Singapore shoppers can be relentless when it comes to procuring essentials for the circuit breaker – many times you end up having to take whatever’s left.
Empty aisles are no longer are common sight since supermarkets like FairPrice lowered purchase limits, but you’ll still see what you want out of stock from time to time.
So it pays to be a strategic shopper, instead of shopping on autopilot. Consider what you really need, and what can last you through the month rather than the perishables within your reach.
If you’re tired of masking up to head to grocery store, or struggling to schedule your online grocery delivery, here are seven foods you can keep in your kitchen for a long time without problem, according to a savvy Singaporean food editor:
This staple is a must. Plus, there is red cargo rice, brown rice and other delicious options, apart from white.
I cannot think of a more versatile pantry staple – eaten with dishes, fried with whatever is in the fridge and made into congee for a comforting meal. If you are more adventurous, use it to make musubi or onigiri, Hawaiian and Japanese rice balls respectively. Or bake with meat and cheese, and use for salads.
If white jasmine is out of stock, look for other kinds of white rice. Japanese short grain rice is just as versatile and can be used in place of long grain white for most dishes. Basmati is aromatic and makes beautiful fried rice.
I would suggest pasta instead of instant noodles simply because it is more versatile. Why? At a pinch, spaghetti, or its thinner cousin, spaghettini, can be used in place of noodles for your favourite Asian noodle dishes, but I would find it hard to imagine Chinese egg noodles with pesto.
Think beyond red sauce for the pasta. Slice up garlic, open a tin of anchovies and saute both with olive oil, then toss with cooked spaghetti for a simple meal filled with umami. Make a creamy pasta dinner with diced ham, frozen peas and button mushrooms sauteed with sliced onions, then add cooking cream and bubble gently until thickened, before tossing with cooked pasta. If stretched for time, you do not even have to wait for the water to boil for the pasta.
Stir-fry cooked noodles with meat, seafood and vegetables to make Japanese yakisoba, and if you have packets of instant laksa or chicken curry paste, use spaghetti in place of Asian noodles for these dishes. If feeling poorly, spaghetti or spaghettini in chicken stock with meat and vegetables is restorative.
3. Hardy Vegetables and Fruit
Although my freezer is packed with meat and fish, the vegetable bin of the fridge is never filled. Why waste money stocking up when they go bad so quickly? But I always have a few staples on hand: a head of cabbage, a couple of carrots and a pack of sugar snap peas. I find these vegetables last the longest.
All three can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be shredded to make a coleslaw or tossed with a spicy peanut dressing, stir-fried for a quick meal, or added to soupy noodles. I like the crunch that snap peas give to a beef stir-fry, and often eat them raw.
Think also about frozen vegetables. I boil frozen edamame beans in salted water to eat as a snack or add them to salads. Frozen peas can also be added to all sorts of dishes. Or mash them, add butter and pepper, and eat with meat pies. Cooked gently with stock, they transform into a delicious soup in a blender, especially if you flavour the stock with a ham bone or other smoked meat trimmings.
Citrus fruit such as lemons, limes and grapefruit last pretty long in the fridge and can be eaten or juiced. Never waste the zest – use them in cakes, cookies, salad dressings and marinades.
4. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
They weigh next to nothing but punch way above their weight in terms of flavour. Fresh mushrooms need to be used up quickly, but dried ones can sit in the pantry, well sealed, for months.
Rehydrated and sliced, they can be added to fried noodles and vegetable stir-fries for a blast of umami. They will add soul and depth to hot and sour soup, too. Whole rehydrated mushrooms are good in braised dishes, soaking up flavour like mini sponges.
I like to stuff whole rehydrated mushrooms with minced pork mixed with scallions, then steam them for a comforting dish to eat with rice.
The meaty texture of dried shiitake is satisfying and endlessly useful in vegetarian dishes too. But rehydrating is not the only way to use them. I grate the dried mushrooms on a fine grater to make shiitake powder. It adds a depth of flavour to meatballs and wontons. Or sprinkle the magic dust as a finishing touch to risotto.
Waste no part of the mushrooms. Save the stems and add to the stockpot. Strain the soaking water to remove the grit and use it to flavour soup or mushroom risotto.
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