Sara Khong offers easy-to-make meals to help busy professionals, writes Stuart Danker

Sara Khong offers easy-to-make meals to help busy professionals, writes Stuart Danker

TIME restriction is a common occurrence in the country today.

Many parents with young children depend on maids or day care centres to watch their children while they earn a living.

Even young professionals with fewer responsibilities find themselves hard-pressed to cook a decent meal while juggling a career.

The effect on our bodies is slow yet cumulative, leaving us unable to enjoy the creature comforts we’ve worked so hard for.

In this case, necessity is indeed the mother of invention, as Sara Khong, author of Malaysian Meals In 30 Minutes realised.

She recalls a time she decided that working for a fatter wallet did not equate having the luxury to spend the money.

“At that time, I was staying with my parents, so eating home-cooked food was a given.

I never realised the joy of dining on home-cooked food.

It was when I was living on my own that I started to miss it, but I guess the breaking point was when I found myself sick and, after a long day at work, I came home to nothing in the kitchen.

Tired, I dragged myself out to the living room, and that’s when I saw a cockroach on the floor.

I told myself that it was no way to live, thus my pursuit for quick meals and easy housekeeping,” she says.

Khong offers tips that help people save time, using technology to ease household chores.

Instead of chopping onions and crying during the process, she suggests using an apple-corer that does everything in one press.

Instead of waiting an hour for rice to cook, you can use pressure cookers, effectively cutting cooking time in half.

There are also special Tupperware products that regulate air based on the type of vegetables being stored.

The container allows more air to flow for leafy vegetables, and does the opposite for root vegetables.

Khong also touches on the art of multi-tasking, such as grilling meat while the soup and vegetables are boiling.

All these life hacks were made available on her website www. and she has since put the recipes together in her book.

“I am a workaholic.

I barely have time for anything, which is why I need my own hacks as much as the next person.

When I first thought of putting this information online, one of my main fears was that not many people would be interested in cooking and housekeeping strategies.

It turns out that there are many in need of time-saving techniques than I thought,” she says.

The main thing Khong advocates is preparing your own food whenever possible,especiallysinceboughtfood is usually laden with monosodium glutamate.

She encourages people to cook within whatever limited time they have.

A person short on time on a daily basis can opt to cook weekly, for example.


The main purpose, says Khong, is to gain balance in one’s life, which differs from person to person.

It wouldn’t make sense to deprive oneself of our favourite dishes if it makes us miserable.

“I feel that there’s no point in keepingahealthydietandostracising yourself in the process.

It’s inevitable to eat out at social gatherings.

I too have days when I chomp on lasagne.

The trick is to eat clean at home, and still be open enough to eat whatever you want when you go out.

A healthy life involves family and friends, and hiding at home all the time does not equate a balanced life.” One major contributor to Khong’s easy style of cooking is her grocery list.Shestocksuponlonglastingfood, which gives her freedom to whip up a meal even if she doesn’t have time to go to the supermarket.

Her shelves are stocked with mushrooms, dried chilli, noodles, tomato puree and UHT milk.

Knowing how to cook dishes like aglio olio is also a plus, as these recipes only need a handful of simple ingredients such as pasta, garlic, and basil.

“The younger people are, the more they take their health for granted.

People always say they don’t have time to cook, and that may be true, but it’s not worth putting your health on the backburner.

You have to make time for it.

It’s not a matter of being a health freak.

It’s just taking care of yourself on a basic level, so that you will have the energy to enjoy the day, and the future.

Nowadays, food is easier to get, especially in prepared form.Gonearethedayswhenyouhad to gut and clean a fish at home.

These days the supermarket does them for you.

So take advantage of this, and take advantage of technology, and take control of your own health.”


