My fascination with cooking began as a child watching both my grandmothers cook. They would spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals from scratch. Processed food was not a staple in our house. No hotdogs there. Everything was made fresh and sourced from the local wet market. What struck me with their way of cooking was that apart from making it seem so easy, they did it out of love for the family. And you can somehow taste that in the meals they prepared.
I am a self-taught cook. I only learned the basics of cooking in our Home Economics class in high school. But I didn’t really have a chance to cook at home, as my grandmothers had command of the kitchen.
It was only when I got married and got expatriated 21 years ago (with three toddlers in tow!) that I was able to practice my cooking. Since then, I have been the chef of the Ong household. With my grandmothers’ influence, I try to prepare meals that are as fresh and healthy as possible.
During the pandemic, I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York for their online program to become a certified integrative nutrition health coach. My attitude toward what and how we eat leveled up. I have shifted to supporting and buying from local farmers offering organic produce, and local vendors selling byproducts that are organic, grass-fed (meat) and wild-caught (seafood). I make sure that all our meals have complete macronutrients, with veggies being a major part of our diet.
I also came to appreciate my grandmothers more, as they were actually ahead of their time when it came to healthy cooking. They relied heavily on Chinese herbs and spices to flavor the food, and everything was freshly made every day.
Incorporating what I learned in my course has made me creative in the kitchen, as well. We learned the concept of food combining and the importance of properly pairing our foods to get their full nutrient value. I never knew that pairing turmeric with black pepper, for example, can improve the anti-inflammatory properties found in turmeric by 2,000 percent. So, I have been tweaking recipes that I see online and applying this concept to my dishes.
If before I would cook out of the need to feed my family, I now cook to ensure that their bodies are nourished with the right food to boost their immunity. I strive to create happy, healthy and enjoyable memories around food for my children so that, hopefully, they can pass them on to their own families in the future.
Braised Turmeric Chicken
6 pc chicken thighs, cleaned
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced (add more if you love garlic)
1½ Tbsp turmeric powder
⅛ tsp ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
¼-½ c water
Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil or olive oil
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat a braising pan and add the oil.
Saute minced garlic for a minute, but do not brown. Add the turmeric powder and ground black pepper. Mix well for a few seconds.
Add the chicken, skin side down. Pour the water and cover pan. Braise the chicken for 20-25 minutes (turning the pieces after 10 minutes) or until the chicken’s juices run clear when pierced.
Add the zest of the lemon and its juice. Season to taste.
Serve warm. —CONTRIBUTED
The author is a certified integrative nutrition coach and a mom to five kids. Are you also a passionate home cook and want to be featured? Share with us your story and recipes, along with mouthwatering photos. Send them to [email protected]