Since the inception of the movement control order (MCO), Malaysians have quickly realised what’s most important to them on the food front. But interestingly, food essentials can be very different to different people.
Here’s a rundown of ingredients and food staples that locals from different demographics say they cannot do without during the MCO.
Rice and glutinous rice
“During the MCO, I have been at home with my parents who are in their late sixties as well as my 85-year-old grandmother who came for a visit and ended up getting stuck here. My grandmother constantly eats rice – like she eats a lot of it, more than anybody else in the house! – so we always have to have rice.
"We also have a stock of glutinous rice, because we like eating pulut pagi, a Kelantanese dish that my mum has been making a lot during this period.” – Yasmeen Zainal, 33, talent manager
Instant noodles and Milo
“A few of us students are living together and we don’t have a lot of cooking utensils and we’re lazy to cook, so we just stock up on easy things to make. Like, we have A LOT of Maggi instant noodles and a good supply of Milo, because that’s what we drink when we’re awake at 3am or 4am in the morning – it’s like our moonlight snack.” – Daniel Siew, 21, student
Fresh vegetables, oats and mineral water
“I am a health freak so I store a lot of hardy vegetables that will keep for a longer period, like carrots and eggplants as well as fruits like apples and oranges for my morning fruit juices.
“I have also stocked up on oats, which I eat every day for breakfast and – this might sound crazy – but I’ve been buying a lot of mineral water online too! – Michelle Wong, 37, business owner
“As soon as the MCO was announced, I rushed out to buy a supply of ground coffee. I have to have coffee in the mornings every day and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get any, so I bought a little extra so that I can still have my daily fix. Even now, I think I'm subconsciously anxious that I will run out of coffee so I've actually been drinking less frequently than I normally do.” – Azzuan Shah Razak, 26, lawyer
“My mother and I live together at home and have bought all kinds of biscuits, because it’s easy to snack on or use as meal replacements. Being at home during the MCO has caused our appetites to dwindle, so having biscuits in the house is great, because we can eat something even if we don’t really feel like eating a full meal.” – Rena Shan, 37, teacher
“In my household, we have to have eggs. Our breakfast every day is scrambled eggs or omelettes. And our daily meals consist of a lot of eggs too – fried eggs, boiled eggs, egg sambal – it’s the easiest thing to eat and we’re sort of egg-crazy people!” – Arni Halina Abdul Halim, 41, group leader, English book department
Chinese cooking sauces and butter
“I’ve made sure that I have a lot of cooking sauces like soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil – basically the building blocks for Chinese cuisine.
“The other thing I make a point to keep around is butter – my husband and I need a lot of it to butter our bread every day.” – May Goh, 70, retired school principal
Cheese, peanut butter and tea
“My mother and I have been eating very simple meals during this period. But there are some things we have to have in the house like peanut butter and cheese slices to eat with bread – both of which represent comfort food to us.
“I also have a stock of tea leaves and tea bags, so that I can brew a big pot of tea, leave it in the fridge and drink it any time I want. It’s a really good alternative to water too.” – Meera Vijayendra, 50s, arts and entertainment consultant
Cili padi and salted fish
“I am from Negri Sembilan and we like things spicy here, so I have stored a lot of cili padi in my fridge to make dishes like masak lemak cili api. I think the fiery heat really brings out my appetite, even when I don’t really feel like eating much this period.
"Another one of my must-haves is salted fish, which I feel adds flavour to every meal.” – Tunku Nazihah Tunku Mohd Ros, 73, retired diplomat
“I have to make sure we have plenty of fresh fruits like grapes and mangoes for my two-year-old daughter, so that she can have nutritious snacks as I don’t want her eating too much chocolate and other unhealthy stuff during this period.” – Eugenie Chan, 36, public relations and branding consultant
“Before the MCO started, I never used to drink milk but since I can’t go to the gym now and am trying to avoid eating unhealthy junk food, I have started drinking two glasses of milk a day as my snack. So in a week, I have to buy three litres of milk to ensure I have enough to go around.” – Sebastian Lopez, 25, architect
Curry powders and coconut milk
“I cook Indian food every day for my family, so I made sure to buy an adequate supply of curry powders like fish curry powder and meat curry powder as well as coriander powder and turmeric powder, which I must have to make dishes like chicken curry and fish curry. Without all these things, I cannot make nice Indian food.
“And coconut milk is so important for curries too – I stocked up on small coconut milk packs for this period so that I always have it handy when I need to use it.” – Bryant Fernando, 68, homemaker
Bread and chicken
“Bread is definitely crucial – I have it every day and it’s so flexible, it can be turned into breakfast toasts, French toasts or even a sandwich.
“I also stocked up on a lot of chicken because I think it’s one of the easiest things to cook and it’s my go-to ingredient when I want to make something like fried rice.” – Faiz Yahaya, 33, satellite communications manager
“My family is vegetarian and we just cannot live without sambal chilli. We make our own sambal chilli with three different kinds of mushrooms, dried chillies, onions, ginger, lemongrass, turmeric root and coconut oil. I bought all the ingredients for it beforehand and have made a huge batch to sustain us for the MCO, as I cook a lot and use the sambal chilli to make things like curries and even nasi lemak.” – Ocean Chua, 44, durian farmer
“Food is all about the flavours you put into it, and for me, food is tasteless without dried herbs. That’s why I have a full range of items like dried coriander leaves, oregano and dried mint flakes to include in my cooking.” – Carmen Chia, 56, miniature dollhouse maker
“My husband bought a lot of beer for the MCO – between the two of us, we’ve gone through more than 48 cans now, so I think that's something that's essential to us!” – Jennifer Vincent, 56, former sub-editor
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