Whip these up in a jiffy and spend the rest of your time relaxing before iftar!
It's 4.30pm. Work just let out and you're rushing to get to the Ramadhan bazaar, thinking it will save you time so you won't have to cook later. Traffic turns out to be horrendous and you only get there an hour later. Parking takes forever, and you wait in even more lines to get enough dishes and desserts for your family. Getting back on the road at almost 6.30pm, you know that you won’t get back home in time. And sure enough, the announcement for buka is heard on the radio. You end up munching on that popiah you lined up for earlier, as your kids at home have to contend with bread and peanut butter while you still crawl along in traffic.
Sound familiar? What happened to Ramadhan bazaars serving their primary purpose, actually saving time for busy people like you and me? We here at FriedChillies picked our brains for ideas on how you could (gasp) cook for iftar and still have a little more time for your family. Go out on your unused lunch break to shop for groceries and stow them in the office fridge until you head home to try out some of these simple solutions to feed your family better.
The best part about these solutions? They work even for sahur, when you're also pressed for time and energy. (Pay special attention to the “Cook once, eat twice” section!)
Jamie Oliver’s FriedChillies’ 30-minute meal
Asam rebus, sawi goreng and tempe goreng - a super quick and no-fuss Malay meal that takes 30 minutes from prep to cleanup. These proportions are for two, so up them as you see fit.
Asam Rebus Ingredients
2 cloves garlic
½” fresh turmeric
4 fresh chillies
2 stalks daun kesum (laksa leaves)
2 tbsp asam jawa (tamarind paste)
2 pieces asam keping
? section of a pineapple (or get this from the fruit seller near your office, where they sell them pre-sliced)
3 ikan selar kuning (mackerel scads/jackfish) or 1 cut ikan parang (wolf herring)
Sawi Goreng Ingredients
1 bunch sawi, washed
3 garlic cloves
Half a handful of ikan bilis
Oil for frying
Tempe Goreng Ingredients
1 packet of tempe
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
Oil for frying
Throw the shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, chillies and belacan in a food processor. Blitz to a paste. In a small pot, put in the paste along with all the other ingredients except salt and sugar. Fill the pot up with water until it comes to about an inch above the fish. Turn on the fire and let come to boil.
While the asam rebus is heating up, crush and mince the garlic. Heat up oil in a shallow saucepan. Stir around the minced garlic and ikan bilis until they start to colour slightly, then tear in the sawi leaves. Once they wilt (which will take no time) take them off the heat immediately.
Turn down the heat from a boil to a simmer. Stir the soup well and season with salt and sugar to taste. Let it bubble away gently.
In the same pan you used to fry the vegetables, add more oil and turn on the heat. Run a knife all over the surface of the tempe to add more surface area and to also loosen any possibly hidden pebbles. Slice it into thin slices and put in a bowl. Scatter the turmeric powder and salt over it, and add just a touch of water to moisten everything. Coat everything evenly. Fry the tempe slices, about 3-5 minutes a side until they crisp nicely to a golden brown.
Turn off the heat.
And there you have it! 3 quick dishes for buka. As for rice, you can either buy it ready-cooked from the cafeteria near your office, or get the rice cooker going before you start cooking everything else.
This set meal works because there’s no finicky tumis period with the asam rebus, and you can get on with quick frying everything else while the asam rebus cooks. For variations, you can try singgang ikan tenggiri with fried sawi putih and fried tofu. Or, bayam masak air (spinach soup) with fried fish and sambal belacan (which you can make in a food processor instead of a pestle and mortar). Omelettes are also a snap to cook up. As long as you keep to the formula of a boiled soup with vegetables, protein and an extra filler, you’re good to go!
Cook Once, Eat Twice (or more!)
On days when you have a bit more time, especially weekends, consider cooking in bulk and storing them in segregated containers for use throughout the week. Our website has a wealth of recipes that can be prepared ahead of time. Just take them out of the freezer and thaw them slowly in the fridge when you leave for work, and finish it up when you get home. Here are some suggestions:
- Makcik’s Fried Chicken(Prepare until the marination stage for storage and fry them when needed)
- Asam Pedas Kerbau
- Daging Hitam
- Rendang Rembau
- Beef Dendeng
- Lamb Korma
- Ghoulish Goulash
- Father’s Day Tagine
- Comforting Beef Stew
- Chili Corn Carne
- Asam Pedas Ikan Pari
- Sambal Ikan Bilis
- Sambal Tumis Sotong Kering
All these recipes can be fully cooked and stored in the fridge for about a week, or frozen until needed (except the fish, don’t freeze that or it will mush).
If you’re in too much of a rush to turn on the stove, here are a couple of no-cook suggestions that you can sail right through with minimum cleanup.
Basic Vegetable Kerabu
Kerabu is great to use up leftover bits of vegetables floating around your fridge. As long as you have good sambal belacan, kerisik (whether the ground paste or just dry toasted grated coconut) and limes, you’ve got everything you need.
A good handful of crunchy vegetables (I used kacang botor, or four-angled bean here)
2 Tbsp of sambal belacan
2 Tbsp of kerisik (you can get this pre-made at the grocery store)
Chop up the vegetables and slice the shallots as thinly as possible. Put in a big bowl with the sambal belacan and kerisik, and squeeze the limes over. Mix everything well. Eat with hot rice or on its own.
Keep to cold cuts and jarred spreads - or swing by the nearest rotisserie to pick up some roast chicken. Good bread and a bag of pre-washed salad leaves are invaluable if you plan on making these regularly. A variety of cheeses would add great flavour, along with different chutneys and jams.
2 slices heavy bread
4 pieces of cold cuts (we used beef and chicken slices here)
1 tbsp mustard
Handful of salad leaves
5 cherry tomatoes
Assemble in any order you like, and sandwich everything between the bread!
Jacked-up Packet Mixes
While some people might sneer at packet mixes, the quality of the ones that we get here in Malaysia for Malaysian food is pretty high. Rendang and sambal tumis mixes are your best bet. All you usually need to do is to fry the paste with some meat of your choice, and to loosen the gravy with a little bit of water.
- Try to stick to seafood for the meats, as they cook much faster. Chicken is okay, but red meat will take a long time, unless you slice them up nice and thin.
- Add some vegetables towards the end of cooking time, especially if you’re cooking sambal tumis. Crunchy long beans or petai are great additions, or slices of big yellow onions.
- Use a non-stick pan to cook packet mixes, as they usually contain quite a bit of oil, but not enough to handle a regular wok.
- Many packet mixes are very lightly seasoned, if at all. Check for saltiness especially once everything is cooked to make sure you don’t end up with an extremely bland dish.
If all else fails, get your food delivered! Check this article for our round-up of delivery options for Ramadhan. A whole bunch of options abound for those who really, really do not have the time.
Delivery options are also available for groceries, if you do not work near a supermarket. Try Doorstep for even more added convenience.
To recap, while Ramadhan bazaars are seemingly convenient, keep them to weekend excursions. Unless they are within walking distance from your house, it will most likely be more of a hassle than a blessing to depend on them for iftar meals. Cooking is more often than not simple and healthy - get your family to help you out for even more bonding time!