Nothing stands in the way of Kate and her love for cooking good and nutritious food for her family. Image of Kate’s onscreen character in 2012 Channel 8 drama, Joys of Life.
Photos: Kate Pang
“Kandie’s Kitchen” – that’s a brand new cooking segment featured in celebrity couple Kate Pang and Andie Chen’s self-managed video channel for young parents, Kandie Network, in which mummy Kate will share easy-peasy DIY (do-it-yourself) recipes for babies and toddlers and cost and time-efficient cooking tips based on her own experiences in the kitchen.
Kate’s love affair with cooking began long ago -- way before she even left Taiwan for Singapore to join show business and become a TV actress in 2010. When she was still a student, we learned from Kate that she’d visit the nearby market on a daily basis to pick up fresh produce for her daily meals.
And when she moved back to Taiwan in late 2013 with her husband, Kate continued with her daily morning routine which consisted of visiting the market downstairs with a grocery basket in arm. Although it’s impossible to upkeep this habit in Singapore (unless you’re “super hardworking”), the expectant mother shared that she makes multiple trips to the supermarket on a weekly basis as she prefers to buy her groceries in small quantities to ensure freshness instead of buying in bulk.
The face of a satisfied baby who clearly digs the home cooked meals lovingly prepared by his mum
The Taiwanese actress tells us the love and joy she gets from cooking also motivated her to study a subject related to food in university, although her degree in F&B (food and beverage) management focuses more on the hospitality side of the business and not so much on kitchen work.
“As students from this faculty, we have higher expectations about the service we get at F&B outlets instead of focusing about the quality or taste of the food,” quipped Kate as she recalled bits and pieces of her university days in Taiwan, during her interview with Toggle.
Brought up by her grandmother who lives in Kaohsiung, Kate also spoke fondly of the Chinese New Year celebrations back in her hometown – something she had to sit out of since she started working on this little red dot.
The 2016 Star Awards Best Programme Host nominee still remembers ending a phone call with her granny in tears, during her first year of work, when she had to skip their reunion dinner at home. “She said that it was the first time since young that I’d not be eating with her and it dawned on me that what’s really important to her (having reunion dinner together) seemed insignificant to me. It was heartbreaking.”
Nothing makes Kate happier than seeing her baby enjoy his food.
By the time you’re reading this, Kate would be back in her hometown with husband and child in tow for a month-long holiday, spending precious time with her loved ones and possibly indulging in her favourite fried nian gao (Chinese New Year cake) and dumplings.
Dumplings are one of her family’s must-haves for the festive season because its shape represents ingots (read: money and good fortune), shared Kate. Her granny would even wrap a sweet or chocolate in one of the dumplings and the person who eats it will be guaranteed good luck all year round.
“One year, my sister brought her friends home and my grandma got really mad ‘cos one of them ate the ‘lucky’ dumpling. To her it was like having an outsider ‘steal’ the good fortune at home,” she added with a chuckle.
Kate shares her favourite go-to soup stock recipe and singles out a few household essentials that help save time and food wasted when it comes to cooking for her son and family. Read on for more!
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Kym Ng’s journey to domestic goddess-hood
Kate and Andie and their firstborn Aden who will be turning 2 in June this year. They are also expecting a baby girl who is due in end-June.
Toggle: What’s your New Year wish for this year?
Kate: We both hope that Kandie Network will take off as this is the first time I’m doing something by myself, and for it to stabilise and do well. This is the first time I feel like a ‘lao ban niang’ (lady boss) because we’d have to issue the production people their paychecks and also take into account how our workers feel and arrange the filming schedule too. It’s a brand new endeavor and considering we are doing it ourselves, if it is not well-received you’d feel the stress.
You tend to cook for both Aden and Andie. Has Andie ever cooked for you?
He once made chicken soup for me when we were living in Taiwan and before we had any children. I just asked him to whip up something for me and he replied: ‘Sure, if you don’t mind’. What he did was put a variety of ingredients in a pot and boil them together – there was a drum stick in it I think, some vegetables and that was it. It tasted… special.
What are some of Aden’s favourite food these days?
He really loves chicken and noodles now. If he wants noodles I’d cook angel hair pasta for him using the soup stock of kombu and anchovies. Aden keeps talking about chicken all day long and although we are eating the same food he prefers eating from mummy’s plate instead. Whatever he can’t finish goes to Andie – I’d tell him not to waste it since the ingredients used for Aden’s food are good too (laughs).
Kate shows us how she would try to teach Aden to love and appreciate the food on his plate.
With the relaunch of Kandie Network, what other kitchen or cooking videos are in the pipelines?
