Cooking Local with Paste Packs : Tips and Tricks [Toast Box Asian Delights Media Review]

For many of us who are not skilled or gifted naturally in cooking, dishes like mee rebus, mee siam, laksa or even curry chicken will be a tough call to pull off. 

Luckily, there are ready-made spice pastes around to save us in our feeble attempts. Toast Box has recently launched their Asian Delights Ready-to-Cook Paste Packs for mee rebus, mee siam, laksa and curry chicken.  

Considering that I will be going for student exchange (Spain!) soon, it is a good time to be try out cooking with these pastes and honing my skills in the kitchen. 

I thought it was going to be pretty quick with these, so the genius in me decided to cook all 4 variations in one sitting. How brave, especially for a first try cooking with pastes.

The good thing is that the ingredients and cooking instructions can all be easily found at the back of each paste pack, so all you need to do is to follow accordingly. If you follow the instructions, the result will be decent.  

Cooking Tips and Tricks (To avoid wasting time unnecessarily)

1. Soaking/Washing 

A. Soak the vermicelli for the Mee Siam. 
They take some time before they are ready for blanching.

B. Marinate your chicken pieces with the paste and leave it in the fridge till you are ready to cook it.

C. Wash your bean sprouts. 

D. Peel the prawns - remove the head and outer shell, slice with the knife tip very shallowly down its back and 'belly' - where the legs were attached, and pull out the black 'string'. There's one on the back and the other in the belly. This is the waste which you won't know you are eating if you don't remove, but probably don't want to eat. De-shelling and cleaning the prawns do take some time, especially for the less familiar. I took 20 mins to do 12. 

E. Wash your rice and set it cooking or cut your bread (if you want it with your curry chicken).

F. Wash the laksa leaves

G. Peel the potatoes

Thinly cut shallots

Marinated chicken (2 full wings, 2 thighs to serve two pax).

2. Cutting. 

Cut. Don't leave this to the last as they take some time.  
A. the potatoes into cubes

B. the onions (if you want to fry shallots). 

C. the fish cake slices with a knife - scissors will make the cuts unsightly. 

D. the beancurd and tau pok (dried beancurd) into cubes. You will be too busy to care about doing these, much less say doing it properly, once you get in the thick of action. Especially so if you are racing against time (as was my case). 

3. Blanching your staples/ Fry the beancurd.

A. Fry the beancurd. You can reuse the shallot oil. 

B.Blanch your bee hoon, vermicelli and yellow noodles and set aside. Don't blanch it for too long, especially the yellow noodles or they turn soggy. Alternatively if you don't want to blanch it first, you can cook it with the soup when you are nearly ready to serve, but this risks the soup drying up and under/over cooking the noodles. Note - you don't have so much time to blanch one by one if you are doing multiple dishes too. 

4. Cooking Order.

If you are cooking multiple dishes, cook the following in order: mee rebus soup (set aside in a pot after it's done, ~5 minutes cooking time), mee siam soup (~ 5 minutes), laksa soup base (15 minutes) followed by curry chicken (20 minutes). 

In this way, you can serve the curry chicken piping hot. 

Completed Mee Rebus (sliced fishcake, boiled egg, prawns, mung bean sprouts and a calamansi to garnish) and curry chicken.
If confused at any time, look back to the detailed cooking instructions at the back of the soup pack. I followed the instructions exactly and the results turned out great.

Each of the paste pack can serve 4 people. You can always portion it accordingly if you have less people and save the rest for next time. In my case, I cooked 1/4 of each of the paste, since we only had 4 people.  

In total, it took me 3 hours to complete 4 dishes. Slow because I wasted some time getting it all together. My laksa was also too diluted as I was rushing at the end to complete and didn't taste nor boil it for the full 10 minutes with the coconut milk. So, always taste and follow the instructions. The rest however, turned out very good.

Of course, these aren't the best versions of our local dishes you can find, but they do more than decently if you have a craving to satisfy. They will make handy gifts for those who are going overseas for an extended period. 

Mee Siam.
*Each paste pack retails at $6.50, except for the mee rebus ($6.80).

From 8 July to 10 August, in celebration of SG50, you can get these paste packs at Toast Box stores: 
· $0.50 off purchase of any Asian Delight Ready-to-Cook Paste (U.P. $6.50 - $6.80)
· $5.00 off purchase of Coffee Brew & Coffee Powder Set (U.P. $27.90)
- You can also get a box of any 4 packets of Asian Delight Ready-to-Cook Paste at $25 (U.P. $26 - $27.20).

Many thanks to TIN and Toast Box SG for letting me have a chance to try these out.