3 basic steps to quick and healthy meals

3 basic steps to quick and healthy meals

I recently posed a question to my friends and to my surprise, I found that many of them (especially those who live out on their own) dine out for most if not all of their meals. There wouldn’t be any problem with that if we have eateries that offer “home cooking” or just serving real food in general instead of highly refined and processed food. However, we do not have such luxury in our country just yet. We do see more “real food” eateries popping up lately (yay to that!), but they usually come with heftier price tags as well, which isn’t sustainable for most middle-income earners.

So what’s the solution?

I’ve got one answer for you: cooking!

And the usual responses I’d normally receive from that are;

“I don’t know how to cook and the food would turn out horrible!”


“I don’t have the time to slave away in the kitchen”

Guess what guys? It is really not that difficult or time-consuming. I once thought it was as well. If I can do it, anyone definitely can. I’m one of those who cringe at complicated recipes with a long ingredient list and countless steps. When I say easy, it really is. If you are eating real food, the wholefood itself already does the work for you. All that’s left to do is pop them in your oven, steamer, etc, assemble them with amazing fresh natural flavourings or seasonings and you’re done.

So I thought I’ll break it down for you today and share with you my 3 basic steps when it comes to cooking and putting up easy, nourishing, delicious meals.

Quick & Healthy Cooking Basics #1:

Four Elements – Protein, Unrefined Carb, Healthy Fat and Vegetables


To create a balanced meal, make sure you’ve got all your macros 👆and greens. The key is to have clean sources of those macros as your sides (a fist size of each) and load up on vegetables (filling ½ of your plate).

Here are a few examples of each macro;

Protein: Chicken, fish, tempeh, lentils and beans, quinoa, tofu, eggs.

Unrefined Carbs: Whole grains (rolled oats, quinoa, barley, couscous, brown rice),  starchy vegetables (sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, squash), lentils and beans

Healthy Fat: Natural dressings/sauces, nuts and seeds, natural nut butter, unrefined oil (olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil), avocado

Easy Cooking Basics  #2: Cooking Method

After determining the ingredients (each macro element and greens) of your choice, it’s time to decide on a cooking method. You can steam, boil, bake, pan fry or even go raw! My usual go-tos are baking and steaming.

And the bit that makes a dish go from bland to wow? 👇

Easy Cooking Basics #3: Flavouring and Seasoning.

I’m talking sauces, dressings, herbs and spices. These are the elements that tie your dish together and make it flavourful and delicious. Any dish (and I mean, ANY dish) can be made scrumptious with the right sauces, dressings, and seasonings.  

P.s. If you’re getting store-bought ones, remember to check the ingredient lists to make sure they are not loaded with sugar and preservatives. Choose the ones with only whole/fresh ingredients.

There you go, just simple 3 basic steps to get cooking and creative in the kitchen! It is really as simple as that, and your ingredients need not be elaborate. To give you an example, a simple warm dish of baked sweet potatoes (carbs) and brussels sprouts (greens), with 2 boiled eggs (protein), and a nice dressing (healthy fat) over it can be delectable!

For quick and simple recipes; you can check out my 5 Detox Breakfast RecipesEasy Veggie Dishes and 5-minute Smoothie Recipes. More to come guys. I’m putting up weekly recipes now on The Pantry by Erina’s very own blog; #thepantryshares, so do head over to check out how simple healthy cooking really is.

Hope these 3 simple steps and recipes will get you cooking in no time and inspire you to create your very own meals. Have a good week ahead and remember to show some love this week, encourage someone, share good vibes, be slow to speak & quick to listen.

Lots of love,


My 5 detox breakfast recipes

My 5 detox breakfast recipes

According to Oxford Dictionary, “Detox” (short for detoxification) is defined as;

“A process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification”

Our body is created to detox naturally. Organs such as liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph, colon, and skin do the job. If we are feeding our body right and eating well, our organs would be able to detoxify our body as it should be. Problem only occurs when we are overloading our body with toxic substances. Our body can’t keep up and in turn become “faulty” and that’s when we fall ill and diseases creep in. A big part of it is contributed by food that are heavily refined, processed and manufactured with chemicals and artificial products. And it’s okay to be eating them especially if we enjoy them (I mean who can really say no forever to a bag of chips right?), but the key is moderation. You can learn more about how I stay healthy whilst enjoying my sweets and fries here.

