I started cooking regularly about 2 years ago – mainly out of convenience and also to see if eating in really saves more money than eating out. I want to make this super clear from the beginning: this is not a guide to cook the most delicious, nicest looking, healthiest or most authentic food. This is for those who ‘eat to live’ yet don’t want to have instant noodles for every meal and (maybe) save a few bucks along the way. A rule of thumb, in order of my priorities:
- Fast: From preparation to being able to eat within 20-30 minutes. I don’t fancy spending 2 hours in the kitchen to prepare food I finish in 20 minutes.
- Optimal Ingredients: Able to create the most variety of dishes with the least amount of ingredients. If an ingredient is only good for one recipe/dish – don’t buy it. I’m looking at you, fancy herb.
- Tastes Good: While it need not win over Gordon Ramsey, it must be agreeable with my palette.
- Good for the Body: Ideally, it should feed my body with good, balanced nutrients. Always a balancing act with how it tastes. May not be the healthiest, but I think still better than eating out.
- Good for the Soul: I also want to enjoy the cooking process. It’s not Diner Dash or Overcooked! In fact, I think cooking is a great practice of creativity and self-love.
Also, I personally cook more Asian Chinese & Western food cause that’s what agreeable with my tongue. Customise to your own style and preferences. With that said, let’s get started.
1. Your Toolkit
I use a simple setup like the above for most of my cooking. It’s super basic and you probably already have all of these in your kitchen or your Mum would probably have some spare she hasn’t used in years. I don’t really have any brand preferences, as long as it works as intended.
2. Your Ingredients
This are what I usually use, so feel free to adapt to your preferences. And you don’t need to have everything to start cooking. Just make use of what you have.
When I first started cooking, I got a lot of great ideas on how to stock up my kitchen from this video:
3. Your Imagination
Next, you just need a little bit of imagination to make use of what you have and create food. Some of my go-to dishes are:
- Fried Rice/Noodles: Carrot, Eggs, Meat, Rice/Noodles, Cucumber, use the Eastern Combo sauces
- Noodle Soup: Fishball, Green Vege, Mushrooms, Corn, Chicken Stock, Noodles
- Pasta: Chicken Breast, Broccoli, Mushroom, Spaghetti and use the Western Combo spices
- Rice with Pan-Fried Chicken Breast with Rice + Soup (chicken stock/miso paste + green vege)
- Tomato + Egg – fry it or make it a soup
You’ll find lots of recipes and videos on YouTube. I usually just look at some of them and adapt according to what I have in the kitchen. Here are some extra tips:
💡 Leftovers are a great source of inspiration. Because there’s a limitation, I usually work a meal around say a leftover piece of pan-fried chicken breast.
💡 Tied closely with the above – Cook more than you need. That way you’ll have a jump-start in your next meal.
💡 The next time you eat out, notice what is it that you like. Try to recreate a version of that at home.
💡 Always put the harder ingredients in first (e.g. carrot) before the softer ones (e.g. leafy vege)
💡 When frying dry noodles, boil it/soak it in hot water, then rinse with normal temperature water. This helps to keep it springy.
💡 While waiting for your meat or soup to cook, start washing. Sometimes, I can even finish cleaning up before the food is served!
💡 Trust your intuition. A lot of time, I don’t actually taste my food before serving it. It’s usually good enough. And if it does come out a bit bland, I’ll just add some salt or soy sauce. No problem!
💡 Using frozen food, MSG and flavour enhancers: I know these are not the healthiest options. That’s why I try to put as much fresh ingredients as possible and only use these to enhance the taste. Nevertheless, I think that if it adds a little convenience such that you eat in rather than eat out – it’s still probably healthier than eating out all the time.
💡 Try pre-mix sauces. They work wonders. If you’re into Thai food, try Lobo brand. A Thai local recommended it. It’s really good and the ingredients actually seem pretty natural!
I hope this has been helpful, especially for people who are new to cooking. The most important principle is to simply get started. Cook with whatever you have. Happy experimenting! 👩🏻🍳🍳🥘
As always, thanks for reading and see you in the comment section! 😋