A worldwide crisis kicked in causing many rushing to grocery stores to stockpile on food during this emergency situation. Panic buying is not at all recommended. As a good and responsible prepper, it‘s important to buy essential food items which can be used for day-to-day meals for we cannot be eating pasta or canned food alone. Besides, having a rough idea on the type of meals you would be preparing is very helpful at times like this. Having enough essential items will allow you to stay at home for a longer period of time and practice social distancing as recommended by most government and health officials.
For those who are on a budget, choose and pick the ingredients that are relevant for you. Ensure that the ingredients can be used in different types of cuisine and cooking methods. The list was made based on the versatility of the food and its long shelf life.
We'll also add some recipe recommendations which are typically what we usually have on Nyonya Cooking but we're going to keep the recipes easy. This list is made with the assumption that you have the basics such as oil, pepper, salt and sugar. If you don't, it's time to add them to your shopping list.
1. Dried food
Dried Shiitake mushrooms always have a spot in my pantry. They can be kept in airtight containers or plastic bags away from sunlight. They are great for stir-fries, stews and as a meat substitute. Do not pour away the water used to hydrate the mushrooms as it can always be added to the dish for extra umami. Recipe examples are mapo tofu, stir-fry broccoli and mushroom or pong teh chicken.
Besides that, legumes such as dhal, white beans or chickpeas are great if added into curries, soups or any stew of your choice. They are not only filling but also delicious.
If baking is your passion, I strongly suggest getting some flour - both bread flour and all purpose flour. Flour is really versatile and can be made into bread, cookies, noodles and pizzas. Why not, right? After all, having a variety of food at home makes a happy tummy!
Speaking of carbohydrates, get some noodles and rice, of course! What's an Asian kitchen without rice and noodles. If you only want to get one type of noodles, I'd say go with Italian spaghetti. They are delicious in pasta dishes but also work well with in Asian cuisine. Try Indonesian Mie Goreng or use them for making soup noodles too.
Common condiments such as soy sauces (light, sweet and thick), sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, oyster or mushroom sauce, curry powder and a chilli sauce of your choice are must-haves. They come in really handy to flavour the dishes. As a bonus, I'd highly recommend miso paste.
Personally, I like to have mayonnaise as it's a versatile condiment which can be used on its own or mixed with other sauces to create different flavours. I love adding wasabi or Sriracha to mayonnaise. Use it as a dip or toss it with some fried tofu or meat. Very yummy when eaten with a bowl of rice or noodles.
3. Canned food
When it comes to canned food, I normally won't suggest ready-made canned meals. Since this list is all about having versatile ingredients which can be whipped into different types of dishes, my favourites are peas, corn, mushrooms, tomato sauce and tuna.
Vegetables like peas, corns and mushrooms can be added into stir fries, stew or fried rice. Soups using corns or mushrooms are absolutely delicious too. As for tuna, I usually use it for making sandwiches and pizzas or simply add it to fried rice.
Pureed tomato sauce is useful not only as pasta and pizza sauce. It can also be the base of curry dishes when spiced with some chilli powder, garam masala and other aromatics such as cloves and cardamom. If these spices are not available in your pantry, simply add any type of curry powder or curry paste of your choice. This curry base is fantastic for any type of meat and potatoes.
If vegetables are added to the tomato sauce and diluted with water or stock, it can be a delicious minestrone soup. This is also where you can add legumes of your choice.
I also enjoy this ingredient as a breakfast dish. Shakshuka is a Middle-Eastern dish which is very simple to make if you enjoy eggs and tomatoes. Heat up some onions and garlic before adding spices to the dish. A pinch of cumin and some paprika slices or powder will make a change to the flavour of the tomato sauce. Don't forget to season with some salt, pepper and a bit of chilli powder for a bit of spiciness. The latter is optional. Once the flavours come together, break an egg into it and it's done!
4. Frozen vegetables/meat
I always have frozen vegetables and meat in my refrigerator. Portioning meat for one meal is very helpful as there is no need to defrost what you do not need. Besides, frozen vegetables are said to be as good as fresh ones. My picks are frozen beans, spinach, mushroom mix (not Shiitake only) and slices of capsicums. I use frozen vegetables every few days. Be it a simple stir-fry or stew, these ingredients always come in handy. In fact, adding some when making an omelette turns it into a balanced and filling meal.
5. Fresh vegetables
The trick here is to pick vegetables which can last long. Onions, garlic and ginger are already staple ingredients in my pantry. Other durable vegetables are carrots, potatoes, celery or pumpkin. Tomatoes may not last as long but they are pretty durable too. Just store them at room temperature.
When shopping for food, it's always important not to over purchase to prevent food wastage. For example, one portion of pasta is usually about 80g per person. If a pack of chicken consists of two pieces of chicken breast, that would be enough for two meals if serving two persons. Make a rough estimate on how much foodstuff you'll need to buy for a certain period.
All said, it's a habit you'll need to maintain if you plan on cooking more often at home. Just having the ingredients in hand makes it so much easier.