“Detoxifying food just means wholefood; real food that are abounding with vitamins, minerals and nutrients which are healing to the body and aids body with its detoxification processes”

I’m a big believer of moderation and balance when it comes to life and food, and I personally find elimination diets not sustainable and neither is it healthy for our psychological and mental state. I’ve written on 80:20 rule that I adopt in helping me achieve moderation and to live healthily, sustainably here.

The only time I would practice “elimination” would be during my “detox week/s”, which I try to do semi-annually, just to give my body a rest once in a while from all things refined. I thought as I prepare meals for myself, I’d document them and have those recipes written out for you. They are nothing fancy, just basic nourishing breakfast meals that you can put up in a jiffy.

Detox Recipe #1: My Big Breakfast

⏰ 20 minutes








  1. Preheat oven at 200C. Wash, scrub, clean and dry sweet potato. Cut it into small cubes. Mix in chopped garlic and 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil with the cubed potatoes. Add them into a baking tray, and bake for 15-20 minutes (till it’s golden and lightly charred)
  2. As potatoes are roasting in the oven, add chopped garlic into an oiled pan. Fry till it’s slightly golden, and add baby spinach. Let it sit and stir occasionally.
  3. While that’s cooking, crack 2 eggs into other side of the pan, cook it for a minute and flip it over and cook for another minute.
  4. Turn off heat, sprinkle pink himalayan salt over spinach and eggs. Serve them on a plate.
  5. Sprinkle smoked paprika and turmeric powder over eggs.
  6. Cut up some fresh cucumbers to serve alongside the other dishes.
  7. Once sweet potatoes are ready, sprinkle pink himalayan salt over it and serve with the rest.

Detox Recipe #2: Green Smoothie Bowl

⏰ 5 minutes








  1. Add frozen banana, spinach, almond cinnamon, honey and chia seeds into food processor.
  2. Process till you reach a smooth consistency (about 2-3mins)
  3. Serve with desired toppings.

Detox Recipe #3: Granola Bowl and Green Juice

⏰ 10 minutes








Granola Bowl

  1. Add banana and homemade granola into a bowl. Drizzle almond cinnamon over it.
  2. Serve with frozen mixed berries and dried figs.

Green Juice (without a juicer)

  1. Add all ingredients into the blender. Process till it’s smooth.
  2. Strain and enjoy!


Detox Recipe #4: Hummus Pepper Cups

⏰ 10 minutes








  1. Add chickpea, garlic, cumin powder, turmeric powder, and salt into food processor.
  2. As the processor runs, add in olive oil. (You can use less or more depending on the consistency you desire)
  3. Fill up peppers with hummus.
  4. Sprinkle chia seeds, sesame seeds, smoked paprika and black pepper over it.

Detox Recipe #5: Breakfast on a Pan

⏰ 15 minutes








  1. Stir fry chopped kai lan in olive oil and garlic for a minute.
  2. Add 3 eggs into pan and give it a swirl to cover the entire pan. Cook for another minute in medium heat.
  3. Sprinkle smoked paprika and salt over it.
  4. Serve with roasted garlic dressing.


I hope these recipes will inspire you to make nourishing, delicious meals at home. It takes less than 15 to 20 minutes to put up any of these meals. Once you get cooking and enjoying meals like these, you will never want to have them any other way. So, cook, have fun and enjoy food! Remember to show somebody some love this week by giving, sharing, listening and encouraging.

Lots of love,

The hidden Macanese gem in Damansara Perdana

The hidden Macanese gem in Damansara Perdana

Macanese food can be something good for a change, especially when you are craving for the famous Macau-style chi pa pau or pork chop buns.

