Stocking up: What's in actor Li Nanxing's pantry?

(Clockwise from top left) Li Nanxing, Lynn Yeow, Guo Wei Le and Constance Song.
(Clockwise from top left) Li Nanxing, Lynn Yeow, Guo Wei Le and Constance Song.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - There are close to 40,000 people in Singapore serving out stay-home notices because of the coronavirus outbreak. While there is no need to panic-buy or hoard anything, it is perhaps prudent to stock up on some food that can tide you through the 14 days should you need to be confined.

Food delivery may be an option, but it can be expensive. Also, you can be more certain of the nutritional value of your meals if they are prepared at home.

Foodies like actor Li Nanxing keep their larder full at all times so that they can whip up a meal at any time of the day. He always has his favourite cream cracker snack handy too.

As for Mrs Lynn Yeow De-Vito, who is married to ilLido restaurant group owner Beppe De-Vito, her refrigerators and freezers are usually full so she never has to worry about running out of food for her four sons.

For the health-conscious, Assistant Professor Verena Tan of Singapore Institute of Technology's Dietetics and Nutrition programme has some suggestions on what to shop for other than instant noodles.

High on her list are frozen foods. She says: "Nutritionally, they retain their vitamins and minerals and there is no change to the carbohydrate, protein or fat content whether the food is fresh or frozen."

In fact, with the correct freezing procedures, frozen food preserves its innate vitamins and minerals better than fresh food stored for several days, she adds.

Many kinds of food can be frozen, from meat and seafood to fruit and bread. Vegetables such as carrots, peas, long beans and cauliflower are good too but not raw leafy greens.

Canned food is another obvious choice for the pantry because it has a very long shelf life and is generally inexpensive.

But Dr Tan warns: "Choose canned foods judiciously as some can be very high in sodium and fat. Good options include canned mushrooms and tomatoes that can be easily incorporated into a pasta dish or stews. Canned tuna - in water, not oil - and sardine can be a source of protein. Choose fruit that is canned in juice instead of syrup."

Another option is dried food such as rice, dried noodles, pasta, beans and oats. Dried mushrooms such as shiitake and morels can be rehydrated to provide a good source of fibre. They have a long shelf life and are easy to store.


As for instant noodles, Dr Tan suggests "healthier" non-fried, baked or air-fried versions that are lower in fat and sodium or contain whole grains.

She says: "Nutritionally, these 'healthier' instant noodles can be treated as your usual carbohydrate-rich staple.

"To make it healthier, you can add vegetables, egg or tofu, chicken or lean meat. And use half or less of the seasoning packet. Even better, use home-made stock for the soup base."



Li Nanxing's food items. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Li, who is single, lives on his own in a semi-detached bungalow with a domestic helper. But he has three refrigerators and freezers that are filled to the brim with frozen seafood.

His kitchen cabinets are also filled with packets of brown rice and organic noodles, bottles of sauces, canned food and packets of spice mixes. And there is always a stash of his favourite snack of cream crackers.

The veteran actor is a foodie and loves to take over the kitchen. Three or four times a month, he would invite friends over and cook up a storm for them.

He says: "I go around looking for good food and when I taste something I enjoy, I like to try cooking it at home."

Some of his dishes are from his childhood memories of what his Peranakan mother and grandmother used to cook. He says: "I try to recreate the dishes. They are close but not quite there yet."

His specialities include black ink sotong, assam fish head and beef rendang.

He also likes to come up with his own creations, such as a spicy fried crab that boasts lots of garlic, shallots, dried chillis and curry leaves.

And when he travels to China, he returns with Sichuan peppercorn and grinds it up before mixing it with local spices to use as marinades for meat.

He says: "I like to see if they click."

Because it takes time to prepare the pastes for many of the dishes, he often cooks them in bulk and stores them in the fridge.

His pantry is always full because he likes to "buy things at one go". "Then when I need anything to cook a dish, I have it. I don't have to go out again just to buy this or that."

And there is no shortage of seafood because he owns a fish farm in Lim Chu Kang. So what he has in the freezer is like his catch of the month. He quips: "I put a net in and see what I catch."

There is enough food to last him for months, he reckons. But unlike many people with overflowing larders, he says he has no problem remembering what he has and where he keeps it.


