Cooking for health and well-being

Ana Tan: “I still enjoy cooking and eating, but I nowhave to be more particular because of my age and health issues.”

When I got married and eventually became a mother at 27, I didn’t hesitate to give up my corporate career to focus on raising my family.

So, for the next 20 years, I was a full-time housewife and hands-on mom to two beautiful girls. My days were mostly spent on managing the house, checking up on my daughters’ schoolwork and cooking. At that time, cooking was a chore that I had to complete as part of my daily task and not as a creative outlet or activity that I looked forward to doing.

When my girls got older and went abroad to study, I got to try different dishes and cuisines with them. We would eat anywhere and everywhere that served good food.

I came to miss the food so much that I tried to recreate my favorites and shared them with family and friends. At 50, I took a risk and opened a small food business which eventually became my source of income. Cooking now has a different meaning to me—it’s my way of practicing what I’ve learned from others and sharing my personal experiences with family, friends and strangers.

Working in the food industry is very interesting and fulfilling, but it is not easy. It made me realize that passion is not enough to serve consistently good food, so I decided to go back to the basics. I enrolled in various cooking classes to learn techniques and tips from culinary experts. Aside from that, I learned quite a few “secret recipes” and how to play around with spices and ingredients to create healthy meal substitutes.

At 56, I still enjoy cooking and eating very much despite my busy schedule. But I now have to be more particular because of my age and struggle with health issues like diabetes. I also wanted to understand the ingredients that I use so the food I prepare can be beneficial for my health and my family’s well-being. I’m thankful that I was able to attend chef Reggie Aspiras’ classes before the pandemic because the tips she generously shared have come in so handy.

My family and I have been enjoying adlai rice as our carb substitute, and different spices, herbs and textures to make our meals interesting.

I am sharing my version of the Chinese Herbal Black Chicken with Adlai Rice. The star of this dish, the Silkie chicken (black chicken), contains more antioxidants than regular chicken. The nourishing broth, with a mix of Chinese herbs, ginger and goji berries, has so many wonderful benefits. It strengthens the immune system, calms the mind, helps with anxiety and supports heart health.

I’m also sharing our family’s recent merienda favorite, Crab Cakes with Dried Scallops, a very delicious dish that takes minimal effort to prepare.

Ana Tan’s crab cakes and herbal black chicken dish

Chinese Herbal Black Chicken with Adlai Rice

1 whole black chicken (free-range chicken is okay, too, if you can’t find Silkie chicken)

2 c adlai grains

2 ginger roots, sliced

1 small onion or 1 stalk leeks

1 pack Chinese herbs

100 g fresh shiitake mushrooms

10-12 pc red dates

2 Tbsp sesame oil

Salt, to taste

Green onion and coriander, optional, for garnish

Carefully wash the black chicken and precut into smaller pieces before boiling. Tip: To ensure that impurities are removed from the chicken, submerge in room temperature water first before bringing it to a boil. Submerging chicken in boiling water immediately will seal up the skin, preventing the blood and impurities from being released.

Rinse again to remove any dirt left in the chicken.

In a separate pot, saute chicken in ginger and oil, then add mushrooms.

Add 2 liters of water with all other ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add salt and sesame oil to taste.

Garnish with chopped green onions and coriander.

Crab Cakes with Dried Scallops

8 eggs, medium-sized

120 g crabmeat

6 crab sticks, cut to smaller pieces

100 g dried scallops, soaked in water

3 gingerroot, sliced

1 tsp rice wine

20 g red bell pepper

30 g spring onions

2 Tbsp oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute crabmeat, crab sticks, dried scallops and ginger root in onion and garlic. Set aside.

Prepare egg mixture in a bowl. Beat 8 eggs and add 1 tsp rice wine to get rid of the fishy smell of egg. Tip: Use a strainer to remove all the lumps left. Add bell peppers, spring onion and salt and pepper (to taste) with sauteed seafood.

Preheat pan and evenly coat with vegetable oil for around a minute. Pour some of your seafood omelette mixture into the pan in small round cakes.

Wait a few minutes and cover with lid for even cooking. Flip after 3 minutes.

Once the cake turns golden brown, it’s ready. Serve with sweet-chili sauce.

—CONTRIBUTED

The author is a mom of two and food entrepreneur. She owns Bugis Singapore Street Food and Chomp Chomp Asian Food Restaurants.

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