When my wife and I visited Macau as part of our honeymoon to Hong Kong some 10 years ago, we just went crazy over the chi pa pau.

Sounds crazy, I know, but that was what I had for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the few days we were in Macau!

Now, when I think of the Cantonese name for the autonomous territory, which kind of sounds like ‘old moon’, I cannot help but think of the pig flying over Macau drawn on the wall of Fat Tea Macanese Food in Petaling Jaya.

So the first time I went to Fat Tea, the first question I asked restaurant owner June Yap was: “Do you have chi pa pau?” My eyes lit up when she said: “Yes! And we have more than that!”

That was over three months ago, and I have been back many times since, particularly for their chi pa pau. Because as much as I loved the buns in Macau, Fat Tea’s chi pa pau taste even better! I am almost salivating thinking of the buns as I write this.

The chi pa pau is basically a buttered bread roll containing a delicious pork chop and a special sauce concocted by June’s partner and chef Susana Batalha.

Of course, chi pa pau are not all they have. I would also recommend the po kok khai or Portuguese chicken, baked and cooked with turmeric and coconut milk, and which goes great with rice and salad.

My son got to the chicken before I had the chance to dig into it. He then shoved a spoonful of the gravy and the meat to my mouth, and said, “Daddy, this is great!”

Minchi rice was the other dish that we had the opportunity to taste. The Macau Tourism Office has deemed it their national dish, like nasi lemak is here.

The dish comes with steamed rice, minced pork, onions, diced fried potatoes, fried egg, rice, veggies and chi yau cha.

The well-known ‘serradurra or Macau pudding is a must-try. The crumbled biscuits on whipped cream looks like sawdust, which is why it is also popularly known as ‘sawdust pudding’. Which is helpful in case you ever forget the word ‘serradurra!’

Batalha, a sixth generation Macanese, may look as Portuguese as you can imagine, until she starts mesmerising you with her near-perfect Cantonese! It is wonderful to know that her passion is cooking!

There aren’t many places to find authentic Macanese food in the Klang Valley, which makes Fat Tea a real treasure.

It is indeed a hidden gem, especially because its name gives no clue as to what kind of restaurant it is! I was left wondering, “Is this a tea house? A bak kut the shop?” Good job I walked inside and found out!

But I learned that ‘fat tea’ is a translation of Cha Gordo, a gourmand affair for Macanese families for all the most important occasions. Like Malaysians, the Macanese also love their food – a fusion of Portuguese and Cantonese food – and celebrations wouldn’t be the same without it.

Fat Tea Macanese Restaurant is located at Unit LG-05, Plaza Emerald North, Jalan PJU 8/3A, Damansara Perdana.

Tel: +603-77331868
Business hours: 10am – 10 pm (Tuesdays- Sundays)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FatTeaFood
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/VT1DNdVVY6n
Waze location: https://www.waze.com/livemap?zoom=17&lat=3.16481&lon=101.60817

A thumbs-up for Lim’s char koay teow in Damansara Kim

A thumbs-up for Lim’s char koay teow in Damansara Kim

Penang char koay teow has a big following but as I said earlier, taste is very subjective.

There is also no top connoisseur in the country who can tell us which version of Penang char koay teow is authentic and the best. It’s all about one’s preference and the way we have been brought up liking a particular taste.

After my article about Robert’s Penang char koay teow at Damansara Kim, two personal friends of mine told me to check out Lim’s Char Koay Teow at Restoran Wan Shoon.

The coffee shop is located at the opposite end of the stretch of shop lots in Damansara Kim where Robert’s char koay teow stall is located. So, there you go: two competitors that appeal to different taste buds.

Raised and bred in Kuala Lumpur, Lim Kah Hey was a former dim sum chef with a five-star hotel in Petaling Jaya for over seven years.

Being a foodie fan himself, the 34-year-old experimented with his version of Penang char koay teow, and decided to venture out on his own. His first stall was set up in 2015 at Paramount Garden. He only moved here to Damansara Kim in late 2016.

