Thursday, 5 March 2015


Being a full-time student doing Skype meetings with professors once a week feels a lot like being a stay-at-home wife, because I don't go out to work and my schedule is entirely flexible. I love that I planned my semesters in such a way that I have such an unconventional workload for my final semester. I miss my friends at USC but being able to be with my husband every day is a whole other level of awesome.

I'm still working on my thesis and Directed Research stuff as well as my internship and part-time job, but I do my work from home. It doesn't really feel like hardcore work when you get to do it from the comfort of your cosy nook in the house. In your pajamas. All day.

And so, I've been leveling up my domestic skills. Besides attaining an almost professional level of grocery shopping expertise, I've been braving more recipes in the kitchen. The kitchen is now stocked with canola oil, vegetable oil, garlic powder, flour, corn starch, sesame seeds (I love sesame seeds), shredded coconut, sesame oil, sesame sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce and Japanese sweet sauce. That's like the amateur cook's starter pack right there.

In the past few weeks I've been trying variations of recipes and improving them a little each time. I thought it'd be fun to document my attempts on this blog!

It all started when I decided to brave the idea of using the little rice cooker my parents gave me in December. It was like opening the wardrobe and discovering the whole Narnia universe.

The very first day I started legitimately cooking I spent several hours in the kitchen. It gets addictive. I made coconut chicken tenders, sticky honey sesame chicken and fried rice. I say "legitimately cooking" because I've already been able to fry eggs, boil eggs and pan-fry chicken before this. I can also assemble sandwiches, but that was a lot less intimidating than working with flour, sauces and maneuvering rice around in a pan.

These are my coconut chicken tenders. Ever since I started making them, I've gotten almost a dozen requests from friends or my husband's coworkers for the recipe. (He brings them to work for lunch and shares them with his office.) So I got the recipe from Paleo Leap, but I didn't use coconut flour because I wasn't going to buy a whole different type of flour for just one recipe (haha) although I did use coconut milk the second time I made this. I also pan-fry the tenders, instead of baking them, because my husband doesn't trust me to use the oven without him around. (I'm accident-prone, he says, and I don't disagree.) 

My version of coconut chicken tenders is far from perfect as you can see in the picture, because the first time I made them I burned the coconut. I didn't realize that chicken took so much longer to cook than coconut does! The second time around I cooked it on low heat, but I still burned the coconut a little because the chicken still wouldn't cook fast enough before the coconut got burned. Next time I make this, though, I'm going to cut the chicken slices thinner so that they get cooked quicker.

I got really ambitious and decided I would make honey sesame chicken with fried rice for Darren. I combined this recipe and this one, producing an untested concoction theory in my little yellow recipe book. Unfortunately I misinterpreted one of the steps and kind of failed with this one, but I think I'll do a better job next time. It made a pretty plate though, haha.

And no, my husband didn't eat sesame chicken with fried rice. :( He said my fried rice smelled like peas, because I accidentally poured too much mixed vegetables into the fried rice, and I don't think he likes sesame oil, so I won't use that next time I try to make fried rice for him. He ended up eating the chicken alone, and I reckon he liked them enough for my first attempts!

My third major cooking attempt was for mihun goreng a.k.a. chow mei fun or fried noodles. It's a very popular Malaysian - or maybe Asian or Chinese - dish, so you can get the recipe here. I used my mom's sauce recipe instead of anything I found online because I love my mom's mihun goreng.

I received countless warnings that this was a really difficult dish to produce, so I was extra careful. It took me 3.5 hours total to make this, but it was so delicious. It's also so full of vegetables and protein that it's got to be healthier and more nutritious for me than any other food I cook! The second time I made this, I was too lazy to use onion and garlic, which resulted in a less tasty and less fragrant dish but saved me work and the hassle of buying onion & garlic (and chopping them!) so it's worth skipping those ingredients. :P

Today I "created" a new dish - I call it "Leftover Fried Rice" because it's made up of leftovers that need to be used before they go bad: vegetables, meats, etc. I guess I could call it "Colorful Fried Rice" instead since it's really colorful. This one has eggs, a variation of honey sesame chicken, peas, carrots, corn, a ton of cabbage and a variety of sauces. I don't have a recipe for this because I didn't follow one... I just kind of made it up as I went along!

I don't like wasting food or food ingredients so I tend to wing it sometimes - like whenever I have leftover flour, I'll just coat some meat with flour and egg mixture and maybe throw in some coconut. This resulted in coconut popcorn chicken that I think I could turn into a real recipe next time. I also hate wasting egg-and-milk mixture, so one time I just poured that into the pan thinking it would make an omelette. It turned into a pancake instead, and it was so delicious.

There's a lot of Malaysian food I miss eating, so I'm definitely going to try and recreate them one by one! I'll keep you posted. :D