Being Malaysian is a blessing if you’re someone who likes to eat. We’ve got the best of everything from the East, and we’re also completely familiar almost everything from the West. So trying to narrow down must-have’s for the kitchen that would be useful for all the various cultures we have here wasn’t the easiest of tasks. So here’s a blend of some items we think you should always have. Whether its useful ingredients for cooking basic dishes, or whether its things you should definitely have stocked up just in case a global pandemic were to strike…
Ah, eggs, a wonderful little package full of protein and a perfect blend of amino acids. So nutritious yet so cheap, easy to store and versatile. You can make savoury dishes, desserts, cakes, or even fry one up quickly as a midnight snack. Did you know that Malaysian’s are the 7th largest consumer of eggs in the world? Well, now you know.
Eggs are the cheapest and most complete source of protein.Though A lot of people tend to worry about the yolk due to it's high cholesterol, but egg yolks are actually healthy for you. According to The Huffington Post, egg yolks have some of the richest dietary sources of the B-complex vitamin choline, which can help with fetal brain development and reduce inflammation.
2. Chilli Sauce or Soy Sauce
It was hard to pick between these two so I thought they should both be included as must-have condiments. If you’ve been anywhere near Asian food, I barely need to introduce soy sauce. It is THE one single sauce you must have to make anything Asian – and I daresay the only sauce you should be stranded on an island with. It goes with…everything, except maybe desserts.
Malaysians also love their chili sauce. Look at any fast food restaurant and you’ll see customers slathering their fries, burgers and fried chicken with the sweet and spicy sauce. It’s our country’s answer to ketchup.There are numerous types of chili sauces, including oil-based chili paste, chili-garlic sauce,Thai Sriracha sauce, or any number of sambals. Use it for stir fries and as a dipping sauce for finger foods like spring rolls or chicken wings to add that delicious chili bite to your dishes.
Ah, a vegetable that is versatile, flavorful and wide in variety. It stands on its own two feet as a side dish, or it can replace meatas a main thanks to its savory, umami flavor. Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds – and they’re also one of the few foods that have vitamin D, which is important for building strong bones and improving immunity. Some varieties like Lion’s Mane Mushroom also have purported cognitive benefits! When dried and stored carefully, they are easily kept forages and can be easily added to any meal.
If there's one fruit you should always have in your fridge, it's the lemon. It's perfect to dress up a boring meal by giving it some much-needed zest. According to Yahoo! Food, lemon is also great to help prevent sticky pasta, protect poached fish, and perk up stews and soups.
Not only is lemon amazing to add to your meals, but it's even better to drink. Before you start the day, wake up and have a room temperature glass of water with lemon in it.It can help settle your digestion and gives your immune system a boost. Can you think of a better way to start your morning? Yeah, I don't think so.
5. Garlic and Onions
Vampires be gone! Garlic and onions are like the bread and butter of Asian cuisines. They go with literally everything and anything. Mixit into your soups, sauces, stir-frieds or stews. Even though garlic is not really a first-date-night ingredient, it has plenty of health benefits you shouldn’t ignore! According to healthline.com, garlic is great for the common cold, for reducing high blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, is antibacterial, and has the ability to lower the risk of heart disease! Onions are pretty healthy too. They help control blood sugar, contain cancer-fighting compounds, have anti-bacterial properties. Best of all, they’re both cheap and taste amazing.
6. Coffee or Tea (or both!)
A big part of humanity probably runs on coffee nowadays,while the everyone else runs on tea. They’re both magical fuels for the mind and body to help boost our productivity (coffee) or to bring about a relaxing end to the day (tea). You can get coffee beans, coffee powder, or instant coffee, in all flavours, bean varieties and colors of roasts. You can also get English teas, Chinese teas, Chai tea, fruit & flower infusions and herbal teas. The best part is not having to pay ridiculous prices at a café when you can make your own at home!
So now we’re starting to enter pandemic preparation territory with the most suitable staple emergency food of all: Rice! Uncooked rice can be kept for years if they are stored correctly in a dry place that is free of dust, insects and other contaminants. The exception is brown (and other unpolished) rice, which has a much shorter shelf life due to its higher oil content. And for us Asians,rice is the be all and end all of what food should be eaten with. You could fry it, boil it, steam it, turn it into sushi (make sure you get the right variety though!) and even make certain desserts out of it. It is the perfect staple food to have alongside any flavourful dish.
8. Frozen Produce
I know, I know, frozen foods isn’t exactly specific as you can freeze just about anything. But then that’s the point! It’s a great way to always have a long-term stock of meats, veggies, fruits, desserts and snacks that stay fresh. Instead of worrying whether your chicken is going to expire before your carrots do, you could always opt for a deep frozen version of either so they both hit the pan tasting like they just came from the farm. Its important to note that frozen foods still do expire but managing a 2-3 month expiry date is much easier than fresh foods that tend to spoil after a week. Often, you can also find ready-to-eat meals that just require reheating!
9. Canned Goods
The story is quite the same for canned goods as they are for frozen foods. Almost everything can be canned, and often, too many unusual things end up being canned too! Although some people may not always enjoy canned products since produce like veggies and mushrooms tend to have a mushy texture following the canning process,canned foods can be just as nutritious as fresh and frozen foods because canning preserves many nutrients. The amount of minerals, fat-soluble vitamins, protein, fat and carbohydrate remain relatively unchanged by the process of canning. But,because the canning process requires high heat, canned goods may have less water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins. However, the heating process that may harm some vitamins can actually increase the antioxidant content. For instance, canning increases the amount of lycopene in tomatoes.
10. Rempah Ratus (Spices)
When I was growing up I used to think that “one day, I’ll have a beautiful kitchen with an entire spice rack that’s beautifully labelled and stocked in pleasing jars”. Now I’m all done growing up but the dream still remains (cries in millennial poverty).
Ah, spices, the flavour of life. Its what makes a curry a curry or a sambal the way it is. Can you imagine a world without spices? Entire countries came to power based on the trade of spices in ancient times, and still today, countless grandmothers wage war on who has the tastiest sambal recipe (ps: they all do!). The perfect spice rack depends on where you are in the world and what cuisine you prefer. But most can be found dried, pickled or in a jar –and they almost always last far longer than you think! Here’s a great selection of spices to have at home if you want to whip up just about any dish at home.