By Monica Devi Lim | 7 July 2020
“It’s the new language,” replied Karen. “The new language is social distancing and more hygiene.”
I was intrigued. I had just asked Karen Margaret Skading, a fashion business owner who lives in Amersfoort (The Netherlands), how being an Overseas Singaporean who had already had to adapt to a new country was helping her to adapt to the new global situation.
“When I first moved here, I had to learn to understand the culture. I had to inculcate understanding and tolerance in a new country. Above all, learn a new language,” continued Karen. “That’s also how I deal with COVID-19. Firstly, by understanding the importance of social distancing. And then, tolerance during the lockdown. We have to understand the nature of the disease, and that by staying indoors we are helping to not spread the disease.”
I liked Karen’s calm and matter-of-fact approach to this global pandemic. I reached out to more of the Singaporean diaspora and asked them how they were coping with the various quarantine measures. As food plays a central role in many of our lives – whether we are creating it or eating it – I was especially curious about their approaches to “lockdown cooking”.
Based in Bangkok (Thailand), arts manager Wahyuni Hadi’s answer to my question on where she got her inspiration for new dishes daily was “Friends are very forthcoming in sharing recipes… and it is fun to see what everyone is up to. I cook pretty regularly so nothing much has changed. One my new favourites is a recipe for Greek Chicken Marinade by The Forked Spoon, a blog offering healthy family-friendly recipes.”
The COVID-19 lockdown has indeed increased the time available for family bonding. With the onset of the pandemic, Jean Winter-Yeow, an F&B consultant who also owns an events management company, travels less for work. A serial expatriate currently in Dubai (UAE), she says, “My husband and the kids love that I am able to cook more for the family. They missed my cooking when I travelled so much for work – usually our helper cooks the daily meals. Home-cooked meals and having dinner together every night binds the family unit closer together. Pasta vongole is a favourite of my husband’s – I learnt how to make this when we were in Italy. Wherever we’ve lived, I’ve picked up some of the local favourites and create fusion dishes to suit our family’s taste buds.”
In contrast, expanding one’s taste preferences and learning how to cook new cuisines is how others approach their daily cooking routine. Without having to commute to the office in heavy traffic or to homeschool their young children, the enforced homestay has afforded some the luxury of extra time. For example, although home delivery service remains available in The Netherlands, Karen who usually cooks simply during the week decided to learn more complicated dishes. “Recently, I learnt how to make a whole Indian meal for the first time including dishes like biryani, dhal and chicken vindaloo. I browse for recipes on Google. But my comfort food is Shepherd’s Pie.” Do you have a favourite go-to comfort dish? Next month, I speak to more Singaporeans living abroad to find out how they stay connected to the Little Red Dot through their cooking. For now, how about trying one of the recipes here below – it might become one of your favourites too.
Jean’s Pasta Vongole
- Cherry tomatoes (halved) – omit if an Asian version is preferred
- 3-4 Garlic cloves (minced or lightly smashed)
- A handful of parsley (chopped) – replace with coriander if an Asian version is preferred
- Spaghetti or pasta of choice
- Olive oil
- Dried chilli flakes
- White wine – replace with soya sauce if an Asian version is preferred
- Rinse the clams with water and let them sit for 30 minutes in water for the sand and impurities to sink to the bottom of the bowl. Repeat this step 2-3 times.
- Boil a pot of water with a tablespoon of salt for the pasta.
- Heat some olive oil before sautéing the garlic and some dried chilli flakes for a few seconds until the flavour is released. Add the cherry tomatoes and half the parsley and sauté for another 20-30 seconds.
- Add the clams with a splash of white wine (or soya sauce) and cover the pot.
- Boil the spaghetti for 6-7 minutes until al dente.
- Check on the clams every 5 minutes and gently stir the clams around until all open. (You will also have a very lovely stock at the bottom of the pot.)
- Drain the spaghetti and keep some of the cooking water for if the pasta needs a little more liquid.
- Toss your spaghetti and the clams together evenly.
- Top with the remaining fresh parsley and serve immediately.
Wahyuni’s Greek Chicken Marinade
- Chicken breasts
For the marinade
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Lemon zest
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh oregano
- Fresh rosemary
- Fresh parsley
- Black pepper
- Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
- Add the chicken breasts to the marinade. Coat well with the marinade.
- Allow the chicken breasts to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- While the chicken is marinating, get the grill* ready. Set the grill to medium-high heat.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and place directly on the grill. (Discard the remaining marinade.)
- Cover the grill and allow the chicken to cook for approximately 5 minutes before reducing the heat to medium. Allow the chicken to cook for another 2 minutes, then flip each breast over. Grill for another 5-7 minutes, or until done.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the grill and set aside on a clean plate. Tent with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Serve with bread or rice.
Karen’s Chicken Vindaloo
- 4 chicken breasts (cut into large cubes)
- 1 large onion (chopped)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 red chilli peppers
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- 1½ tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp mustard seeds (blended into powder)
- 1 tsp black peppercorns (blended into powder)
- 4 cardamoms (seed only)
- 3 whole cloves (blended into powder)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp hot chilli flakes (optional)
- Make a marinade by whisking together the vinegar, ginger, garlic, garam masala, cinnamon, cumin, cardamoms, cloves, turmeric and coriander.
- Place the chicken cubes in a large bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (best if overnight).
- Heat a large pan to medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the onion and chilli peppers and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until they soften.
- Add the chicken along with the marinade and cook for another 5 minutes to brown up the pieces.
- Add the tomato paste and cook another minute, stirring.
- Add the water and stir until the mixture is consistently thinned out. You can add more water if you want the curry to be thinner.
- Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
- Serve with rice. Sprinkle with chilli flakes if you want it spicier.
About Monica Devi Lim
Whether it’s listening to one, imagining one, one or dreaming one up, Monica spends a lot of her time seeking and shaping stories. If you’re just as fascinated by the merging of worlds and cultures, from fusion cooking to going glocal and phygital experiences, talk to me at firstname.lastname@example.org