SQ flight attendants share tried-and-tested recipes inspired by their travels

PHOTO: Tumpakdee Jarusiri, Mitchelle Chua

Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew might be known for their service excellence and impeccable grooming, but did you know that some of them are quite the food connoisseurs as well?

After all, they have been to many parts of the world, and exposed to various cultures much more than the average twice-yearly traveller – pre-covid, of course.

So when it comes to travel and food recommendations, you can safely trust them on that.

With Covid-19 still lurking, there’s no sight as to when unbridled leisure travel might resume.

To make up for your missed holiday(s), you could binge watch K-dramas or Netflix, watch free international musicals online, or go for 101 virtual museum tours, but don’t forget about ~food~ – it is, after all, a key part of every travel experience.

Here, four SIA cabin crew put forth their favourite tried-and-tested recipes that are inspired by their travels.

Featuring Middle Eastern Shakshuka, Cantonese-style pan-fried tofu with prawns, Sydney-inspired energy balls, and Japan-influenced turmeric chicken, these dishes – complete with wine pairing suggestions, if you wish – may very well satisfy your wanderlust and cravings at the same time.

Shakshuka (Middle East) recipe contributed by: Inflight manager and air sommelier Mitchelle Chua Seok Hoon

Q: How long have you been with SIA?

Mitchelle: I have been flying for 21 years and six months now.

Q: Why do you like cooking and what sparked your interest?

Mitchelle: I like to cook, and I bake too, because I like to eat fresh and healthy food, and I love the smell of freshly baked bread!

Cooking relieves me of my stress, and the kitchen is my science lab. I love to experiment with different ingredients, create new dishes and cook various international dishes I have discovered while travelling.

Last but not least, I enjoy pairing my homemade food with wines, which is more economical and sensible because I can still enjoy good food with wine pairing, and this does not burn a hole in the pocket.

PHOTO: Mitchelle Chua

Q: Where or how did you discover this Shakshuka dish?

Mitchelle: I chanced upon this dish on a cooking show.

Q: Why is this one of your favourite dishes?

Mitchelle: It is a simple yet flavoursome one-pot dish! It is also healthy and versatile in the use of ingredients.

You can make it as a vegetarian dish or use your choice of meat mince. Most importantly, it tastes good too!

Q: Does the dish remind you of an SIA destination that you have travelled to?

Mitchelle: This dish reminds me of Middle Eastern cuisine, such as those from Istanbul and Cairo.

Q: What is a recommended wine to pair with this dish?

Mitchelle: I recommend Gewurtztraminer. Gewurtztraminer means “spicy Traminer”. This grape varietal is usually off-dry, with medium acidity and fruity notes of lychee, peach and apricot.

This wine has spicy notes, which will harmonise well with the aroma of Shakshuka.

Mitchelle’s Shakshuka recipe

PHOTO: Mitchelle Chua

Ingredients:

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin or turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, chilli powder or Bon Cabe chili flakes
  • 4-6 fresh eggs
  • 2 tbsp parsley or cilantro
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil and sauté onion and red pepper for five minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and spices and stir consistently for two minutes.
  3. Pour in the whole can of tomatoes, stir and cover with lid. Let the mixture simmer for 15 minutes at low heat.
  4. After 15 minutes, add salt and pepper to suit your taste.
  5. Turn off the heat. Make four to six wells/holes in the sauce and gently crack the eggs onto the sauce.
  6. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the eggs, turn on the heat, cover with lid and cook for five to eight minutes. If you would like soft or runny eggs, cook for five minutes.
  7. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.
  8. Serve with toast or crusty bread.

Notes:

You can adjust the spice amount to suit your preference.

If you would like a more robust meal, add in some chicken, lamb or beef mince at step 2.

Pan-fried tofu with prawns (Hong Kong) recipe contributed by: Chief steward Derek Woo Mun Chung

Q: How long have you been with SIA?

Derek: I have been flying for a total of 22 years.

Q: Why do you like cooking and what sparked your interest?

Derek: I miss my late grandmother’s cooking and decided one day to replicate her dish. There was no stopping me from then on, as I discovered that I love cooking.

I cook a variety of dishes, but mainly Chinese dishes, and have ventured into baking with much success as well.

PHOTO: Derek Woo

Q: Where or how did you discover this pan-fried tofu with prawns dish? 

Derek: I created this easy-to-cook tofu dish, as my family loves tofu, it’s quick to whip up, aesthetically pleasing and so delicious.

Q: Why is this one of your favourite dishes?

Derek: Tofu is easy to cook and such a versatile ingredient. You can pan-fry, braise, deep-fry and steam it. It is also rich in nutrients, such as protein, calcium, selenium, manganese, iron and magnesium.

Q: Does the dish remind you of an SIA destination that you’ve travelled to?

Derek: This dish reminds me of Hong Kong, as it is a very Cantonese-based dish, featuring chicken stock with egg drop, and thickened with cornstarch slurry.

Q: What is a recommended wine to pair with this dish?

Mitchelle (air sommelier): I recommend New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. This wine tends to be fermented in stainless steel vats, which results in a clean and crisp flavour.

It is fresh, zesty and has an appetising acidity will not overpower the delicate tofu.

Shellfish such as prawns will accentuate the herbaceous qualities of Sauvignon Blanc.

