The bubbly Asian Food Channel host shares how you can select the best produce, stretch your grocery budget, and get the counter staff to take care of the time-consuming tasks. By Mia Chenyze
Don’t dismiss oddly shaped fruits and veggies. They may be tastier than the perfect-looking ones. Photo: Wavebreak Media Ltd / 123rf.com
Sarah Benjamin’s obsession with food stems from growing up surrounded by cookbooks. Her parents, both avid readers, always had them lying around. And on weekends, Sarah would test recipes with her father, working her way through one cookbook after another. “My parents never discouraged me from cooking – even when they had guests over,” she says.
In 2014, a friend persuaded her to audition for Asian Food Channel’s (AFC) first Food Hero talent search.
The 27-year-old hurriedly put together an audition video of her preparing a simple pasta dish in her parents’ kitchen and sent it off.
She won the Asia-wide audition. The prize: Must Try! Asia, her own series that had her travelling around the region, eating and interacting with the locals.
Since then, the British-Peranakan Chinese personality has hosted other AFC programmes, as well as her own web series, Simply Special and Yummy Desserts, where she shows how to make easy, comforting treats, like kimchi meatball stew and carrot cake pancakes.
Here, Sarah shares her shopping tips.
SELECT FRESH PRODUCE
Forget perfect. Oddly shaped fruits and veggies may not look perfect, but they can be pretty tasty.
Good things come in small packages. You might think the bigger the fruit, the juicier or more delicious it is. But small strawberries, for instance, tend to have a more concentrated flavour than larger ones.
Buy local whenever possible. The less time a fruit or veggie takes to get from the farm to the supermarket, the fresher it is when you buy it.
Buy seasonal produce. This is when your favourite fruits and vegetables are not only cheaper, but also at their best and more flavourful and nutritious.
STRETCH YOUR BUDGET
One dish, several meals. Roast a whole chicken, finish half of it for dinner, shred some for a lunch salad the next day, and use the meat from the drumsticks in a pasta dish for your next dinner.
Cheaper cuts. Buy beef chuck and brisket. They’re cheap because they’re tough, but braising or slow-cooking these cuts makes them most tender.
Freeze. Stews taste great – or even better – after you freeze them in portions and reheat them.
Buy more, save more. It’s usually cheaper to buy dry goods like pasta and beans in bulk. They store well, too. You could also buy a large portion of meat, cook it at one go, divide it into small portions and then freeze them.
BUYING MEAT & FISH
Ask the counter staff for help. They can take care of messy, time-consuming tasks like trimming, gutting and scaling. They can even cut large pieces of meat or fish into individual portions, or mince a cut for you.
Save the bones. Chicken, beef or fish bones make a great stock.
A version of this article first appeared on www.herworldplus.com/solutions.