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.
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.
|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.
|Give a good bash on both sides. Yeah, let out the pent up angst!|
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.|
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.|
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.
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.