Preparation time: 30 minutes


350g Mysore dhal, soaked and

washed thoroughly

1.5 litres water

40g (1 bulb) garlic

½ tsp turmeric powder

¼ tsp chilli powder

30g (2 pcs) green chilli, seeded

and cut lengthwise

30g (2 pcs) red chilli, seeded and

cut lengthwise

Spices for frying:

3 tbsp oil

60g (1pc) red onion, finely


10g (10 pcs) dried chilli, cut into

inch-long pieces

5g curry leaves

2 tsp mixed fenugreek (a mixture

of fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds,

black mustard seeds and cumin


Vegetables and seasonings

80g (1pc) carrot, cut into inchlong


350g (3 pcs) potatoes, peeled and


200g (2 pcs) tomatoes, halved

80g (1 pc) brinjal, cut into inchlong


125ml milk

4 tsp salt


To cook the dhal

Boil soaked dhal, garlic, red chilli, green chilli, chilli powder and turmeric powder in a pot for 10 minutes or until the lentils soften.

Add the potato, carrot and tomato.

Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes or until the vegetables soften.

Add the brinjal and cover the pot with a lid to prevent the brinjal from turning brown.

To prepare spices

While the dhal is boiling, fry the spices (onion, dried chilli, curry leaves, and mixed seeds) with three tablespoons of oil in a heated pan until fragrant or when the onions turn golden brown.

Final step

Add the spices and milk into the pot of dhal and cook for another 5 minutes.

Season with salt to taste.

Serve hot with rice, roti canai or chapati.


Preparation time: 20 minutes


For soup and vegetable

20g kai lan

300ml water

75g ikan bilis, washed

For noodles:

1 packet noodles

1 tbsp soya sauce

1 tbsp anchovy soup

½ tbsp shallot oil

1 tsp dark soya sauce

Sesame oil to taste

Pepper to taste

For prawn dumplings:

¼ tsp salt

Pepper to taste

200g prawns, shelled

6 wantan wrappers



Spring onions


To make the soup and vegetable In a pot of water, add ikan bilis and bring to a boil.

Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Blanch the vegetable and set aside.

In the meantime, make prawn dumplings and noodles.

To cook the noodles

In a pot, bring water to boil and cook the wantan mee for a few minutes.

In a serving plate, pour dark soya sauce, soya sauce, sesame oil, pepper, shallot oil and mix well.

Remove the cooked noodles from the pot, drain the excess water, and mix with the sauce.

To make prawn dumplings

Sprinkle salt and pepper on the prawns and set them aside for a few minutes.

This step would add flavour and make the dumplings juicier.

Put a prawn in the centre of a wantan wrapper.

With your finger, moisten the edges of the wrapper with water and fold it into half.

Dab the corners at both ends with water, connect them and press together firmly to seal it.

Cook the dumplings in the boiling anchovy soup until they float to the surface.

This should take about 2 minutes.

To serve

Serve the noodles with vegetable, dumplings and a bowl of soup on the side.

Sprinkle shallots and spring onions for garnishing and to add more flavour.

Preparation time: 30 minutes


For nasi lemak

500g rice

125ml coconut milk

2 pandan leaves, knotted

2 tsp salt

For sambal ikan bilis

10g (10 pcs) dried chillies,


100g (7 pcs) shallots

3 cloves garlic

5g (1 tsp) belacan

75g uncooked ikan bilis

1 tsp asam jawa

200ml water

125ml oil

salt to taste

sugar to taste


Roasted peanuts

Fresh cucumber, sliced

Fried ikan bilis

2 hard-boiled eggs

(four halves, one for each plate of rice)


To make coconut rice Put the rice into a rice cooker with the coconut milk, pandan leaves and salt.

While rice is cooking, boil the eggs, pan-fry the peanuts, slice the cucumbers and make the sambal.

To make sambal ikan bilis In a blender, blend the shallots, garlic, water, dried chilli and belacan into a paste.

In a wok with heated oil, fry the chilli paste until fragrant.

It should take about 15 minutes.

Then, add the asam jawa and ikan bilis and stir well.

Season with salt and sugar.

Set aside.

To serve

Plate the rice and garnish with hard-boiled eggs, fried ikan bilis and slices of cucumber before serving.

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