I’d be recommending some quick and simple food recipes based on my personal lifestyle habits as I like to keep my cooking fuss-free and simple too. Personally, I take about 30 minutes to get a meal done and I think a lot of women don’t like to cook because it is seen as troublesome, but I’d show how to get a meal done in 10 to 15 minutes.
Share with us your favourite go-to recipe for a quick and easy meal.
Porridge is the fastest and easiest for me. And when I cook porridge, I’d use a soup stock that is made up of a few pieces of kombu (a large sheet of Japanese seaweed) and anchovies as that adds flavor to it. The soup stock is really easy to make and can be kept for a long period of time too. You can use the stock for steamed egg, porridge, noodles – or just anything in general. I’d keep leftover stock in ice cube trays in the freezer or in containers so that it is readily available whenever I need it. One pot of stock lasts me for two to three weeks.
(Ed’s note: Recipe for both the porridge and soup stock are found on the next page.)
How often do you guys cook at home and how do you plan your weekly menu to decide what to buy on marketing trips?
It’s not really fixed as it depends on Andie’s work schedule too but we’d cook small meals 3 to 4 times a week, if everyone at home (including Andie’s parents and siblings) is eating, I’d cook a big meal that consists of a braised meat dish or a pot of chicken soup – but that happens only once a week. If Andie’s having dinner at home, I’d cook a soup and maybe do a pork cutlet or grilled chicken with a vegetable dish.
When grocery shopping, I’d only buy what I intend to use because it may not be fresh to keep it for a long time, especially for seafood which I will usually buy and consume on the same day. I’m not the kind who’d buy a lot of food in bulk to store in the fridge because I prefer to consume food fresh so I’d visit the supermarket about 2 to 3 times a week to avoid over-buying groceries. I feel that when we buy too much at a go, sometimes we end up storing them and not using or eating it and it becomes wasteful.
Kate’s three must-have household items that helps prevent food wastage, from left, clockwise direction: ice cube trays, a vacuum container and a husband who’s willing to finish up leftovers.
What are three must-have items in the household to prevent food wastage?
(I) Food cube trays for additional soup stock or pureed vegetable stock
(II) Vacuum or Ziploc-type of bags and containers with a hole in them that allows me to draw out excess air to maintain the freshness of the vegetables since Aden cannot consume so much at a go
(III) A husband that’s happy to finish up any leftovers on the dining table – Andie!
There’s an old wives tale that says how each grain of rice left uneaten on a person’s plate would represent the number of pock marks on your future spouse’s face. Have your parents ever told you such stories when growing up in order to make you finish up your food?
But I’d usually finish up my food! That’s not accurate at all (laughs). I’ve been threatened with the same story before and my grandma would usually try to scare me with stories about karma since she is a Buddhist. She says when we go to hell we’d have to continue eating what we did not finish in this lifetime from a giant ‘poon’ (basin) of leftovers.
As a mother, how’d you try to teach your son Aden about the value and importance of food?
I’d scold him if he drops the food on the floor because it’s wasteful, but it is also hard to control a toddler’s actions so I’d get Andie to finish it as it might not be fit for a child’s consumption (chuckles). What you can teach them is to tell them what other kids in other parts of the world are facing – like how I realised that a lot of children don’t have food to eat and some even have to eat cow dung as that is the most nutritious food available to them. It’s good to remember that what we’re wasting today can be something they can continue eating next time.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: An average household in Singapore spends an estimated $14,256 on food on a yearly basis as families tend to buy more than needed to ensure there’s enough food at home.
Make it a habit to look at the contents in the fridge, plan a food menu and write a shopping list before visiting the supermarket to avoid over-buying which often leads to unnecessary food wastage. Everyone at home can play a part -- make “food saving” fun for the family and pick up more green tips at Clean and Green Singapore’s food wastage guide.
Kate shares an easy DIY recipe for cucumber puree cubes that can be added to porridge for babies’ consumption on Kandie Network’s cooking video. Images: Kandie Network
Kombu and anchovy soup stock recipe
1 to 2 large sheets of kombu
30 to 50 grams of anchovies (wrapped in a cloth bag)
2 litres of water
Cook the kombu sheets in water for about 20 minutes. After it starts to boil, add in the bag of anchovies and turn off the fire after 10 seconds. Let the bag of anchovies simmer in the stock for about 30 minutes before removing the contents.
Red date fish porridge recipe
Half a cup of rice
10 to 20 red dates
8 to 10 slices of fish
Suitable amount of soup stock
Cook the rice in the soup stock until it becomes porridge. Add in the fish slices and red dates before covering the pot and letting the porridge simmer for 1 minute. Turn off the fire and serve.