Basic Kitchen Tips: A quick how to video series for new cooks

Basic Kitchen Tips is ST Food's guide for beginner cooks, presented by food correspondent Rebecca Lynne Tan. 

Learn a few simple tips and tricks for the next time you go into the kitchen.

Episode 1: How to dice an onion without crying  

There is a trick to cutting the allium without crying. 


Episode 2: How to cut up a whole chicken 

Find the joints and make sure you have a sharp knife. 


Episode 3: How to peel ginger and turmeric

Use the edge of a spoon instead so none of the flesh is wasted.


Episode 4: How to clean and prepare squid

Learn the trick to stripping off a squid's pink rubbery membrane.


Episode 5: How to prepare lemongrass

The first thing you'll need to do is to peel away any dried out layers. Next, trim off the thin and harder parts of the stalk tips.  Then, use a pestle, rolling pin, or just the back of your knife, to bash the stem. This helps to release the aromas and essentials oils that will give your dishes that lovely lemongrass flavour. 


Episode 6: How to cook rice in a pot on the stove

I use the absorption method to cook rice on the stove.  This involves boiling the rice on high heat until most of the water is absorbed, then turning the heat to low, covering the pot, and leaving it to cook for about 15 minutes.

How much water to add? The "appropriate amount of water", a term which I use in the video, can vary, which is why I'm leaving it up to you. It depends how hard, sticky or mushy you like your rice. How fresh the rice is may also determine how much water it needs as well as the type of rice, from short-grain rice to brown rice to basmati, among other factors.


Episode 7: How to make fresh pandan extract

Pandan extract is used in the ubiquitous local favourite pandan chiffon cake, as well as in numerous types of kueh. Pandan also adds flavour to dishes such as nasi lemak and chicken rice, as well as dessert soups including pulut hitam, bubor cha cha and more.

When knotting or trimming the leaves, you need to look out for the thorns along the edge of the leaves - they are tiny and deceivingly sharp.

To make pandan extract, you will need to cut the leaves into 1cm strips. For every cup of these strips, add about ½ a cup of water, a little less if you want a more concentrated extract. Place the leaves and water into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain and use immediately. It can keep for about a day in the refrigerator. Give it a good stir before use.


Episode 8: How to segment citrus fruit

Orange or grapefruit segments usually feature in salad recipes, as well as some recipes for roast meats and game. Cutting citrus fruit into segments is a great way to get kids to eat it too - no complaints about oranges being bitter or too chewy, no spat-out mess of fibrous membranes.

Save what is left to make juice, which you can add to your salad dressing, sauce, or just keep it in the fridge and use it in the juicer the next morning.


Episode 9: How to prepare leeks

The vegetable is great in stews, where it adds sweetness to the sauce and helps to bulk up the gravy, and in soups. You can also stir-fry it with pork or prawns, or serve it with pasta. Think of it as a milder, more subtle type of onion.

Leeks are also popular over Chinese New Year because leek, or "shuan", sounds like the Mandarin word for "count", a term which connotes wealth and prosperity.

The darker green, top parts of the leek, are bitter. But you can use them in your stock pot, so do not throw these bits away.

In this video, I show you an easy way to wash leeks - place the chopped leeks into a bowl of water and swish them around. All the soil and sediment will sink to the bottom. Scoop out the leeks with a strainer or slotted spoon.


Episode 10: How to cook Singapore coffee shop-style soft-boiled eggs

A typical Singapore-style breakfast at a coffee shop often consists of soft-boiled eggs, along with kaya toast and a cup of kopi or teh.

The Singapore-style soft-boiled eggs differ from soft-boiled eggs in the West. In Singapore, our soft-boiled eggs are runny and wobbly, and you crack them open like you would a raw egg, whereas in the West, the white is almost fully cooked - the egg can be topped or peeled like a hard-boiled egg - and the yolk, goey and runny.

Fresh room temperature eggs work best because they are less likely to crack when placed in boiling water.

You don't need a stove for this. Place two eggs in a small pot - I prefer to use stainless steel pot -  or a vessel that conducts heat well, and pour in about a litre or so of boiling water, enough for the eggs to be fully submerged. Leave the eggs in the pot for 6 to 7 minutes, depending how runny you like the whites and yolks.  You can also pour boiling water into the pot or vessel, then lower the eggs in, as I demonstrate in the video.

Use this method as a rough guide. The final cooking time depends on how large your eggs are, how big the pot is, how many eggs there are in the pot, and so forth. For instance, adjust the timing downwards if you have smaller kampung eggs. It may take a little bit of trial and error to get it right.