KUALA LUMPUR: Being away from home has taught women’s doubles shuttlers and sisters Ng Hui Lin-Ng Hui Ern a lot about being independent – and that includes learning to cook their own healthy meals.
Some of their specialities include salmon and avocado sandwiches and hummus – a Mediterranean food dip made from cooked mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.
“I am just crazy about cooking healthy meals right now. I post all my ‘creations’ on Facebook – it’s just so therapeutic,” said a radiant and slimmer looking Hui Lin.
“We have to be ultra-independent abroad and that’s where our passion for cooking began. Before that, we did not even go to the kitchen,” said Hui Lin’s younger sister Hui Ern, bursting into laughter during a food-tasting experience at their home here in Kuala Lumpur recently.
In 2011, the Ng sisters left the national team to further their studies in Economics at the University of Loughborough in Britain.
While many go for holidays during the summer breaks, the sisters diligently returned home to train with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) players.
In their bid to lead a healthy lifestyle, they began experimenting with different types of recipes – mostly nutritious.
“We use wholemeal bread, bagels and baguette. We make wraps, chicken sandwiches, beef fajitas and anything that we fancy. We just dump all our favourites and make a tantalising spread. We eat more beans and use less processed food like bacon and sausages,” said Hui Lin.
“Sometimes, our housemates (in Loughborough) think that we are fighting in the kitchen because we tend to be loud and differ in opinion. For instance, I like to sprinkle black pepper on my tomatoes but she doesn’t,” exclaimed Hui Ern.
Both, however, agreed that they have grown over the last two years in England and are now able to appreciate all the benefits of being a national athlete in Malaysia.
“In KL, food is provided for the athletes. Over there, most of us do our own cooking. As a national shuttler, we enjoy free facilities at the National Sports Institute (NSI) at any time,” said Hui Lin.
“In the UK, we have to pay. Fortunately, as varsity students, we get discounts. We have to pay RM150 per session for treatment by a physiotherapist. So, we cannot afford to get injured!
“There are small fees for the use of other stuff too – like the gymnasium. We also do not have the luxury of having a personal masseur.
“Athletes in Malaysia are a lucky bunch ... I hope no one will take it for granted. When we return to Malaysia next year (after finishing their three-year studies) to continue our duties as national shuttlers, we will surely appreciate all these facilities much better.”
The away-from-home experience has also brought the sisters closer.
“Sometimes, my younger sister tests my patience but, whenever she is away I miss her terribly. Once, I had to go to France to play for a club and within 24 hours I was calling her and we were chatting on the phone for 45 minutes,” said Hui Lin.
“We depend on each other a lot. This year, when Hui Ern turned 22, I surprised her by taking her to Venice for a short holiday and baked her a cake – a combination of all kinds of fruits ... I’ve posted that signature dish on my Facebook too!
“I’m glad that our parents insisted that we pursued our studies first, although we were hesitant. We knew studies were important but staying away has really taught us to be independent. We are more mature now.
“If we had waited for five years to further our studies, we would have been lazy and our brains would have been rusty ... and, probably our badminton careers would have been stagnant,” said Hui Lin, smiling sheepishly.
Their culinary skills aside, the sisters seem to have somehow found their recipe for success on the badminton court too.
Despite juggling with their studies, training and competing away from home, the sisters did the country proud by qualifying for the World Championships in Guangzhou from Aug 5-11.
“We have been playing as a pair for three years but our best years were when we moved to further our studies in the UK. We won titles in Austria, Ireland and Wales and were runners-up in Scotland. We made it to the India and Vietnam Open Grand Prix Gold tournaments too,” said Hui Ern.
“It’s great to have qualified for the world meet again. We played in 2011 but did not get past the early rounds. There have been so many sacrifices over the last two years ... hopefully, we will taste better results this time.”