Monday, 2 February 2015

How To Prepare A Packed Lunch Without Going Bonkers


Preparing a packed lunch to work sounds like a rather daunting task. Unless if you are one of those very fortunate individuals who can reach home at 5:30pm and do your cooking in advance. Or sashay into the office at 10:00am. Not many of us have that luxury.

Or if you are one of those super resilient individuals who do not mind slaving in the kitchen until 11:00pm. Nope, I am not prepared to do that. I go to bed early. At 9:00pm. Sharp. Do not, I repeat, do not call me or text me after 9:00pm because you will be ignored. 



So is it possible to prepare a packed lunch? Of course it is. But some form of sacrifice is required.  You need discipline, commitment and organisation. And better still if you like having things done with military precision. 

First up. The prep work. That happens on a weekend. Plan what you are going to cook. There's the protein, vegetable and carbohydrate. Now, I need to mention that you also need to be practical. There's got to be simplicity. And not much variety. Keep it simple and tight. This is not the time to be a fussy old pot.



Let's say you settle on pork chops, broccoli and rice. To create variety (though limited) you can have two types of marinade. As for the vegetables, it does not have to be broccoli everyday. Rotate with a simple salad. Or French Beans. As for the carbo, that's basic. We can handle rice at least 4 days a week, can't we?



What I do is buy 5 or 6 days supply of pork chops (in this case, pork loin). When I get home, I clean and drain the meat. While they are draining, I prepare the marinade. The marinade can be made from any number of  ingredients such as garlic, ginger, soya sauce, tomato ketchup, chilli sauce, pepper, honey or whatever you like.

I make two marinades from a combination of some of those basic ingredients. And don't forget to add some cornflour or tapioca flour because it helps the marinade to stick to the meat and keeps the meat moist when it cooks.


Marinade.
Once the marinades are ready, I come back to take care of the pork chops. Now, to make them cook faster and to tenderize them, give them a good whack with this :


Hammer of Phong Hong

Put the pork chops one at a time between two plastic sheets and bash away until they are quite thin (but not too thin). Why plastic sheets?


I use 2 pieces of cling wrap. I have another 2 sheets on standby
because after the 4th piece, the plastic sheets need to be replaced.
That's to prevent water/juices from splashing all over the place. These are fine sprays of bacteria laden droplets which are not visible to the naked eye. You don't want these landing on your kitchen counter, floor or clean utensils in the vicinity.


Give a good bash on both sides. Yeah, let out the pent up angst!
Once you are done, plonk them into your marinade. In this case, three pieces per marinade. Get in there with your hands and rub the marinade all over the pork chops.



Then put each piece of meat into a plastic bag and into a container and stash them in the freezer. Place them neatly and in such a way that you can differentiate between the two flavours. (If I do this on Sunday, I leave one pork chop in the fridge for Monday)


Here I made 3 batches with three different marinades.
Next up, the broccoli. Some people say that you should not cut up your vegetables in advance because they lose nutrients.

That may be true but here speed and practicality prevails. So I wash them, air dry and cut them into florets. Then the whole lot goes into a container and I stash them in the fridge.



Now for the rice. You can't be cooking one portion of rice everyday. Again, practicality prevails. I cook 4 portions of rice (that's 2 cups) and portion them out into freezer safe containers and into the freezer they go.


Freshly cooked rice cooling before being kept in the freezer.

The basic building blocks are all prepped up. On a typical day, this is what happens.  Say, on Monday evening, I take a piece of marinated pork chop and a tub of rice from the freezer to the fridge to thaw overnight.

The next morning at 4:30am I take the pork and some broccoli florets out from the fridge to stand to room temperature. The rice stays put in the fridge until later. While all that is going on, no I don't go back to sleep.



This auntie goes about her exercise program because she needs to lose weight pronto! Chinese New Year is coming and the bloody cheongsam is still a bit too snug. Right now when I wear it I look like a wrapped up "buah nangka". Hmmph! But don't worry. I have a red kaftan on standby.

