Every day of the week, Lim Boon Ping cooks a meal for his family. On the side, he runs a YouTube channel called Cooking Ah Pa (www.youtube.com/cookingahpa) where he documents the methods and ingredients required to make the simple, predominantly Chinese style dishes he cooks at home.
Since he started a few years ago, Lim has accumulated a huge following and now has over 111,000 subscribers on his channel. But he says interest in his recipes has never been as high as it currently is.
“Many people are telling me that they hardly cook but now, they are forced to cook, so they are feeling very stressed out – they don’t know what ingredients are needed or even what to cook. So for those who go to my YouTube channel, I think they really find it very useful, because they can find over 600 meal ideas, ” he says.
Because of the explosion in interest in home-cooking, Lim says his YouTube views for the month of March have already hit the one million mark.
Popular food blogger Sheena Haikal – who runs the page Sheena’s Cooking Passion (facebook.com/sheenacookingpassion/) on Facebook) with over 250,000 followers – is also discovering a surge of interest in homecooked meals.
On her page, Sheena posts a litany of pictorial and video tutorials for lip-smacking Indian dishes like chicken varuval, mutton curry, sambar and other meals. Collectively, she estimates she probably has over 300 recipes on her site.
“I have encouraged home cooking since Day One. But this period is when people are referring to all my recipes and trying them one by one, because they have no choice but to cook every day, so they need ideas. So the demand for recipes on my site is very high now, ” says Sheena, adding that her Facebook video tutorials can reach 150,000 views now in just a matter of days.
To cater to the huge current demand for their expertise, Lim and Sheena have increased the frequency of their video postings. Lim now posts two videos a day while Sheena has committed to posting a recipe a day.
What people are looking for
Sheena says during this period, people are actually looking for simple, homecooked meals – not anything too fancy as they just want to feed themselves and their families.
“I am posting more recipes for simple meals that people can cook with whatever ingredients they have, because not everyone has their supply now and they can’t go out and get ingredients every day. So I just post basic things like chicken curry and sambar that people will definitely cook at home, ” she says.
Sheena says people also seem to be paying more attention to foods that have purported immune-boosting properties, so her recipes for rasam (a tamarind-based Indian soup) and turmeric tea have proven extremely popular.Lim meanwhile has noticed that scarcity of ingredients has forced some people to turn to him for help in making things like curry pastes and bread.
“You can’t imagine the things people can’t find. And some people are used to buying ready-made curry mixes, so when they can’t find it anymore, suddenly they don’t know how to make chicken curry anymore. So I now have requests for people asking me to teach them how to make the pastes from scratch, ” he says.
In line with the increasing need he is seeing for people looking for home-cooked meals, Lim will soon be launching an app called findhomefood.com, which will offer home-cooked meals to busy urbanites.
“It’s about helping people who like to make home-cooked food and those who like to eat home-cooked food, so we actually provide this platform to link these two parties together, ” he says.
Both Lim and Sheena understand that cooking can be daunting for neophytes braving it for the first time, or even people forced to venture out of their comfort zone and cook far more than they ever have.
Which is why the duo intend to continue providing ideas, a cooking compass and support to tentative home cooks who desperately need them during this difficult time.
“Some people have said this to me – ‘I’m sorry, but I want to ask you a very stupid question.’ To me, there is no such thing as stupid questions, because whenever people start doing new things, there are bound to be things that they wouldn’t know. So to me, people can ask me any questions they might have and I will try to help them, ” says Lim.
Sheena meanwhile says she derives joy from providing inspiration and motivation to home cooks and is determined to continue sharing recipes and encouraging her legion of followers to continue cooking at home, even after the MCO ends.
“You know, I am not getting anything from this – I don’t make any money from my page. But people will tell me, ‘I have never cooked a fish curry in my life and I tried your recipe and my kids loved it!’ So that kind of feedback encourages me to share more recipes.
“And I am just happy that people finally realise how important homecooked food is. All the while I think they took their daily meals for granted, because they have their mothers to cook for them or eat out.
“So I think now people know how to value ingredients and food. And after the MCO, I think people will appreciate homecooked food because they’ve gotten used to it, ” she says.
For the rasam mixture
10 cloves crushed garlic
3 tbsp of coarsely ground fennel, cumin, coriander seed, and black pepper
2 cups tamarind extract
1 cup water
salt to taste
3 tbsp Indian gingelly oil (Indian sesame oil)
2 shallots, sliced
3 dried chillies
a few sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp dhal
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
2 tsp tempering mixture (fennel, cumin, urad dhal, mustard seed, and fenugreek)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
a few sprigs coriander leaves
To make the rasam mixture
Add all ingredients, tamarind extract and water into a bowl. Mix together, making sure to squeeze the tomatoes. Set aside.
To cook rasam
Heat up sesame oil. Add in all the tempering ingredients and stir. Once onion turns a little brown, add in turmeric powder.
Add in rasam mixture and bring to a boil. Do not boil for too long as it will turn bitter. Once bubbles appear on the side, remove from heat
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot.
AH PA’S CHICKEN POTATO STEW
500g chicken, cut into chunks (any part)
some light soy sauce, for marinating chicken
oil, for cooking
1/2 onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, cut into big chunks
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
salt, sugar and white pepper to taste
green onion, for garnishing
Marinate chicken with light soy sauce and set aside.
Heat up your pot with oil. Add onion and saute until soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Put in carrot and potatoes, give it a few quick stirs and add in the marinated chicken.
Add light soy sauce, oyster sauce and hot water. The water level should be able to cover at least 1/2 of the ingredients in the pot.
When the ingredients come to a boil, close lid and lower heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until potatoes and carrot are soft. Add in seasoning and garnish with green onions. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.