Memories of Lockdown Happy Meals

My friend Emily asked me to write about simple home-made Lockdown meals. I enjoyed cooking during Circuit Breaker (Singapore’s lockdown period last year) because everyone at home looked forward to mealtimes. You could say I had a captive audience at my mercy. It was a chance to bring a bit of joy and relief to the monotony of being confined indoors, though we had a schedule of home entertainment and cultural development activities planned for everyday.

What was different about Circuit Breaker cooking from normal time cooking was the need to work within the constraints of what was available in the supermarkets and the restrictions on the number of essential food items which each buyer could get. I was also conscious of shopping time. The aim was to spend as little time shopping as possible to avoid the risk of exposure to Covid 19.

Lunch

My plan was to keep lunch as simple as possible. “Fast-to-eat meals” as everyone had to get back to work, but there had to be variety. Noodle soup or fried noodles. Fish balls, fish cakes and tofu were good as they required very little preparation time to cook. Blanched or stir fried vegetables were popular and healthy.

Chow mein and egg plant with garlic sauce
Stir fried greens

A noodle dish like the one above (cooked by Carmen who cooks fantastic noodle dishes) was a lunchtime favourite. There are many good recipes for chow mein on the internet.

I served eggplant often because it was a vegetable that I could buy in abundance and which I could keep for several days before cooking. There are many ways of cooking eggplant, but one of the easiest was eggplant with garlic sauce.

Ingredients

3 eggplants

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/2 tablespoon chopped ginger

1 red chili sliced into strips

Spring onion for garnishing

3 tablespoon of cooking oil

2 tablespoon light soya sauce

2 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar

1/2 tablespoon sugar

Cooking steps

Wash and cut the eggplant into four long pieces, then into smaller pieces of around 8cm long each. Dry the eggplant with a kitchen paper towel.

Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a wok (you might need more depending on the amount of eggplant)

Add the eggplant, stirring slightly until it is cooked (around 3 minutes). The eggplant will look brown and wrinkled. Remove the cooked eggplant and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil into the wok. Add chopped garlic, ginger and chili and stir until fragrant. Then add the cooked eggplant back into the wok.

Mix the soya sauce, Chinese black vinegar and sugar in a bowl and pour over the cooked eggplant. Garnish with chopped spring onions. Serve hot.

Another easy recipe for eggplant is Gaji-namul, a Korean eggplant side dish. The eggplant is steamed and seasoned with fish sauce, dried chili flakes, soya sauce and sesame oil. I found the recipe on http://www.maangchi.com.

Dinner

Dinner meals were more substantial, with meat dishes like pork stew, chicken a la king and fried garlic pork.

When there was a lot of leftover meat, shepherd’s pie was a good way of re-serving the meat in a different dish.

Shepherd’s pie and buttered French beans

There was a need to have a variety of staples. Mantou buns are great with braised meat. Mantou with meat is like a hamburger. When I didn’t have much time, marinating a piece of pork with char siew sauce, pan-frying it (to brown) and leaving it to cook in the oven was a time-saver. (Mantou takes only a few minutes to heat in a steamer.)

Mantou with roast pork

Soups were always popular. Aunty Betty would drop off a fresh chicken from the market on Sundays, complete with head, feet and claws. Herbal soup had something magical about it.

Specials

There were specials days during Circuit Breaker when I needed a more special dish. I found a recipe for lemon honey salmon, which was easy to follow. There are a few recipes on the internet. I used one from http://www.delish.com. (See featured photo above.)

Conclusion

On the whole, Circuit Breaker wasn’t too bad, in fact we had some memorable moments. One of the highlights of Circuit Breaker was the “Grab food or Take-away food night“, which was once a week. There was always a lot of excitement over dinner from the outside world, be it pizza, prata, donburi or Burger King!

By Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 23 May 2021

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