5 Minutes With: Melissa Leong

Where did you first learn to cook?
My first memories of food were sitting on the floor in my mother’s kitchen, watching her pound chillies to make sambal belacan, a spicy chilli condiment we eat a lot in Singapore. It was a slow immersion process from watching my mother in the kitchen from childhood. I think most kids of ethnic origin learn that way.

Eventually I was co-opted into small tasks, from separating the wonton pastries for making dumplings, or mixing the filling, to eventually taking on larger tasks and learning knife skills and how to taste, I’m very grateful that my mother is a wonderful cook…and a patient parent!

What is always in your pantry/fridge? 
In no particular order, I must have these ingredients on hand… otherwise I get a little panicked!
Garlic, brown onions, Lao Gan Ma chilli oil, lemons, organic free range eggs, butter, raw honey, and hummus.

Go-to easy weeknight meal?
I throw a few chicken thighs in a baking tray, rub them with Tom Yum paste, cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. You can add them to a salad, noodles, rice, along with very few other ingredients, and you have a complete meal. I always make sure when I make something huge like a stew, soup or curry, that I stash a serve or two in the freezer for can’t be bothered nights as well. Though I’m not above the odd delivery of dumplings…balance, right?!

Favourite meal to cook for a dinner party? 
I always like to do something low stress, to avoid getting in a flap while entertaining. Cooking something low and slow like a brisket or pulled pork shoulder means most of the prep is done beforehand, otherwise meat on the bone is always more forgiving, so a classic roast chicken with all the trimmings, or a leg of lamb with a tonne of vegetables, is pleasing to all, and appears effortless to your guests.

Cheese or chocolate?
Always cheese. 36 month Comte, a little Grandvewe sheep’s milk Brebichon and some Epoisse, all the way!

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