Public relations and communications veteran

Shopping for food is also an important part of Lynn Yeow's itinerary when she travels. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Married with four sons aged five to 15, Mrs De-Vito says she spends her "me time" shopping for food.

"In between meetings during the day when I have an hour or so, I go shopping for food." She frequents places like Little Farms and NTUC Finest at Valley Point, and Cold Storage and Meidi-Ya at Great World. She also shops at Tiong Bahru market.

She often walks around without anything specific in mind to buy. "But I always pick up something, sometimes without knowing what it is. I smell it, taste it and figure out what to do with it. I end up experimenting with it."

Shopping for food is also an important part of her itinerary when she travels. She says: "I always research the markets, farmers' markets and supermarkets of the place I go to. I would travel for three hours to buy soya sauce from some amah."

She has come back with live hairy crabs from China, mohinga spices from Myanmar and local seaweed from Laos.

Her biggest haul was flying home with 120kg of food from a Japan trip that included live seafood, beef, melons and sauces.

"I knew I was going to throw a big party, so the beef was for shabu shabu and the melons were gifts for friends. I love to share food, I'm a feeder."

She adds: "I don't travel with a lot of clothes."

The food in her pantry, comprising rice, pasta, mixes, nuts, cans and sauces, fill up the shelves of a floor-to-ceiling cupboard.

There are also three fridges and three freezers filled with eggs, butter and frozen food.

She says she does not have a system to keep track of what she has. "I like to surprise myself and sometimes the surprise is finding mouldy food.

"I don't actually stock up, I do it unconsciously."

She thinks she has enough food to last her family a few months. She says: "I haven't done any panic-buying, I don't think I need any more."

CONSTANCE SONG, in her 40s

Actress and owner of Bam restaurant

Constance Song's food items. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The television actress says she has very simple tastes when it comes to food and her pantry shows this.

She always keeps a supply of eggs and soba plus sauce because these are what she enjoys cooking and eating.

"I like things that are simple and preparation that is fast and easy. Making soba is fast."

Other food you are likely to find in her fridge includes chilli and mushrooms. But her freezer is relatively bare, "just some fish or pork ribs for soup at the most".

Song, who is in a relationship, says she cooks mostly for herself and sometimes her mother but never for big groups.

"It's very basic with a lot of vegetables, prawns and fish. I prefer seafood to meat. It's a lot of steaming such as steamed prawns with minced garlic and rice wine, plain steamed cod or steamed pomfret Teochew-style. Or it's steamed egg custard, either plain or with minced pork.

"I also like to cook soup and sometimes one-pot meals such as rice with cabbage, dried shrimp and mushroom."

She has not been stocking up more since the coronavirus outbreak as "there are delivery services such as Redmart".



Guo Wei Le's food items. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The lanky Guo, who stands at 1.88m tall, keeps plenty of dairy products and eggs in the fridge at home, where he lives with his parents.

The bachelor explains: "I do a lot of high-intensity workouts, so I need to take more protein. And I always keep instant-energy snacks."

The model and up-and-coming actor has appeared in Channel 8 dramas such as The Good Fight (2019) and movies such as When Ghost Meets Zombie (2018).

He cooks once every two weeks for himself and his parents, mainly Western dishes such as creamy meatballs that he learns from tutorials online.

"Western cooking is easier than Asian food. Except for maybe fried rice and soup, other Asian dishes require more skill."

Before he cooks a new dish, he watches several tutorials on it to get different tips.

"But I always modify it a bit. For my creamy meatballs, for example, I add a bit of chilli because I like a little spice in my food."

He cooks the dish from scratch. "It may be tiring but when everything comes together, there is a sense of achievement."

He started cooking when he was in Primary 1. That was when his mother returned to the workforce and taught him some basic kitchen skills like cutting and simple frying.

His first dish was fried rice. "It was the easiest thing, I just fried what was left over in the fridge and added some seasoning."

Unlike many youngsters, he does not eat fast food. And the snacks in his fridge are cheeses, cherry tomatoes and fruit. He also prefers to chew on celery and carrots than munch on potato chips.

An only child, he credits his mother for his healthy eating habits.

"We never had any unhealthy snacks at home when I was growing up, only vegetables and fruit. I ate fast food only about once a year and I have no craving for it.

"Diet habits are built up from young. I'm very used to food that is low in sodium and oil."

He says he has enough food at home to last his family a week and has not stocked up more. "I trust the situation will remain under control."