At 5:30am, this is what happens :

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a stainless steel tray with aluminium foil. Place broccoli on the lined tray. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and use hand to rub the oil onto the broccoli. Our hand does the best job.


Broccoli placed on lined tray and rubbed with olive oil.
Then place a suitable rack over the tray. Remove pork chop from the plastic bag and rub it with one tablespoon of olive oil on both sides. Place the meat on the rack. When oven is ready, place in the oven for 16 minutes. When done, leave it in there for another 10 minutes to cook on residual heat. I find this convenient because I will be going about my other things at this time.



Once the meat is in the oven, I take the rice out from the fridge and place it in the steamer for about 10 minutes or so.



And when I am dressed in full regalia and warpaint, I come downstairs and remove the meat/broccoli from the oven. I let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing it. This is how it looks like just out of the oven.



Then I remove the rice from the steamer and transfer the rice into my food container.



Place sliced meat on top.



Then add the roasted broccoli.



There you have it. A packed lunch of rice, roasted pork chop and broccoli.



And all that done by 6:30am. Military precision, remember? And of course there's the washing up but that's minor. And I am good to go.



Or you can have chicken. I chose chicken breasts for practical reasons. Besides, my partner prefers chicken breasts. And I was very pleasantly surprised that the meat was nice and moist. For my chicken with French Beans, just like with the broccoli, place cut up French Beans on lined tray. Rub with olive oil.


Place a rack over the tray. The chicken breast goes on the rack.



Cook at 180C for 20 minutes. Then take out of the oven and rest for 10 minutes.



Then slice the chicken and pack it with the rice and French Beans. Kautim!



Or for variety, use cucumbers and tomatoes as your vegetables.



So there you have it. Packed lunch from home. But of course, if this is still too much work for you, I am sure you can stick to your regular "chap fan" stall. Just make healthier choices. But I find that hard to do as I am hypnotized all the time by the deep fried foods.

My partner stays away from "chap fan" stalls because he fears that they don't wash their vegetables thoroughly or not at all. And he is doubtful of the freshness of the meat that they cook and the seasoning/additives that they use. So he ended up eating noodles instead, which I think is not that healthy either. So with this packed lunch, I hope he is eating something good which tastes pretty decent.


60 comments:

  1. Woootttt, I love this post! Sounds like me.. But my version a bit different from yours.. I pack leftover dinners from the night before to work the next day.. But like you said, if I don't cook dinners, then I don't have any food to bring to work the next day.. But I like your method.. I learnt a new thing from your post today - frozen rice.. Frozen porridge I know la, but frozen rice, ok, I think can do.. But if I'm you, I lagi senang, I just chuck everything into the container - all cold, then just bring to work.. I can heat up (using microwave) in the pantry later :)

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    1. Hi Louiz! I don't cook dinner on weekdays because I don't like the hassle and I sleep early. So this is the best fit for me. I find it doable and due to all the prep work done, it is quite smooth in the mornings.

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  2. This is very good stuff. I was going through this post with my girl and telling how she can do it when she stays at her dorm.

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    1. Thanks, I hope this works out for your girl :)

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  3. The difference between a half assed cook and a decent cook. Rub oil on the broccoli? I just drizzle the oil over them and hope that they turn out good! XD

    Not just the vegetables (which is true by the way, they don't wash the pesticide laden vegetables properly at all, if you're lucky you get some of the better stalls will soak the vegetables in water before cooking, most don't even bother), the main problem is the oil. Because they have to be cheap, they use a lot of recycled oil which they buy from KFC/McD, those oil are very bad for health.. Actually not just chap farn, most hawker uses these oil.. That's why it is almost impossible to eat healthy when you eat out..

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    1. I've tried drizzling but I can't do it evenly :( hence the hand massage hah..hah... Oh yes, the recycled oil. I forgot about that. I've seen them buy oil that comes in big tins and some of those tins don't look too good - rusty, yuks!