Lim’s version of Penang char koay teow received the thumbs-up from a younger Penangite, Beatrice Khoo, who claims that Lim’s CKT is closer to what she herself has grown up loving.

Being a Penangite herself, she is an ardent fan of Lim’s version of the Penang cuisine. Along with another common friend of ours, both recommended that I should check it out.  

“In fact, when he first started there, it was not good at all,” Beatrice told me. “After one month of abstaining, I could see a big improvement. I started noticing what others had on their table and from one look, I knew it was time to give it a try again; since then, I have been a loyal customer!”

She also notices that Lim uses the thinner version of koay teow which is closely resembling the Penang version that she is used to.

He puts in the usual stuff — cockles, lup cheong, prawns, bean sprouts, but unlike the authentic Penang version, Lim finds duck eggs give it a better taste. “Otherwise, for eggs, I use only kampung chicken eggs,” he said.

Depending on the clients’ preference, Lim’s style is the dry version. “If there are clients who prefer to have it slightly wet, they can tell me, and I will do it for them,” he said.

Personally, for RM6 (small plate) and RM6.50 (large), I think it is a good treat, especially with the current economic condition.

Wan Shoon Restaurant is located at 47 Jalan SS20/11, Damansara Kim, 47400 Selangor. Lim’s CKT stall does not have a name but it is the only stall serving Penang Char Koay Teow.

Waze: Click here if you want to use Waze

Tel: 012-673 7811

Business Hours: 7.30am-2.00pm (7 days a week) Closed fortnightly on Wednesdays.

Mamatok’s secret ayam berempah recipe winning over the Klang Valley

Mamatok’s secret ayam berempah recipe winning over the Klang Valley

One of my favourite Kelantanese dishes is deep-fried spice-marinated chicken served with steamed rice, or as they call it, nasi kukus ayam berempah à la Kelantan.

Starting with a restaurant in Mutiara Damansara – after the original in Kota Bahru – Rohana Salleh’s winning recipe has caused food lovers around the Klang Valley to crave her nasi kukus ayam berempah.

With just a single dish, Ilham Nasi Kukus has opened two other outlets – one in Petaling Jaya and one in Shah Alam – all within a span of seven years. All three outlets are well-patronised by loyal customers.

A fourth Ilham Nasi Kukus outlet is in the offing, and will officially open very soon due to popular demand in the area. It is currently under renovation.

Muhammad Abrisam Akmal Kamarizal or BoBoiBoy, who runs the restaurant in Mutiara Damansara, said his grandmother’s recipe is very special because it uses 12 different herbs and spices.

“When we first launched our first outlet here, within less than three months, we could see the positive response. A lot of our customers told us that the chicken is crispy on the outside but juicy inside. Overall, they say it is delicious.”

Of course, they can’t divulge what goes into their family’s secret blend, but it is basically a mixture of three curries – chicken, fish and beef curry. A lot of TLC goes into the preparation, with the chicken marinated up to seven or eight hours.

And amazingly, the spices are blended and flown in all the way from Kelantan – Abrisam’s uncle does the mixing himself, and then supplies to their family outlets in the Klang Valley.

“For that reason, we are always grateful to mamatok (grandmother) for her secret recipe.

This would explain why streams of people queue at the self-service counter to pick up their orders – especially on Fridays, due to the proximity of Ilham Nasi Kukus to the mosque nearby, it is usually packed with people.

Ilham’s nasi kukus blends in well with their creamy air jagung, especially when your chicken and rice is accompanied by cili belacan. The dish also contains small slices of pineapple and ikan bilis.

Ilham Nasi Kukus @ Mutiara Damansara is located at No 7, Jalan PJU 7/16, Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya.

Their original restaurant, which was started more than ten years ago by Rohana is located in Jalan Telipot, Kota Bharu. They also have a branche in Seksyen 51A, Petaling Jaya, and Pusat Komersial Seksyen 7, Shah Alam.

