Popular food personality Ili Sulaiman's comfort food recipes

Ili says food that makes her feel better during this period are meals that are tied to her childhood. — ILI SULAIMAN

The bubbly Ili Sulaiman is a well-known personality on the local food circuit, having hosted television shows like Home Cooked: Malaysia and Family Feast with Ili. She also has a thriving Instagram following (over 100,000 followers) and has been sharing video tutorials and meal ideas with them during the MCO period.

“I’m just shooting a lot of videos and sharing a recipe a day with my followers. I’ve also been testing out new recipes and sharing old content, because everyone’s cooking so much more now, which is great. So this is the perfect time to share insights so people don’t stop cooking even after all this is over, ” she says.

Ili also says that it is at times like these that she thinks of meals that both comfort as well as remind her of her family, like her mum’s meatball pasta for instance.

“The meatball pasta is something we usually cook for family get-togethers and on the second day of Hari Raya. By then, people are sick of eating rendang so they look forward to eating my mum’s spaghetti meatballs. I think in a time like this, I miss these family get-togethers, which is why this is a recipe I wanted to share with everyone, ” she says.

The beauty of meatball pasta, according to Ili, is that it is a fast, easy meal that can be easily cooked during this period of limited ingredients. It is also a cost-efficient meal that can last for a few meals.

Ili says she has been trying to share as many recipes as possible with her followers during the MCO. — ILI SULAIMANIli says she has been trying to share as many recipes as possible with her followers during the MCO. — ILI SULAIMAN

“People normally have some sort of pasta in their pantry – it doesn’t have to be spaghetti, it can be penne or anything else. And pasta is fairly affordable these days too. Also the meatball patty can be fashioned from chicken, lamb, beef or even tofu if you want to make a vegetarian version. And most of the other ingredients are pantry staples, like onions and tomatoes, ” she says.

Ili’s Peranakan-inspired chicken curry also alludes to nostalgic memories and is a meal that continues to bring her joy even as an adult.

“Peranakan chicken curry is a mash of my heritage – my mum is half-Chinese and half-English and my dad is Malay-Sri Lankan. Because my dad likes spicy food, we always had curry in our daily meals when I was growing up. And because my mum grew up in an English household, she is not big on spicy food, so she makes this watered-down gravy with things like carrots and broccoli.

“So what I’ve done is I’ve taken that recipe and added some lemongrass, kaffir lime and made the curry more punchy. And I think it’s a good meal to have right now, because who doesn’t like a good chicken curry at a time like this?” she asks.


For the meatballs

400g minced beef

2 spring onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

black pepper and salt to taste

1 egg

1 tbsp Italian herbs

For cooking

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

200g minced beef

1 tbsp dried herbs

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

A few fresh basil leaves

1 packet spaghetti, cookedIn a big bowl, add all the ingredients for the meatballs and mix well. Mould into golf ball size meatballs.

In a pan, add some oil and brown the meatballs on each side for a minute or so and set aside.

In the same pan, make the sauce. First, heat up olive oil and saute onions until translucent before adding garlic, beef, herbs and carrots. Fry for a few minutes before adding chopped tomatoes and water. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper and let cook for a few minutes.

To assemble, add in the meatballs and the pasta and fold through.


For marinating

1 whole chicken, cut into 16 pieces

turmeric powder

salt to taste

For cooking

6 red onions

6 cloves garlic

5cm ginger

1 stalk lemongrass, smashed

400ml to 500ml water

2 tbsp curry powder

1 kaffir lime leaf

200ml coconut milk

salt and sugar to taste

Marinate chicken with salt and turmeric powder. Set aside.

Blend together onions, garlic and ginger with some water until smooth.In a large pot, heat oil on medium-high heat and brown the chicken until golden on all sides. Remove from the pot and set aside.

In the same pot, cook the blended paste with lemongrass until fragrant. Add some water and curry powder and let boil. Add more water, if required.

Add kaffir lime leaf and coconut milk and stir to combine. Then add chicken and salt and sugar to taste. Let simmer for a few minutes until chicken is cooked. Serve hot.

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