The #CookForFamily Initiative - Eating at Home with your Family

Monday, August 06, 2012

It did not take me very long to agree to take part in this #CookForFamily,  an initiative started by Daniel from Daniel's Food Diary. Food bloggers don't often work together and this is understandable as we indeed live very busy lives here. Some of us could barely keep our blog updated regularly.

Where possible, if I can help promote something good, especially encouraging home-cooking and families eating together, why not.

The tradition of families dining together over home-cooked food is worth pursuing for two important reasons: strengthening of family ties and building family tradition. 
How often do your family gather around to chat and catch up on the latest? Chances are these only happen over meals.

In this busy urban city we live scattered and busy lives. From whatever each member may be engaging in, the daily dinner is a homing beacon which regathers the family. It is a slot in that is keyed into our diary, marked 'busy', so that families can make time for each other.

Now, families do dine out together and there is something to be said about someone cooking for you and waiters fussing around you.

The wider family gathers every Monday evening
But home is still home. You don't need to dress up. You don't need to fight the traffic. And there is of course something special about Mum (or Dad's!) cooking. We still go out for family dinners - and dining out in S'pore is great experience and relatively cheap - but not at the expense of home ones.

Truth be told though, when the family gathers for dinner, first and foremost in their minds is not meeting up but food. Often, that is the only item on the agenda. What else is talked about comes under 'AOB.' Good and great conversations do ensue as we chill out and this is what makes the family dinner table interesting.

While you may packed some food home, family food tradition is never formed by food purchased elsewhere, no matter how delicious they may be. It needs to be something from your own kitchen. Most families I know appreciate home-cooked meals. And there will always be a few "Mum's favourites." That is how tradition is formed and memories are made. We remember because we saw, smelt, tasted and conversed.

Home cooks should never feel that they have to whip up restaurant food. Dishes do not need to be complicated. As I often say - if at least the rice is warm, and the soup hot, dinner should be fine. One veg, one meat and one egg will do it for me. In fact my comfort food is "ABC" soup and I like to eat it with my rice in it, all in one bowl. With some toyu, I can be satisfied.

Home dinner dishes can be appetising. Just keep it simple, sufficient flavours, not overcooked and not overcrowded with ingredients (more is often less). The rice should be cooked just right and as this is something you cook often, take some effort to get it right and stick to a brand you like for consistency. Simple plating will do and please don't dress up your dishes as if they are going for a photoshoot.

My top ten list of simple dinner dishes include fried eggs, silken tofu, fried green veg, ABC soup, sardines with onions, luncheon meat (when I was a teen), sliced potatoes in minced pork sauce, Claypot Chicken Rice (I use the rice cooker till of late), Tau Yew Bak and fried dace in salted beans (canned).

Home dinners do not need to be complicated.

In July, we had many meals in our home but unfortunately, I do not always remember to take shots of the dishes.

Monday dinners are extra special as that is where the wider family gathers. Most of the more 'sophiscated dishes' are made for these evenings. We often overate as dinner is a more drawn out affair with desserts. Serious and silly conversations fill the evening with lots of laughters.  

These are some of the dishes we whip up in July, ranging from the simple to the more complicated one - but mostly delicious. I cook some of them, my Mama too and she is especially good with soups. My Mum-in-law cooks a lot too and her domestic helper, Nita, also chip in.

I will list out some of the recent dishes with some description:


This is my mama's super soup: Dried Bok Choy Soup. I am not sure what you call this actually. The dried bok choy is soft when cooked and this soup has a great flavour.

Fried Sambal Bilis in tau cheong (fermented salty soy beans) and chilli strips. Simple to make and very appetising. This was one of my late Mum's dishes and members of my family remembered this when they tasted it. Lightly fry the ikan bilis first. Then fry the rest of the ingredients and mix together.

Oyster Chicken (ho yau kai) is another easy dish to do and is a ubiquitous dish in zhe char eateries. Keep it simple. Don't overcook the meat. Use lots of ginger and spring onions. Oyster sauce, sesame oil and some wine to finish will be good.

Keep this simple
I was crazy enough to try Nasi "Dum" Briyani. It turned out a mushy "paella". The family had a good laugh over my dumb efforts. The next few days I redeemed myself and made some normal nasi briyani (not ready to go dum yet). It was good and my daughters loved it. I did too and I am still thinking about it.

I love the rice, esp when accompanied with my favourite nut: cashew.  
A regular feature in our Monday dinners is Steamed Brinjal in Minced Pork and Veg. It never fails to please. My mum-in-law has trained Nita to do this well.

Sliced fish is quick and easy to cook. My Mum-in-law's plate of Sliced Garoupa with Asparagus was delicious and pleasing.

One Monday evening, we went a bit crazy and made burgers instead. I don't remember a home-cooked burger dinner in our home - ever. But since I had left over 36-hours Sous-Vide cooked Short Rib, it was  easy to use it to make burgers. No mincing needed to make patties. The texture is right and the flavours amazing.

You can tell that this tasted good
We had portobello mushrooms in the fridge I experimented with some cream, milk and cheese filling. Toast in the oven. I am not sure what you call this but it was food for us.

Over June and July, I cooked Claypot Chicken Rice many times. My dad-in-law loves it. I experimented with new ingredients. Adding Mui Heong salted fish was good. Next in line is to use basmati rice. In my next post on Claypot cooking, I will detail some of my claypot experiments.

Fried Mui Heong Ham Yee.
Needless to say, we always have fun eating at home and together. We shall look forward to many more meals together. This also provides me opportunities to work on new recipes and blog/archive them. Some of the recipes here are in this blog.

Till the next post, remember to cook something for the family. Even if you can only manage to once or twice a week, that will be a good start.

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  1. ooh! can you do a future post on the Steamed Brinjal in Minced Pork and Veg dish? looks so delicious!