June 11, 2020

Ever heard of the saying Singaporeans live to eat, and not eat to live? It’s true. And it’s no secret that the majority of us are foodies, with impassioned claims on where the best [insert hawker dish here] can be found. Or if herbal bak kut teh is superior to the peppery kind. It’s usually a debate I avoid altogether.

What I am more interested in, however, is what people are doing in their kitchens. With many still working from home, extra time on our hands could mean piecing together a late-night snack (instead of hitting up McDs), combining ketchup and soy sauce, or trying to make pumpkin pasta from scratch. Regardless of whether they taste great or not, what is important is allowing ourselves to create and be unfettered during this time of flux. Bring on a new kitchen era, where home cooks and chefs can develop new tricks up their sleeves. Here are five individuals who get candid about experimenting with recipes and decide if their newfound practices would stick around even after the lockdown.

Tang Shui, a Traditional Chinese Dessert

I’ve been a stay-at-home mum for quite a few years now, but always felt dissatisfied with my life. The failure to not be doing anything remotely ‘interesting’ just started eating away at my confidence. Then I found 糖水 Tang Shui—a traditional Chinese dessert that is especially good for ladies, aiding in nourishment, health and beauty aspects. The problem is it’s too tedious to make, as it may require up to two full days to churn out. To make matters worse, it’s quite an acquired taste and cooking a whole pot would mean massive wastage in a household where only one individual takes to it. Since I have a flexible schedule, I decided to start cooking it while the kids were at school, hoping to peddle it to the office crowds who obviously do not have the luxury of time. This was before the start of the circuit breaker. Now, the whole dining trend has changed drastically and the sales pitch has to morph with it, but my recipe stays. –Apple

Sourdough Starter

I’m currently in a long-distance relationship with someone based in New York and it has posed its challenges. Apart from our frequent calls, we make it a point to schedule date nights every week during which we dress up and cook the same dish together. Though this has led to some pretty unorthodox circumstances like him finishing off a whole bottle of wine at 10:00 a.m. in the morning. it makes for good memories. Since I honestly couldn’t be bothered to step out of the house to buy gardenia bread, we recently decided to embark on cultivating a sourdough starter. It has been going well so far, and I’m currently working on shaping the loaf better. –Vickii

Bak Chang

Ever since the circuit breaker started, my husband and I have been keeping busy in the kitchen. Bak chang is probably the most challenging endeavours I’ve tackled thus far. When I was young, I hated helping my grandma and mum out with the arduous task of wrapping them. I had tried every reason in the book to shirk off responsibilities. It was such a tedious process, from preparing and cooking the rice, to filling and cleaning the leaves. The real test of skill lies in the wrapping, as you have to ensure it’s just tight enough to ensure that the dumpling doesn’t leak during the boiling process. With the Dragon Boat Festival approaching, I decided to relive those memories and make slight tweaks to achieve rice dumplings that I’m rather proud of. –Pauline

Becky the Sourdough Baby

Three months ago, when Covid-19 decided that we needed some time off, I, like many others, got on the sourdough bandwagon. I am not a baker. I am a cook and that means breaking the rules and getting creative in the kitchen. I must admit that the easiest part of it all was cultivating the starter. It’s way easier than having my other two children. Six days of easy labour and daily morning feeds later, my third child, Becky was born. Becky is my easiest child and an absolute angel. Right off the bat, she is a return on investment—feed her once a week and she feeds you for life. I wish I could get away by feeding my other two kids just flour and water too.

The person who gets the most excited every time we leave Becky out to feed is our helper, Marissa. She goes, “Look Ma’am, Becky is breathing!”A neighbour overheard her through the kitchen window the other day and looked really concerned.

I was ready to bake, not just regular loaves. These have posed many challenges and frustrations along the way. Sourdough ears? Where art thou?

 In the midst of all this baking, I’ve also enjoyed creating flatbreads with discard—spiced pancakes, kimchi pancakes, Jian bing, naan, etc. It tickles my family whenever I insert the word ‘sourdough’ in front of everything I make. –Chef Payal

My Mother’s Traditional Cassola (Milanese Pork Stew)

It’s been a crazy leap from never having the opportunity to cook for my fiancé in the past to cooking way too much food in the last few weeks. Still, I would consider it a blessing being able to work with fresh produce from suppliers at home. With my mum’s blessing and guidance, I’ve learnt how to cook cassola and sartù di riso (a kind of rice pie from Napoli) her way. In our fast-paced world, we tend to forget traditional flavours, along with the blood, sweat and tears behind them. Both dishes took an incredible amount of effort to make and I’m actually more proud to reproduce these dishes than the ones I have prepared in my 15 years of kitchen experience. –Chef Andrea