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3 simple meals you can make with pantry staples

The movement control order (MCO) has been extended in Malaysia. In many other countries, people are being asked to stay at home to flatten the curve as well. At this time, we don’t have the luxury of eating out or leisurely shopping for all our ingredients. Some of us may find difficulty getting certain food items such as bread, eggs, or other proteins and multiple grocery runs are certainly not encouraged. Ordering food through Food Panda or Grab Food has been a lifesaver, but this can be quite costly and may not be a sustainable option for all our meals.

So today, I want to share 3 simple meals that you can whip up with pantry staples in no time at all.

1. Dry Tuna Curry

A can of tuna is a great thing to have in your pantry. Fresh fish such as Tenggiri or Spanish Mackerel can be quite pricey and canned tuna is a more economical alternative.

This is a hearty dish that goes well with rice.


  • 1 can of tuna

  • ½ tsp each of mustard, fennel and cumin seeds

  • ½ onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1-inch piece of ginger, minced

  • 1 red chilli, chopped

  • ½ carrot, diced

  • ½ tomato, chopped

  • ½ tsp of turmeric powder

  • 1 tsp of fish curry powder

  • Coriander

  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat some oil in a pot. Add in mustard, fennel and cumin seeds.

  2. Once mustard seeds begin to crackle, add in the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli. Sauté until onions brown.

  3. Add in the tomatoes and cook until mushy.

  4. Put in the spice powders and stir well.

  5. Add the carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes followed by the canned tuna.

  6. Pour in about ½ cup of water. Cook for 8-10 minutes.

  7. Finally, add some chopped coriander, stir through and serve over a bed of rice.

This recipe serves 2 people (or 1 very hungry person).

Tip #1: For most of my life, I’ve always under-seasoned food. One trick that has helped me tremendously in the kitchen comes from a piece of advice Gordon Ramsay once offered on the MasterChef show: season a little at every step of the way. This has been a real game-changer! I used to season once at the end and pray that I get it right, but now I season at every step. Add onion, a little salt, add tomatoes, a little salt, add tuna, a little salt. Taste at the end and add more if needed.

2. Funky tomato rice

I was debating with myself about what I should call this dish; part of me really wanted to call it ‘Jambalaya with a Twist.’ It’s exotic and interesting, but alas I went with ‘Funky Tomato Rice.’ Jambalaya is a one-pot dish with rice and other stuff and that’s basically all I know about it. So to avoid sounding pretentious, I stuck with good ol’ tomato rice.

I love one-pot meals. Everything you need from rice, vegetables to protein is all cooked in one pot and this helps to reduce cooking time and clean-up.


  • ½ onion, chopped

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 red chilli, chopped

  • ½ carrot, diced

  • 1 large tomato, chopped

  • ½ tsp of chilli powder

  • ½ tsp of garam masala

  • 2 sausages, cut into small pieces

  • ½ chicken stock cube

  • ½ cup of rice

  • Water

  • Coriander

  • Salt to taste


  1. Wash the rice and keep aside.

  2. Heat some oil in a pot. Add onions, garlic and chilli. Sauté until onions brown.

  3. Add tomatoes and carrots. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

  4. Add sausages and spice powders. Stir well.

  5. Put in the rice along with 1 cup of water. Crumble in the chicken stock cube.

  6. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.

  7. Check whether the rice is cooked. If it’s not done, but the pot appears rather dry, add a little more water. Once again, cover the pot and cook for a few more minutes.

  8. Finally, add some chopped coriander, stir through, and we’re done!

This recipe serves 2 people (or 1 very hungry person).

Tip #2: If you find yourself at the grocery store and some items on your shopping list are sold out, don’t worry. Think of alternatives that you can turn to instead. When my local grocer ran out of fresh chicken, I opted for sausages and frozen chicken drumettes instead. With a little creativity, you can jazz up these ingredients to make a satisfying meal. If you can’t find fresh tomatoes, try opting for canned tomatoes or tomato purée. Alternatively, you can check out whether there are local farmers or grocers that deliver these items to you.

3. Mee Soup with a Twist

Are you bored of having instant noodles? The same Maggi day in and day out? Well then, maybe it’s time for a twist!

This is a DIY mee soup to satisfy your noodle cravings.


  • 1 packet of dried instant ramen noodles

  • ¼ onion, chopped

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic

  • 1-inch piece of ginger

  • 2-4 dried chillies

  • Water

  • ½ chicken stock cube

  • 3-4 shitake mushrooms, sliced

  • 3-4 fish balls, cut in half

  • 1 tbsp fish sauce

  • Juice of ½ a lime

  • Coriander


  1. Soak the dried chillies in hot water for about 5 minutes.

  2. Next, grind the soaked dried chillies along with onion, garlic and ginger into a paste.

  3. Heat some oil in a pot. Add the chilli paste and sauté for 1 minute.

  4. Add 400 ml of water and crumble in the chicken stock cube. Put in the mushrooms, fish ball and fish sauce. Mix well and bring to a boil.

  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes.

  6. Add the noodles and cook for about 1 minute.

  7. Finally, squeeze in lime juice and garnish with chopped coriander.

  8. Enjoy with a glass of cold water.

This recipe serves 1 person.

Tip #3: Dried chillies can be pretty spicy, as I have unfortunately learnt from my personal experience, so test the waters with about 2 dried chillies. If you feel the soup could use more of a kick, add some chilli flakes on top.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. Do give them a try and let me know what you think. Stay home and stay safe everyone.


Hi there!

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Hi, I’m Vidhya. I’m a freelance writer and millennial who often struggles with adulthood.

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