken pieces with oyster sauce, dark soya sauce, pepper.
Wash rice and put in rice cooker. When rice starts boiling, put chicken, mushroom and sausage on top. When cooked, stir well before eating.
Eat with sliced cucumber.

8. Simple meals without cooking or with minimal cooking.

Chicken sandwiches – buy cooked chicken. Add tomato, cucumber, lettuce.
Fried egg sandwich.

9. Fried rice.
Warm old rice from fridge in microwave.
Chop up leftover meat/chinese sausage/ luncheon meat. For greens use diced long beans, frozen peas/ carrots. Beat one egg.
Prepare one table spoon dark soya sauce, one teaspoon soya sauce.
Fry vege with/without garlic. Add bit of salt if veg is not salted. Add meat and stir till well-heated up.
Add rice and stir in sauces, when rice is heated, add beaten egg, stirring well all the time.

10. Shopping list

Oyster sauce
Dark soy sauce
Light soy sauce
White pepper
Cooking oil.
Teriyaki sauce.
Pasta sauce.


Tomatoes, cucumber.
Yogurt, Milk, Ice cream
Jam, Nutella, Butter

Dry pasta
Chinese mushroom
Chinese sausage

Fish steaks
Boneless chicken thigh
Minced beef – just before cooking
Salad – eat soon

Chinese New Year meals

2013_02_09 CNY eve

Tomorrow is the Lunar New Year, celebrated by Chinese all over the world. That makes today The Day for the Reunion Dinner for Chinese families.

Until my paternal grandparents both passed away, reunion dinners were held with them. They were not formal dinners, but it was important to show up and eat. As my Dad had a large family, there were plenty of uncles and aunties and cousins about during those occasions.

Mom used to prepare food for the first day of the Lunar New Year for the hordes of relatives. They all came over. Her preparation would start weeks in advance!

She’d make Chinese sausages, and I used to get finger and hand cramps cutting up the meat for the sausages – using a meat grinder would not achieve the right texture, so everything had to be sliced and diced. Then we would help Mom “pump” the marinated meat into gut sleeves. “Pump” is the correct word because Mom had a huge syringe custom-made out of aluminium or something.  We put all the marinated meat in the end of the syringe, stuck the pointed end of the syringe into the gut opening, and “pushed” the end of the syringe. I remember the meat would slip in and the gut swell out with a woosh and gurgle.  Then we would measure and tie off the sausage lengths before hanging them out to dry. And the house would smell of drying sausage for many days.

On the first day of Lunar New Year, in addition to the Chinese sausage, we would have steamed chicken, steamed fish, soup with lotus root, stuffed vegetables and beancurd (niang toufu), braised pork, vegetables. The table would be full of good food, and everyone would tuck in. For the meal itself, all I can remember contributing was carrying the dishes out, and laying the table. I was never considered good enough to help with making or cooking the food! Some of the aunts came early and helped with the cooking, and they all helped with the washing up, so I was really let off easy.

It’s been a long time since Mom did major cooking like that. And no way will I prepare a meal with so many “made from scratch” items. So some traditions die off, and remain only in memory.

Restaurant Review: The Coastal Settlement

A nostalgic restaurant in the north-eastern corner of Singapore

The menu cover fits the place!
I came across a rustic restaurant with great decor and yummy food the other day, and I simply have to share it here. Singapore is supposedly a food paradise, but somehow I find there is a dearth of nice places where one can sit and enjoy the meal in pleasant surroundings without huge crowds. Well, I was there for a weekday lunch, so maybe that explains why it was peaceful and quiet; I gather it is fully booked during weekends.




On the lawns outside the restaurant was a swing set and other artefacts from fairgrounds long ago.

Inside, the huge restaurant was sub-divided into sections each furnished with different styles of nostalgic furniture. I might add all the styles are local to Singapore and might be found in old homes. A number of colourful vehicles are displayed both inside and outside the restaurant.

One section of the restaurant

A large display cabinet holds old items for sale too.

did you have one of these?

Okay, what’s a restaurant review without food? There is an eclectic menu, but we went with Western. The choices we had were all very good! An excellent meal.

Wagyu beef cube salad
Soup served in old style enamel pot and cockerel bowls
Close-up of soup
Half and half – prosciutto and beef (again)
Fluffy waffles with maple syrup and ice-cream, bananas and strawberries

A great place. Must bring my mom here, seeing the old stuff might trigger her memories of things semi-forgotten. And the food is good, too!