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Sunday, November 8, 2009

What's Cookin', Good Lookin'?

This post is dedicated to our foreign domestic help at home - we affectionately know her as Mana. She has been with us for the past 3-4 years, I think, and is due to go back to her family soon. I know my parents will miss her for sure, and we will definitely miss her helpfulness and her cooking!

With our realisation that our budget cannot last us till our scheduled return to Singapore in March 2010, we did what anybody and any company would do - we looked for additional revenue, and we tried to reduce costs.

So, not only are we selling some of our prized photos encapsulated into a lovely 2010 calendar, we are also looking for ways and means to reduce costs. So we have cut out tours that may be repetitive in nature (like taking a cruise to see sealions, because we have already seen sealions lazing on a beach along Highway 1, from Los Angeles to San Francisco). We have also decided to tighten our purse strings by cooking more often again.

Inspiration for the blog title

However, unlike the early days of the trip when cooking meant cooking instant noodles, we have decided that it is high time we expanded our repertoire. Seriously, we don't want to come back bald and malnourished due to MSG, right? I mean, I have a beautifully-shaped head and can look pretty good bald, but I think the wife will be a horror to look at!


More importantly, how can we forget that we were in the country of the most delicious steak we have ever tasted and it was only USD 10 for both of us??! How can we ignore that and just eat instant noodles??!

So, we decided that we would try to cook more interesting meals. Include some meat! Toss in some veggies! In the cauldron boil and bake, eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog, adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, these are a few of our favorite things!

And, whaddaya know! I think our first few creations turned out pretty good! We probably still don't qualify to be mentioned in food blogs by my ex-colleague or the wife's friend, but hey, we've levelled up in a skill that really matters!

Our first experimental meal was in Mendoza, where we hopped into the supermarket to buy a few slabs of meat from the thigh of a cow, and some canned mushrooms. Chucked it onto a saucepan with some oil and flipped it around every minute or so. And... voila!

Cost of this meal? About USD 2 for both of us!


Experiment 2 also featured beef - this time, we chose meat from the rump. Added some unidentified leafy green vegetables and fried some of our leftover instant noodles. Rounded it off with a small bottle of Argentinean red wine at USD 1.


This was slightly more expensive, at USD 6...

But that's because we are still experimenting with the quantity to buy as well. We will get better! Cheers!


Our third experiment was in Santiago, where we got ourselves some curry-flavored rice, brocolli and chicken thighs. Chicken was more difficult to cook than beef though. Took a really long time before the meat turned white enough for us to trust. And this was also the meal where the hostel owner complained to me about us splattering oil all over his kettle and stove.


Food in Chile was more expensive. This meal cost us USD 7.


Our conclusions after these 3 experiments?


1) Cooking is fun!
2) Cooking together is fun!
3) Cooking is also challenging, but it is fun!

Now, I have a request for all those friends and readers who have been posted overseas or studied overseas before - give us some ideas on stuff that is easy to cook! Personally, I would really like to tackle fish soon, but it does seem pretty complicated...

8 comments:

Honyi said...

when i get really lazy, i usually end up with pasta tossed with one of these:

1. tuna: open a can of tuna (better if it's chilli tuna), add some sliced chilli, pepper and salt to taste.

2. bolognaise: all you need is minced beef, canned tomatoes, some chopped garlic and onions.

and you're unlikely to get complaints about splattering oil.

you can also make aglio olio pasta (olive oil, garlic, herbs and chilli flakes if you like) and some sliced grilled sausages (no guarantees about the splattering oil though).

beef stew is easy too but it takes time which i figure you guys will better spend sight seeing.

happy experimenting!

Rhys said...

My favourite cut of beef is ribeye. Also, dont stir and flip your beef indiscriminately! Just leave it on one side for the requisite time (depending on how well-done you want it to be), then flip to the other side for the requisite time, and you are done! Slight charred on the outside and juicy on the inside. If you keep flipping, the outside won't be nice.

About fish, I only know chinese style fish frying - clean and dry fish, heat oil to high temperature (must be very hot oil, otherwise the skin will stick to the wok, helps tremendously if you have non-stick wok of course), throw in slice of ginger, slide fish in for about 20 seconds (to get a crispy skin), then lower fire (to cook the inside and not burn the skin) and continue cooking for about 6-10 minutes, depending on size of fish, then turn on the heat again, and flip fish to the other side, repeat. Again, don't flip the fish more than once or you risk messing up the fish!

Tracy Su said...

Buy the nicest looking veggies from the veggie man and ask him what to do with it? Might get some simple local ideas.

Pasta in tomato sauce goes with everything (olive oil, garlic, softened onions, herbs and tomatoes), could throw in seafood if you're craving fish (or serve with a piece of mackerel - usually cheap and very tasty)

Or meatballs
Or softened aubergines or courgette/zucchini (fry or roast in olive oil before dumping it in the soss; won't miss your meat much with this)
Or make ratatouille to go with your steak
Or I had this in an Italian restaurant once, steak topped with tomato sauce, aubergine and cheese.

You can tell I'm a bit of a sucker for the smooth, shiny, voluptuous purpleness....

Too bad you don't stay in one place too long, you could cook for an army and get through it over several days.

Oooh, or how about nice piece of salmon or other fish (trout, seabass etc) with a crispy skin on top of creamy lemony (garlic, mascarpone/cream, lemon juice & zest, stock or water) pasta or risotto (same same prep)?

But I think the local choice will be most cost-effective and satisfying...

Debra said...

You can try a tossing slab of fresh salmon with a piece of cheddar cheese on top into the pot, cook it for a short while till the salmon turns pink and you're done!

Aglio olio is pretty easy too - boil pasta till al dente, then toss in pan with olive oil, heaps of chopped garlic and Italian herbs. Can add sausages, canned mushrooms, etc as you wish!

Dannie said...

Wahhh... nice!

Got so many ideas to try! Thanks all!

Except you, Tracy. Because you love aubergines - a vegetable that is so disgusting that people call it by different names to trick others into eating it!

"Want an aubergine?"
"Eeew! No!"
"Howzabout an eggplant instead?"
"Eggplant? Dunno what it is but sounds good. Bring it on!"
"Arrgghhhh!!! Eggplant is aubergine!"
"Oops. Thought you knew. Sorry. How about this asian delicacy called a brinjal?"

Bleah :p

Honyi: We actually just had pasta and tuna, right about the time you wrote your comment :)

Rhys: What is the requisite time if I like my beef well-done and Yi Lin likes it medium-well?

Tracy: Gah!

Debra: Hey, that salmon-cheese thing sounds realllly easy. Okay, will try this next, while we're still near the coast :)

Dannie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy Su said...

HEYYY!!! I had lotsa other suggestions, not just aubergines. And...AAND if you don't like it, probably means you ain't ever had it done right. Best veggie ever!!

WHOOP WHOOP for the royal purpleness (so it doesn't feel put down by your harshness...it deserves THAT many names, dude!)

Rhys said...

I love bbq/toasted/baked sambal aubergine.

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