The Kitchen

The Kitchen: From zero to savvy cooking in the lockdown

Here’s my story of how I started cooking, and how you might see more stories on the kitchen than money talk in this site.

Before the fateful shelter-in-place, I can do two things in the kitchen – mixing and boiling. These two skills are as versatile as it could be, enough for fast meals like a soft boil egg and slow-cooked meals like porridge, soups of irregular standards, frozen fishball/dumplings. But mostly, I just do dine-in or takeouts.

At the start, like everyone else, a panic groceries run I want to stay home for 14 days, so I buy all the ingredients that I like to eat before I die, even when I am not ready to cook. A handful ends up in the wastebasket at the beginning. The meat was not properly chilled; the avocadoes got infected (how is that possible?). But I got better, and I started to make dishes that my taste bud appreciate.

My monotonous life of indoor is filled with thousands of inspiring recipes curated by NYT Cooking, Epicurious, Saveur, and the likes. I learn the skill and explored flavors that I did not know I was capable of before the lockdown. I made a home version of family mart Oden, Hai-Di-Lao hotpot, better than O’briens chicken mayo, and hotel cookies. Yes, there are mishaps like triggering the fire alarm, tarts that turn out like a pudding, crying when chopping the onions. Nevertheless, the satisfaction of learning and the difference in expenses can be worthwhile. I also learn that you don’t need to learn cooking from young; all you need is 14 days, a brave heart and a curious mind.

I did not buy any new tools; I have an induction cooker, a conventional oven, non-stick pan, and pot with lids. When a recipe calls for mixer, I use two forks, intertwine like a cake mixer, and manually beat the mixture (if there’s a new sibling in the kitchen, it would be a handheld mixer!). At the end of the first month, I opt for vinegar when I don’t have lemons, and put the cooker on timer whenever possible. Day 40, I challenge myself making three types of scrambled eggs, tandoori, cured salmon in brown sugar. It’s day 59/60 now, and I miss the Korean fried chicken by Maangchi, the beautiful micro flowers ice-cube for mother’s day and grilled watermelon on a sunny day in my tiny 2″ * 10″ balcony.

I am also looking into making better buys and zero waste, now that money is feeling tight. I make grilled fish and coleslaw for less than RM3.5, four organic winglets for RM4, salmon cakes for RM5. I keep frozen scrap bags for bones, vegetables, and fruit scraps.

It’s true when they say that we will walk into a new normal. For me, cooking becomes therapeutic, and there are many fewer things that I’ll go for takeout or dine-out when I get out of the house.

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