Friday, 22 August 2014

Masterclass In Session: 30-Minute Meals With Sara

If there's anything food-loving Malaysians are starved for, besides good places to dine out, is time - more so for urban-dwellers. After a long day at the office and long hours in traffic jams, sweating behind a stove (and maybe doing laundry by hand) is the last thing on their minds.

So we eat out, commuting and enduring more traffic jams along the way. But outside fare is not necessarily healthy, as online entrepreneur Sara Khong learnt.

"The full attention I gave to my newly established online fashion business led me to give up the luxury of home-cooked food altogether," says Khong. "Meals consisted of takeaway chicken rice in Styrofoam boxes or nasi lemak in brown paper. The pizza delivery guy became a familiar friend; when I was at my busiest, I had pizza for every meal for a few days straight!"

Unsurprisingly, this lifestyle began taking its toll.

"I lost a lot of weight, looked scrawny and sickly, and had little energy to do anything I enjoyed," she says. "Going to the doctor was a monthly affair."

Faced with this, Khong decided to dine in more often. She began formulating strategies and tips that enabled fast, less-hassle cooking with the help of modern kitchen appliances and useful household items utilising the latest technology.

Over time, her health returned and she found joy in her work and her quest to simplify and speed up the preparation of certain Malaysian dishes, as well as sharing her gospel of fast home-cooking on social media and her online lifestyle portal,

(Yes, kitchen experiments can be fun, as I can attest.)

Now, her time-saving tips and recipes can be found in Malaysian Meals in 30 Minutes, the newest addition to the MPH Masterclass Kitchen series.

From kitchen organisation, food storage guidelines and selection of kitchen tools, utensils and appliances to tips on picking quick-to-prepare dishes and cooking them faster, let Khong show you how you can whip up a dish - a full meal, even - within half an hour.

Pick from one of the many featured hawker-stall staples such as wantan mee, nasi lemak, Portuguese grilled fish and BBQ chicken wings; then pair it up with a sago gula Melaka, sweet potato soup, or maybe cekodok and drinks such as teh tarik and chrysanthemum tea.

One thing all of these recipes have in common is that they use few ingredients and prep time for everything is short - or as short as she can make it.

"These few meals should be fast to prepare and use common ingredients which are readily available in your pantry and refrigerator," she says. "It should be one of your favourite foods, made so frequently you need not refer to a cookbook and can prepare speedily."

And you won't necessarily need the knife-wielding skills of a three-star executive chef.

Khong also recommends maximising the use of whatever you have in your kitchen. Those clunky chicken scissors can slice chillies, long beans and spring onions, and you can cut up an onion with an apple corer. Got a gas stove with multiple burners? Use 'em all if you have to, but keep an eye on them.

Still not enough time? She also provides menu suggestions for some typical meals. Living near Jalan Alor during her childhood is perhaps why virtually all her book's recipes are all warung, kopitiam or mamak stall fare.

The point is, ultimately, to get busy people eating healthy - or at least, healthier than usual. Cooking your own meals is one way - you manage what goes in and determine the size of the portions. Plus, you'd gain some essential life skills in the process.

"My aim is for this book to be more than just a collection of good recipes and nice photographs," writes Khong. "I want it to be a practical guide to inspire busy people to start cooking. If you can't cook during the weekdays, try to at least cook on the weekends. I encourage you to eat in!"

For more tips and recipes - not just for cooking - visit

Malaysian Meals in 30 Minutes
Sara Khong
MPH Group Publishing
178 pages
ISBN: 978-967-415-073-0

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  1. Replies
    1. No problem. All the best with the book and future endeavours.


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