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  4. OMG...I love this one! Yours look better than some of those healthy delivery lunches (and I'm sure cheaper too).

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    1. Oh really, Kris? Thanks for the compliments hee..hee...

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  5. Your packed lunches look too good to be eaten. We do that for my girl on Sundays - we leave the house after an early lunch to drive her back to her school and we would pack what we had for her dinner - usually in different mini-Tupperware containers.

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    Replies
    1. Are you in the packed meal catering business, by any chance?

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    2. Good grief, no! hah..hah... the food business is very stressful and I doubt if I will ever go into it. It's nice just doing it for your loved ones and knowing that they are eating good food. And thanks for the compliments hee..hee...

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  6. wow I love all these lunchboxes!! they look so good with the chicken (especislly chicken breast which is my favorite) and also very wholesome with the veggie!! I personally like the first one, chicken breast and cucumber and tomatoes, the most.. probably the color also makes it look more inviting huh?? would be nice to pack these to work, it seems simple (for Phong Hong) to prepare but definitely one delicious meal (for me).. :)

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    1. Ah, the chicken with cucumber and tomatoes is the most visually attractive! It actually tasted good too as I do a trial run first before I serve my partner. These are things that keep me relaxed and sane and at the same time I make sure my partner eats better food :)

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  7. All look good, really good. I can do without the rice part, just the meat and vege will be enough for me. You make everything looks so simple and easy.

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    1. Thank you, Nancy! Me too would just have the meat and vegetables :)

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  8. Hi Phong Hong,
    Hee hee ! I've given up my cheong sam long long again :( even though that piece still hanging in the wardrobe.
    Oh, I used to cook one dish meal in the morning for my kids' lunch. Before I go off to work. But recent years they could hardly come home for lunch due to after school activities. Well, for me it's definitely good to bring lunch box to office too ^-^!
    These roasted chicken n broccoli so yummy!

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    1. Karen, a word to the wise. Throw the cheongsam away muahahahaha! It's good to eat home cooked food whenever possible but it is time consuming to cook our own. Hence my simplified method.

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  9. Wow Phong Hong, you are super efficient:). I love this post. You made it look so easy and the dish turns out beautifully:). Going to try it out. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Thank you, Madeline! Hope it works out for you :)

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  10. Sis, what an idea for me. Currently i packed me and my children breakfast which i prepared earlier at night. Hmm..but now i think lunch will be good for me too. thanks a million for your golden idea!

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    1. Hi Yuza! It's great that you pack breakfast for yourself and your kids. It is more challenging for you as I prepare only for one person :) In that way, I salute you!

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  11. Looks very nicely done and packed PH! Presentation really plays an important role apart from the yummy food itself!

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    1. Thank you, Claire! I love doing the packing and presentation :)

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  12. it's all about organization! as you mentioned I do it on weekends, almost no time to cook on weekdays!

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    1. Ola, weekends is the best time to get things done so that it is not so stressful on weekdays.

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  13. Your packed lunch is neat and looks professional! I think the prep works are tedious, but then, when looking at the end results, all the hard works are worth it!

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    1. Hi Hayley! Yup, it is tedious and a few hours of Sunday are devoted to that. But when it comes to weekdays, it all pays off :)

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  14. Hi Phong Hong, I'm surprised that you can go to this extend of preparing packed lunch. What I did was, I cooked meat dishes over the weekend. Pack them into individual servings with rice. Just before lunch time, I reheat the rice and packed dishes in the steamer for 10 minutes and my steaming hot lunch is ready. Sometimes, I even have desserts like pulut hitam. red bean soup etc.These meals are so much better than eating out, hehehe!

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    1. Hi Kimmy! hee..hee.. I actually enjoy the preparation and packing. Cooking over the weekend is also another solution but I have yet to do that. Perhaps I will for more variety as some cooked foods are suitable for freezing like curries. Wah, yours is even better, got dessert!

