Cheap Cooks! January on a Budget?

Delicious Home-Cooked Asian Meals on a Budget

Whether you cook for a large household or love to entertain, feeding a crowd can be costly. Learn how to make your budget go further with these tips for Asian-inspired parties and family dinners.

During this time of the year, we all eagerly anticipate spending quality time with our loved ones. However, this also means having to spend more on food, especially when catering to a bigger group. Planning a menu for a party can be daunting, especially with a limited budget. But don’t worry – there are several money-saving tips and tricks that you can use to whip up some delicious Asian-inspired dishes and ensure that everyone is well-fed and satisfied without going over budget.

Asian family kitchens are often characterized by their relatively small size, with many barely able to fit an oven. However, despite their limited space, these kitchens churn out mouthwatering delicacies day in and day out. This is because people have learned to make the most of their ingredients and become efficient with their cooking.

Bright, but Humble, Ingredients

Asian cuisine is known for its vibrant colours, bold flavours, and creative use of simple ingredients like rice, noodles, fruits, and vegetables. With unique herbs and seasonings, these ingredients are transformed into amazing dishes.

Take the egg as a prime example.  It is affordable and versatile and can be found in most households. When combined with other ingredients that are likely already in your fridge, eggs can be used to create delicious and budget-friendly meals. In this article, we share with you one of our favourite Asian recipes that features the egg as the star ingredient.

Master your Cooking Techniques

Mastering simple cooking techniques can be a game-changer in the kitchen. Have you ever wondered how Asian restaurants and takeaways manage to offer a diverse menu with so many dishes? The secret lies in mastering a few basic techniques that allow you to cook with a wide range of variations using just a handful of local ingredients. It’s easier than you might think!

Asian cooking is often associated with stir-frying in a wok, but there are other equally important techniques such as steaming, braising, deep-frying, poaching, roasting, and double cooking that help create the perfect balance of texture in our food. Achieving a balance of flavour, texture, and colour, in addition to textural differences within a dish or meal, is crucial to Asian cooking.

For example, when you bite into a dumpling, the pastry should be initially soft but with an al dente bite. The meaty filling should offer a little savoury resistance and add juiciness, while any vegetables inside should provide crunch. If you try a pot sticker, you will experience the moreish feeling of the crispy base crunch. However, it’s not just about the base. The perfect balance of flavour, texture, and colour is what makes you want to pick up a dumpling and immediately go for another, and then guard the plate from anyone around you.

Asian Ingredients You Shouldn’t Be Without

When it comes to Asian cooking, fresh ingredients such as ginger, garlic, spring onions, chillies, and coriander are essential. These ingredients are cheap, cheerful, and can last a long time if stored properly.

To stock up your Asian store cupboard, keep it simple. Start with jasmine rice, which symbolizes a heavenly link between gods and earth in Asian tradition and should always be in abundance. Add dried noodles, light and dark soy sauce, pure sesame oil, oyster sauce, a good chilli paste or chilli oil, and hoisin sauce for good measure. These sauces, used in the right quantities, provide the balance of flavour you need for a versatile selection of dishes.

The flavour of ingredients can change depending on how you prep and cook them, the amount you add, and the time you add them to the heat.

 

Here’s our all-time favourite, on-a-budget, Asian dish – Egg-Fried Rice.

Easy and Budget-Friendly Egg-Fried Rice

Preparation and cooking time

Prep:10 mins

Cook:10 mins

Level: Easy

Serves: 4

 

Our easy recipe for egg-fried rice: use leftover rice or dry it on a plate before cooking to prevent sticking.Ingredients

250g Jasmine rice

3 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil

1 onion finely chopped

2 cups mixed vegetables, diced

4 eggs, beaten

2 spring onions, sliced, white and green parts divided

2 tbsp soy sauce, use tamari if gluten free

½ tsp five-spice powder

dash of ground white pepper, optional

1 to 2 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp crushed peanuts, to garnish, optional

few lime wedges

 

Method

  1. Cook the rice, following packet instructions, then drain it and spread it out to steam dry. Set it aside for later. Otherwise, you can use one-day leftover rice.
  2. Heat a large wok or skillet with 1 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the beaten eggs and scramble them for about a minute. Transfer the eggs to a dish and turn off the heat.
  3. Drizzle the remaining 2 tbsp of oil into the wok over high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the mixed vegetables and the white chopped parts of the spring onion and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.
  4. Add the cooked and dried rice into the wok or skillet and cook for several minutes, until the rice is heated through. Break clumps of rice, using the back of a spoon or spatula.
  5. Add the soy sauce, five-spice powder, a dash of white pepper (if using), and sesame oil. Stir to distribute.
  6. Add the scrambled eggs and stir to mix again.
  7. Remove from heat and garnish with remaining sliced green parts of the spring onion, crushed peanuts, and lime wedges.

This recipe is incredibly versatile, as it can be served as a main course, a side dish, or even an appetizer. However, be warned, your guests might love it so much that they’ll ask for seconds and even try to steal your recipe! But don’t worry, all credit will go to the chef.

www.saigonmalta.com

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