Tel: 019-966 2525/ 014-644 2525
Business hours: Sun-Sat 11.30am – 9pm
Facebook  |  Google Map  |  Waze location

STEPHEN NG is an ordinary citizen with an avid interest in all sorts of gastronomical delights – Western, Middle Eastern and Asian.

My Tips on Managing Cravings (plus easy recipes)

My Tips on Managing Cravings (plus easy recipes)

All of us have those days…. The craving days.

I believe everyone has their unique “craving patterns”. For me, I can be quite a habitual person, even when cravings are concerned. I go through a period of time (days or weeks) where I crave for the exact same thing at a particular hour of the day.

There are plenty of researches out there about the meaning behind every craving. I’ve yet to test those out but I did find a way to satisfy my different cravings the healthiest way possible, without compromising on flavours or satisfaction.

I hope my tips will help you to satisfy your cravings, guilt-free without depriving yourself of anything.

#1 Sweet Cravings

I went through a period where I just can’t help but to end my dinners with a lil something sweet. And fruits won’t suffice in this case (besides eating fruits right after meals have always caused me bloatedness). Sure, I could have shrugged it off and practice “mind over matter”, but doing that every night could be a tad bit stressful for me and not to mention restrictive. I’m all for discipline, but deprivation on the other hand………..

I found a happy medium which allows me to indulge, yet not stressing my body with processed sugar. If my craving is just for a day, I’ll say “heck i’ll just waltz into “Rekindle” (a popular cake joint in my area) and enjoy a slice” but I’m not about to do that every day.

I resorted to 2 alternatives;

A spoonful of The Pantry’s Chocolate Hazelnut or a couple of frozen choc hazelnut squares always never fail.


And, what more it’s nourishing; made with only 3 basic wholesome ingredients: 93% dry roasted hazelnuts, 5% raw honey and 2% unsweetened cocoa.

#2 Cold Cravings

This “cold cravings” streak just ended for me not too long ago. Days where all I wanted to do is to curl up in bed with my Netflix on and a bowl of ice cream in hand. Thankfully, I’m no stranger to homemade ice cream so I got that craving handled pretty easily. This recipe was my go-to for those few weeks. It takes only a few minutes to whip this up.


Recipe: Chocolate-Banana Nice Cream

2 Large Frozen Bananas | 2 Tbsp of Chocolate Hazelnut Spread | Toppings: chopped nuts

Add all ingredients into food processor and blitz till it’s smooth.

#3 Crispy Cravings

Who doesn’t love a good bag of crisps? I know I do. My all-time fave has got to be Kettle’s Jalapeno Chips. Just like everything, moderation is key. No way can I be bagging one pack of those everyday. But, kale chips on the other hand……….

This became my favourite movie snack for a period of time… 😁

Flavour ✔️
Crunch ✔️
Nourishing ✔️

Enough said.

Recipe for Kale Chips

A bunch of kale | Drizzle of Olive Oil | Dash of pink Himalayan salt & cayenne pepper


  1. Pre-heat oven at 180C
  2. Massage oil into kale
  3. Bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle salt and cayenne pepper before serving.

#4 Late Night Cravings

As much as we want to satisfy our cravings instead of ignoring it, there are times where we can exercise control and discipline as well. And, I’ve got just the tip for you to help ease your cravings. Hot tea. Ginger Tea in particular. It’s my ultimate favourite and it always works like a charm.

Recipe for Ginger Tea

1 tea bag | Thumb size Ginger | Hot Water


  1. Grate ginger and strain.
  2. Add ginger juice in a cup of hot tea.
  3. Sip and enjoy!


There you go guys, the 4 different ways I typically use to manage my cravings. The key is not to feel guilty for satisfying your cravings, but at the same time practice moderation. Find alternatives that would work for you, and these alternatives need not be “second best” or the consolation prize. Eating healthy is not boring, bland or difficult. You just gotta find what works for you. I hope some of these recipes and ideas have inspired you to eat well and stress less about your cravings.  

As always, remember to show some love today, encourage someone with a compliment, lend a ear to a friend who needs it, give a smile (it goes a long way) and share good vibes.✌️