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  15. Packing lunch to work is a good thing. Much healthier too. For my hubby I usually cook a bit more for dinner and keep a portion for his lunch the next day

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    1. Gertrude, Carlos is a very lucky man! Maybe one day I'll be able to cook dinner on weekdays and I will do your method :)

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  16. Wow .. I really don't mind this pack lunch !

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    1. But Chris, it is not as nice as Bento hah..ha...

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  17. Your packed lunch looks so tasty (you know I like to eat chicken breast and chinese style pork chop). Wake up at 4.30am!!! What time do you sleep?

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    1. Mun, I sleep at 9:00pm. Sharp. ha..hah....

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    2. I only get home from work at 8pm, no way can I sleep at 9pm to wake up at 4.30am so guess I can't try packing lunch like yours to work then. :(

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  18. Hi Phong Hong,

    Great efforts for bringing all these well balanced and delicious lunches to work. Your tummy must be very happy with your super organised brain :D

    Zoe

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    1. Thank you, Zoe! Packed lunches are also great for weight control as the portions are limited. No overeating!

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  19. Great tips! I used to pack my lunch but now too lazy already. Hahaha

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    1. Thanks! I know lah tapau is always easier :)

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  20. What a great tip! It's my kind of simple fuss free and healthier lunch box option. Have a great week ahead PH. Cheers, Jo

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    1. Thanks, Jo! You have a great week too :)

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  21. Hi Phong Hong, love your healthy lunch box. Pack one for me please. hahaha....Anyhow simple, home cook food is still better than eating chap fun. Love your idea, very well plan and good for us who are working full time. My lunch also I eat at home, but my office 3 mins away so no problem for me. I cannot stand those economy rice, see also jelak. My friends called it Chinese buffet. LOL

    Have a nice week ahead,regards.
    Amelia

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    1. Amelia, you are very lucky to stay so close to your workplace! But for me, if I can go home and eat, I won't come back after that hah..hah...

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  22. Hi Phong Hong,
    Wow, you are super efficient! Love your ideas for packed lunch box. Chap fun once in a while is nice, but every so often, can get fed-up! Homecooked is different! Both your chicken and pork lunches looks really delicious!

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    1. Thanks, Joyce! Necessity is the mother of invention!

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  23. That's awesome! So time efficient and healthy! I should take note. Gone are the days of peanut butter sandwiches every. single. day.

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    1. Hi Cathleen! I used to love my peanut butter sandwiches too but they make me fat hah..hah..!

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  24. Your packed lunches look good, you put in so much effort into making them. When I used to work, use to bring in sandwiches or cold pasta dishes to work. And when I'm hardworking, I would make soup the evening before and bring it in a flask.

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    1. Yen, I love sandwiches for lunch but I don't tolerate carbohydrates too well and I ended up putting on more weight. These days I bring soups to work, that is if I have the time to make them.

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  25. wow....so healthy and good. Waking up 4.30am certainly need good discipline.

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    1. Ya lah, wake up early like in army camp like that hee..hee...

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  26. Cuz, you and I same penyakit ...lazy to cook during the week but enjoy cooking in the weekends (of course I am not as rajin with the baking!) .... genetic or what?? A friend bought a Happy Call Pan for me, best invention ever! less than about 10 minutes for chicken and 6-8minutes for steak.... broccoli tu ...just siram boiling water...then dunk into cold water! hallelujah!

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    1. Can't run away from genetics, can we? Both of us also love gardening :) I have heard so much about the Happy Call Pan but I have too many things in my kitchen already. Some are hibernating in the cupboard. So that's why I decided not to buy.

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  27. Hi Phong Hong, I really enjoy to read your post and your joke always make laugh,hahaha!!!!
    That "buah nangka" joke remind me to do more exercise too, hahaha....
    How I wish I could have these kind of healthy and yummy lunchbox everyday!!!! Thank you for sharing :)

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    1. Thank you, Esther! I exercise but still can't get slim because I eat too much hah..hah...

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