2023 feels like it has barely begun, but in the blink of an eye — we have already reached the mid way mark! As the pandemic eases and everything goes back to business as usual, quality family time could become something scarce again amid everyone’s busy schedules.
Thankfully, the June holidays are just around the corner, and that means more sleep — family time! Instead of heading out to restaurants during this peak season (don’t we all hate crowded places…), why not try cooking with the family for a change? Not only is it a lovely bonding idea, it is essentially a free cooking (or scolding) class with mom/dad around.
While I am not a good cook myself, here are 7 dishes that I would gladly attempt with the fam!
1. Shrimp Mapo Tofu
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Just hearing the name is enough to make mouths water, the Shrimp Mapo Tofu has always been an indispensable staple on my dining table. Suitable for any occasion, the Sichuan-origin dish is not only HOT, but also goes incredibly well with any other dish — rice, seafood, soup, and more! Not to mention, it is an universal favourite that can be aced by even the most amateur cook (me).
While the de-shelling and cleaning of shrimps will be challenging, they add a good hearty, savoury flavour to the silken tofu and takes the dish up a notch. Another important component would be the seasoning — it is easy to go overboard with the spice and soy sauce, so enlisting the family’s help for this one is definitely a good idea.
Last but not least, the hidden star has to be the cornstarch — responsible for the signature, slightly-thick consistency which keeps people wanting for more.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes. Serves 3-4.
2. Crab Tang Hoon
You’ll be lying if you said that this dish did not make up your childhood. Plastered in the posters of almost every Zi Char stall, it is not an exaggeration to say that the Crab Tang Hoon is the definition of luxurious Zi Char — a rare treat only for the good days. While it seems difficult to make, it is surprisingly easy after we delve into the steps behind it.
Obviously, the crab is the biggest obstacle and will require the family’s cooperation to tackle. Once we are past that, we just have to focus on the Tang Hoon — it has to be springy glass noodles paired with springy crab meat. The secret of this dish lies in integrating the juices from the fresh crabs into the noodles, which can be easily done through slow-cooking the two in a traditional claypot. This gives the Tang Hoon a much fuller flavour, and also keep it moist for slurping! Pair that with some chewy crab meat, and your family is in for a good meal.
Preparation Time: 1 hour. Serves 2-3.
3. Old Cucumber Soup
A good bowl of hearty Old Cucumber Soup is a sign of home, enough to melt my unhappiness and worries from the day away. While I used to find such soups ‘boss-level’ dishes, the recipes are usually passed down in the family as tradition and are actually easy to follow. It will be hence apt and meaningful to bring these recipes to life with the family.
While the pork ribs are the main character, it cannot shine without its supporting characters — the chicken bones, corn, scallops and wolfberries are needed to give the soup a clean, fresh and sweet flavour.
A timeless classic, this is definitely a dish for everyone to master, refine, and continue passing down for generations to come.
Preparation Time: 2 hours 15 minutes. Serves 3-4.
4. Thunder Tea Rice
A hot favourite among all ages alike, the Thunder Tea Rice i.e. Lei Cha, is the dish that will satisfy everyone at the dining table. It is healthy, delicious, and best of all, easy to whip up for a last-minute family gathering!
With simple straightforward steps, this recipe is easy to divide and conquer with some teamwork — the parents can work on the tea paste, and the siblings on the array of mixed vegetables. Despite brimming with greens, which may not seem too appetising, the dish is unexpectedly balanced and flavourful. Not only is this a wholesome, nutritious dish that does not compromise on flavours, it is also elderly-friendly and perfect for my grandparents to enjoy as well.
Preparation Time: 1 hour. Serves 4.
5. Ngoh Hiang (Lor Bak)
As the old saying goes, ‘nothing good ever comes easy’. This was especially apparent in my household, as my parents really enjoyed making food from scratch. That spanned from breakfast buns, dumplings, to even Ngoh Hiang, which was a popular snack/appetiser among the children.
Unlike the other recipes featured above, this is a dish that looks easier to prepare than it actually is. While the ingredients and steps are easy to understand, the precision in cutting the pork loin to the ideal thickness and wrapping of the Ngoh Hiang require lots of experience.
With the right guidance and patience however, there is good potential for the Ngoh Hiang to turn out well crisped and pack a good punch of flavours — sweetness from the water chestnuts, spice from the five spice powder, and more!
Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Serves 8-10 rolls.
6. Beef Bolognese Pasta
When you have a family that loves beef and noodles, the Beef Bolognese Pasta makes the ideal meal — fulfilling cravings while being simple to make. Just two things needed to nail the dish — an al dente pasta and a richly flavoured bolognese sauce.
To achieve the ideal texture and consistency of the bolognese sauce, it will be important to continue cooking it in the oven at 150 degrees and allowing it to simmer for another 2-3 hours, after frying it in the pan. This is slightly time consuming, but will help the flavours meld together better and give a richer taste.
Preparation Time: 3 hours. Serves 8.
7. Classic Shepherd’s Pie
Who said that Shepherd’s Pies can only be eaten during Christmas? As a huge fan of pastries and pies, this has always been something I wanted to try making and sharing with my family. Apart from being wickedly delicious to indulge in, shepherd’s pies are easy to prepare at a low cost — not to mention, baking is the classic bonding activity for both family and friend groups.
There are two key components to a good shepherd’s pie — the ‘gravy’ consisting of cheese and mashed potatoes, and the meat (beef or lamb) filling. With good delegation of tasks and teamwork, creating a creamy, decadent casserole jam-packed with flavours will be a breeze.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes. Serves 3-4.
Easy Holiday Recipes
While we should all take the June holidays to rejuvenate and recalibrate ourselves for the second half of the year, it is also important to take this time to further connect / reconnect with our families and spend some quality time together. Nothing too fancy — even preparing a simple meal together can go a long way in strengthening the bond.
Do showcase your family’s signature dishes / best cooking moments on the Meatmen FB Cooking Community and let’s see who can do it better!
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