Cookery chat

This would not be a Malaysian blog if there was no talk of food.

Food is such a big thing for us over here. It is a means for survival, yes, but it is also a cornerstone of family life, a meeting point for friends, a catalyst for romance and many other things. We love eating out as much as we love our homemade creations.

The variety of food we consume here in Malaysia also speaks volumes about who we are as a community and the collective culture that we adopt in our daily lives.

So it’s only fitting that I should write more about this delicious aspect of my life.

In case you are clueless what it is we eat here in Malaysia, the above image is a general representation of what an average meal would look like in Malaysia. Sure, we have our noodles and roti and other fare, but in terms of staple diet, it usually comes down to rice. Or nasi, as it is called in Bahasa Malaysia.

The other two dishes you see in this photo are stir fried long beans (left) and stir fried chicken in Moroccan seasoning (right).

Stir frying is a common technique used in Chinese cooking. And since we are Malaysian Chinese, it is no exception in our household.

The great thing about stir fried dishes is that they are quick to whip up and require a very small amount of cooking oil. Cooking typically begins by heating the oil (normally about 1 tablespoon of it) and then adding in chopped garlic, shallots or onions into the mix, letting it sizzle for a moment before other ingredients are added to the pan. The order of ingredients that are thrown is would probably be decided based on which one would require a longer cooking time, eg mushrooms would go in earlier, and things like spring onions (which can be even eaten raw) are put in last. Both veggie and meat dishes can be prepared with the stir fry method.

The cooking time is short, but preparing the ingredients needed for a stir fry dish can sometimes be quite time consuming, especially if there are many different parts to put together. For instance, there would usually be a sauce mixture, meat might need to be marinated a bit earlier, and each additional ingredient would need to be chopped separately before being combined into the pan or wok later on.

Another frequent feature of Chinese meals is soup. This is usually clear soup, not the creamy kind you tend to see on a Western menu. The best tasting Chinese soups are double boiled and are left to cook for hours so it is more flavourful. These methods rarely take place in our home. The fact that a bowl of soup could be prepared at all is already something to be thankful for. My husband isn’t too fond of Chinese style soups, so that makes me even less motivated to make soup. I love it though, and if time permitted, I’d ensure there was one at the table each time we dined.

In our home, we also have an oven, 2 slow cookers and an air fryer to depend on for preparing our main meals. Other ancillary appliances include a blender, food processor, bread machine and sandwich maker.

The air fryer was the latest addition to the kitchen arsenal and it is serving us well. Tell me, who doesn’t like fried chicken after all?

Besides the Chinese dishes, we also often cook Indian curries and sometimes also try out Malay dishes like rendang or assam pedas. We also love Western food, so every week there is usually at least one meal of this nature. Examples of stuff we have whipped up in the past include shepherd’s pie, pasta, pizza and sandwiches.

Oh, and breakfast menu is normally simpler fare as compared to lunch and dinner. Bread or cereal is often what we resort to. Sometimes we’d have pancakes, muffins or steamed Chinese sponge cake too. I’m hoping to incorporate more options into the list of breakfast choices. In particular, some roti and pau and maybe some kuih and rice or pasta options too. But that might take awhile to work out, since it needs some prior planning and food preparation.

With our son around, we have also been making efforts to vary the items on our diet as much as we can afford to. So we have at least two types of meat every week, with chicken being the staple as it is the cheapest option available.

Fresh fruits are also served up on a daily basis in our home. I usually serve them over breakfast. But on lazier or less organised days, they creep into the lunch or tea time menu instead. Sometimes, they would be made into juice instead. But since this involves using the blender, that means more cleaning up so it isn’t as often as I’d like it to be.

I guess I shouldn’t cram too much information and stories into just ONE post. I’ll share more about our kitchen capers in subsequent posts.

I’d love to hear about what your daily meals are like though. Especially if you’re residing somewhere other than these Malaysian shores. Drop me a comment if you can 🙂

A dose of health

Health issues can really be a pain.
Image source: The Posh Society

Looking back at this past decade or so of my life, one of the many lessons that I’ve learned is that it’s really important to look out for your own health. Well, it’s not like it’s something new that I haven’t heard before in the earlier years of my life, but I guess it’s only in my 20’s that I realised that the little things we do everyday can have such an impact on the outcome of our health.

Among the problems I’ve endured in my 20’s so far are gastric and heartburn, back aches, urinary tract infection, piles, constipation and yeast infection. It may not seem like much, but honestly, facing each and every one of these issues made everyday living a less enjoyable experience.

The amazing thing is that some of these problems are easily fixed by things like eating enough greens or fibre-filled foods, drinking enough water as well as getting enough sleep and exercise.

For instance, my back ache woes were relieved quite substantially after the doctor advised me to take calcium supplements. And my ongoing constipation problems were also much better managed once I started taking prune juice and psyllium husks as part of my daily diet.

I guess in some ways I’d not bother as much about taking such initiative unless I had faced a health issue or more. I mean, I always knew that having enough fibre in my diet every day was crucial to preventing constipation, but I didn’t always make enough effort to ensure it was carried out.

Another thing about having endured these temporary health issues is that it has taught me to be more aware of my body. Small signs like pain in certain areas, itchiness, etc that previously I may have just shrugged off or ignored now concern me more and I pay closer attention to them. Which is good, since, for instance, I’ve managed to successfully prevent prolonged periods of heartburn or gastric just by quickly resorting to pills or popping food in my mouth at crucial times.

The most eye opening time was also the detailed medical examination that my husband, Deric and I went for at the hospital. For one thing, it helped me realise that my health on the whole wasn’t as bad as I imagined (I had a pretty clean record for the overall exam). It also showed me that no one’s body is perfect and that those little quirky details of your body are okay and do not necessarily spell disaster just because it’s different from someone else’s body.

The diagnosis for Deric’s high sugar level issue (which is a precursor to diabetes) was also an education for me in that he has to watch his sugar intake more and it has indirectly taught me a great deal about which foods are high in carbohydrates and sugar. I have also seen how easy it is to lose weight by avoiding excessive carbs (as a result of Deric losing a lot of weight just due to his change in diet).

So, on the whole, I’d say, the 20’s era has taught me big lessons about health. And the wisdom I’ve gained I will continue to hold dear as I progress through the later years of  my life. I certainly hope it will help save Deric and I from lots of unnecessary health trouble in times to come.