Singapore Cooks

Spicing up meals

Ms Lim Jen Jen cooks a mix of cuisines so her daughters are exposed to a wide range of food

Housewife Lim Jen Jen makes her roast chicken with an Indian twist.
Housewife Lim Jen Jen makes her roast chicken with an Indian twist.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Roast chicken with indian spices
Roast chicken with indian spicesPHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

If there is one question housewife Lim Jen Jen asks herself every day, it is: What shall I cook today?

Rather than rack her brain, she is part of a WhatsApp chat group of about 10 housewives who exchange dinner ideas on the messaging app. She also has an Instagram account, @limjenjen, where she posts photos of what she cooks for her family.

The 42-year-old says with a laugh: "My friends go on Instagram at 6pm to see what I have cooked and I am happy to share my recipes with them."

Her love for cooking has sparked a new-found hobby of taking food photographs. She tries to complete her cooking before 6pm so she can use natural light to photograph her food. She styles her dishes with flowers, colourful napkins and wooden and enamel homeware.

Ms Lim, who cooks on weekdays, says: "My friends tell me my Instagram account provides a lot of inspiration for them to cook for their families and that encourages me to take nicer photos of my food."

She cooks a cosmopolitan mix of cuisines for dinner, so that her two daughters, aged 12 and eight, are exposed to a wide range of food. In her repertoire are dishes such as beef and chicken bulgogi, kimchi soup, Japanese curry and aglio olio pasta. Ms Lim, who is a big fan of noodles, also cooks seafood and pork hor fun, Hokkien mee, wonton noodles and pho ga (Vietnamese chicken noodle soup).

One East-meets-West dish is roast chicken marinated with a heady mix of Indian spices such as cumin, turmeric and curry powder. She and her IT consultant husband, who is 45, experimented with giving the roast chicken an Indian twist during their Sunday roast dinners earlier this month. They usually marinate chicken with Dijon mustard, lemon juice, honey and herbs such as thyme and oregano before roasting.

Ms Lim says she had the idea for the marinade from watching cooking shows by the late British celebrity chef Keith Floyd, who hosted shows such as Floyd's India more than 12 years ago.

She says: "I was tempted to try to cook Indian dishes as he made them look so easy. He used everyday ingredients such as onions, tomatoes and mustard seeds to create a wonderful combination of flavours."

Ms Lim, who ran a software consultancy business for 10 years, has also used the marinade on stir-fried prawns and baked seabass.

"The food processor does most of the work and you just need to rub the marinade on the chicken before roasting it," she says. "There's hardly any washing-up to do."

Some of her family's favourite places for Indian food include The Banana Leaf Apolo in Race Course Road. They enjoy tucking into curry fish head, aloo gobi (potatoes and cauliflower cooked with spices) and tandoori chicken.

However, she says that the Indian food served in restaurants can be too spicy for her children, so she tweaks the amount of curry or red chilli power when cooking at home. She even threw an Indian-themed birthday party for her younger daughter two years ago, whipping up chicken curry as well as mint and cucumber yogurt salad.

With such lip-smacking food, it is no surprise that even her older daughter's friends have started to follow her on Instagram and they discuss her food and photos in school.

She says: "Cooking for my family makes me satisfied, especially when they look forward to mealtimes and ask me what's for dinner."

Make it yourself: Roast chicken with indian spices


  • 1 Tbs ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs cumin powder
  • 1/2 Tbs curry powder
  • 1 Tbs turmeric powder
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 to 11/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste, from a can
  • Juice of 2 large kaffir limes
  • 1 1.75kg chicken
  • 1 kaffir lime, sliced
  • Rocket leaves to garnish


  1. Place the ginger, chillies, garlic, cumin, curry powder, turmeric powder, cayenne pepper powder, salt, yogurt, tomato paste and lime juice in a food processor and blitz for about 30 seconds until you get a watery paste. Set aside.
  2. With a knife, make slits on each chicken drumstick and on the side of each thigh. This ensures even cooking.
  3. Carefully separate the skin over the breast area from the meat. Stuff some of the marinade in between. Rub the marinade into the slits, all over the outside the chicken and also in its cavity.
  4. Refrigerate the marinated chicken in a resealable bag for at least 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
  5. Remove the chicken from the bag and let it rest at room temperature for an hour.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200 deg C. Place the chicken on a wire rack set in a baking tray.
  7. Roast it for 75 to 80 minutes. Insert a metal skewer into the thicker parts of the chicken, such as the thigh or breast. If the chicken juices come out clear, it is cooked. If the juices are still bloody, roast for 10 to 15 minutes longer.
  8. After the chicken is out of the oven, let it sit on the wire rack for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve with the kaffir lime slices and rocket leaves.

Serves 4 to 5

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline 'Spicing up meals'. Print Edition | Subscribe