With more people staying indoors or working from home during the pandemic, home cooking has picked up.
Not everyone has the time and energy to prepare meals from scratch daily or even regularly, though. Slaving over the stove is just not practical when you also have calls to make and deadlines to meet.
But there are work days when you want to give food delivery and takeaways a break and still make time for a quick lunch.
Here are three easy meals you can whip up without breaking a sweat.
KAMPUA MEE WITH CHAR SIEW
Longing for a taste of Malaysian-style noodles? You can easily whip up a bowl of char siew noodles in six minutes.
I recently came across The Kitchen Food's Sibu Instant Kampua (Dark Soy Sauce), which is made in Sibu, a city in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Kampua refers to a dry plate of noodles.
Each pack comes with five individual packets of noodles. I got them at $5.80 at seafood seller Lim Yan Hwee Trading in Serangoon Central. They are also available at FairPrice and online platforms such as Lazada and Shopee.
The wheat flour noodles are white and thicker than the thin yellow egg noodles which are commonly used in the Singapore version of wonton mee. They take two minutes to cook and are incredibly springy.
Each packet of noodles comes with a sachet of dark soya sauce and one of oil mixture containing shallot oil and lard.
As for the char siew, you can buy a whole piece from a roast meat stall.
Keep it in the freezer if you are not cooking it immediately. After defrosting, reheat in a toaster oven.
Buy only what you can finish in a week, as the quality of roast meat deteriorates over time, even when frozen.
For fibre and to add some colour, throw in some fresh vegetables. I like Shanghai Green (xiao bai cai) for its crunchiness.
50g char siew
1 litre water
1 packet Sibu Instant Kampua (Dark Soy Sauce) (110g)
120g Shanghai Green, quartered lengthwise
1 stalk spring onion
1. Heat up the char siew in the toaster oven for five minutes or until the sauce sizzles.
2. On a plate, add the pre-packed dark soya sauce and oil. Set aside.
3. Bring 1 litre of water to a boil.
4. Place the noodles in the boiling water and cook for one minute.
5. Add the Shanghai Green and cook for another minute. 6. Remove the vegetables from the pot. Place the noodles in a colander to drain off excess water.
7. Plate the noodles and toss them to distribute the sauce and oil evenly.
8. Arrange the Shanghai Green on the noodles.
9. Slice the char siew and add to the noodles.
10. Garnish with spring onion and coriander.
Makes one serving
JAPANESE-STYLE SALT-GRILLED FISH
Some people find it a hassle to cook a whole fish, but ready-cut pieces are easy to prepare.
Like those used in this dish of simple Japanese-style salt-grilled fish, which you can cook at home in about 30 minutes.
I have a soft spot for sea bream, but you can use other types of fish such as red snapper, garoupa or salmon.
If you are afraid of fishy odours, you can marinate the fish with a teaspoon each of cooking sake and hon mirin before salting it. I find this unnecessary if the fish is fresh.
My oven comes with a broiler which does not allow for temperature control. So, the only way to control the heat is to adjust the distance of the food from the top heating element.
If your oven does not have a broiling function, you can bake the fish.
I usually cook my own stock for miso soup. But on time-starved days, I turn to instant miso soup.
Asahimatsu Namamiso Zui Horenso ($2.65 for a pack of three servings from Japanese supermarket Meidi-ya) is fairly decent.
To ease the guilt of using processed food, I add half a packet of Japanese silken tofu to the soup. The widely available Fortune brand has the tofu conveniently packaged as two half packs (150g each) - perfect for cooking small portions.
2 pieces sea bream (256g)
¾ tsp sea salt
1 rice cup short-grain rice
1 rice cup water (180ml, for cooking the rice)
2 tsp oil
340ml water (for the miso soup)
150g silken tofu, cubed (1.5cm)
2 packets instant miso soup (Asahimatsu Namamiso Zui Horenso)
90g daikon (white radish), grated, gently squeezed and moulded into two pyramids
2 lemon wedges
1. Wash and dry the fish. Place them on a dry dish and salt each piece.
2. Place them in the fridge for 20 minutes.
3. While waiting, add the rice and 180ml of water into the rice cooker. It should take about 20 minutes to cook.
4. Preheat the oven's broiler for five minutes.
5. Remove the fish from the fridge and pat each piece dry.
6. Place them in the middle of a metal rack on top of a foil-lined baking tray.
7. Brush them with oil.
8. Place the baking tray with the fish on the middle rack, about 15cm from the top heating element. Keep the oven door ajar and cook for six minutes.
9. Move the fish to the top rack during the last two minutes of the cooking time if you want them to brown quicker. If your oven does not have a broiler, bake the fish at 210 deg C for 10 minutes with the door closed.
10. While waiting for the fish to cook, bring 340ml of water to a boil.
11. Divide the tofu between two soup bowls.
12. Add the sachets of instant miso soup in the boiling water.
13. Let it come to a simmer and switch off the heat.
14. Pour the soup into the serving bowls with tofu.
15. Plate each piece of fish with a lemon wedge and grated daikon.
16. Serve with rice.
Makes two servings
As much as I love cooking laksa, it can be time-consuming even when I use pre-mixed paste. It is also not practical to cook a whole pot of laksa gravy when you just want a bowl or two.
But with Prima Taste Singapore Laksa La Mian, you can have a bowl of piping hot laksa ready in just 10 minutes.
If you are not fussy about having the usual thick white beehoon, the paste and pre-mix that come with this laksa pack of noodles are pretty decent.
The noodles, which are non-fried, take seven minutes to cook, according to the instructions on the packaging. Each packet comes with two sachets - one containing laksa paste and the other, laksa pre-mix.
My only gripe is that Prima Taste should have packed in more paste.
The recommended amount of water to use for making the laksa gravy is 500ml. I use 600ml, but the noodles still soak up too much of the gravy.
The gravy is not spicy, so you can turn the heat up with sambal belacan chilli paste.
I cannot eat laksa without cockles, so I buy frozen cockle meat ($6 for a 600g pack from seafood seller Lim Yan Hwee Trading in Serangoon Central). After defrosting and discarding the packing liquid, I get about 80g of cockle meat - enough for two bowls of laksa.
Blanch the cockles if you like them well-cooked. I skip this step and add them directly into my bowl of laksa as the residual heat is enough to cook them partially.
You can also add fish cake or prawn.
If, like me, you have a laksa plant at home, snip off a few leaves and throw them into your bowl for that extra oomph.
1.2 litres water
2 packets Prima Taste Singapore Laksa La Mian
2 pieces tau pok or dried beancurd puff squares (30g), cut into nine pieces each
60g bean sprouts
1 piece fish cake (68g), sliced
80g cockle meat
6g laksa leaves, chopped
2 flat tsp Kwong Cheong Thye Sambal Belachan Chilli Paste
1. Cook one packet of laksa at a time.
2. Bring 600ml of water to a boil.
3. Add the laksa paste and pre-mix that come with the noodles.
4. Add the noodles and cook for six minutes.
5. Add the tau pok and bean sprouts and cook for one minute.
6. Pour the mixture into a serving bowl.
7. Add half of the fish cake slices and cockle meat.
8. Garnish with half of the chopped laksa leaves.
9. Add the sambal belacan chilli paste.
10. Repeat the steps above to cook the second packet of laksa.
11. Serve hot.
Makes two servings