Derek’s pan-fried tofu with prawns recipe

PHOTO: Derek Woo

Ingredients:

  • 1 tube egg tofu
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • Handful of frozen mixed vege
  • 4 prawns
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

  1. Shallow fry the tofu till golden brown on each side and set aside.
  2. Fry some chopped garlic with a teaspoon of oil.
  3. Wait till garlic is fragrant and add in some rich chicken stock and season to taste.
  4. Put in the defrosted mixed vegetables and prawns together.
  5. Wait for the prawns to turn reddish and immediately stir in some beaten egg a little at a time.
  6. If the sauce is not thick enough, you can thicken it with cornstarch slurry (corn flour mixed with water).
  7. Lastly, add in the tofu which you fried earlier and mix well.
  8. Serve hot.

Energy bites (Australia) recipe contributed by: Leading stewardess Tumpakdee Jarusiri

Q: How long have you been with SIA?

Jarusiri: I have been with SIA since January 2013, so it has been seven and a half years.

Q: Why do you like cooking and what sparked your interest?

Jarusiri: I love to eat and take care of my health. Our body is like our main home, so I love to enrich my body with quality and healthy food, knowing that my body will thank me for taking care of it.

When I cook, I choose good ingredients and I am particular about cleanliness. Cooking Thai food is the best way to make me feel like I’m back home in Thailand.

PHOTO: Tumpakdee Jarusiri

Q: Where or how did you discover this energy bites? 

Jarusiri: When I flew to Australia Layover Stations, I saw many coffee juice shops were selling this type of energy balls, so I figured I can make them too, while creating them to suit my own taste.

Q: Why is this one of your favourite dishes?

Jarusiri: I like cacao powder, dates and nuts! I also love to exercise, so it’s an energy protein ball that I can have before or after my workouts.

It contains many kinds of nuts, which are high in protein, and dates, which are high in fibre and energy. Sometimes, I bring them on board and have them during lull periods as it is a healthy snack.

Q: Does the dish remind you of an SIA destination that you’ve travelled to?

Jarusiri: This reminds me of Sydney. Once when we flew to Sydney, there was a basement food court right beside our hotel that had a variety of dishes.

I liked visiting one of the stores called “Top Juice” that sells a variety of healthy foods, for example Greek Yoghurt, Burcher Muesli, Fresh Juices and energy balls.

That was the first time I tried energy balls, and I loved it! It became my go-to chain store to get energy balls every time I visited any Australian city.

It is not similar to anything that we serve on board, since the recipe I use contains lots of cacao powder and nuts.

Maybe something like this could be introduced in the future as an in-flight snack, since it is quite filling and gives us energy and nutrients!

Q: What is a recommended wine to pair with this dish?

Mitchelle (air sommelier): Portwould go well with this. This snack has natural sweetness from dates and dried fruit. A sweet fortified port with a robust finish would match the richness of the crunchy and nutty snack.

Jarusiri’s energy bites recipe

PHOTO: Tumpakdee Jarusiri

Ingredients:

  • 500g dates
  • 250g dried bananas
  • 250g of cacao powder
  • 500g of baked almonds
  • 200g of rolled oats
  • 250g of baked cashew
  • 250g of mixed nuts
  • 100g of peanut butter (optional)
  • Salt and honey (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Soak the dates and dried bananas in hot water (the amount of water to come up to just above the ingredients).
  2. Blend almonds, oats, cashew into fine pieces.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together (almonds, oats, cashew, cacao powder and mixed nuts).
  4. Blend the dates and dried bananas.
  5. Mix all the ingredients together. Use your hand to massage the ingredients together and mix them well.
  6. You will get a sticky paste, and you can add in some salt and honey if you would like to bites to be sweeter.
  7. Shape the paste into small balls that are 3cm in diameter (or based on your preference), coat them with cocoa powder and refrigerate.

Turmeric chicken (Japan) recipe contributed by: Leading steward Alvin Ee Kwong Beng

Q: How long have you been with SIA?

Alvin: I have been with SIA for 15 years.

Q: Why do you like cooking and what sparked your interest?

Alvin: I love to feed those around me and see the smiles on their faces when my food hits the right notes on their taste buds.

Cooking is also therapeutic for me. The action of mincing, dicing and chopping just calms the mind.

PHOTO: Alvin Ee

Q: Where or how did you discover this dish? 

Alvin: This dish was inspired by Nigella Lawson. I remember watching an episode where she put a chicken in a bag and added yogurt and honey.

Also, there was a pilot who brought his homemade food and asked me to reheat it for him. When I was plating his chicken main course, it smelled so delightful!

I asked him for his recipe, and he said it only requires yogurt and turmeric as main ingredients. So I went home and put two and two together. That’s how this beautiful dish came about.

Q: Why is this one of your favourite dishes?

Alvin: It is easy to make and the chicken comes out really tender and tasty, especially when using thigh meat! This easy-to-cook dish can be made in a few steps, and is also a healthy meal.

Q: Does the dish remind you of an SIA destination that you’ve travelled to?

Alvin: It reminds me of Japan, because the food in Japan always has a good mix of sweet and savoury.

Q: What is the recommended wine to pair with this dish?

Mitchelle (air sommelier): I recommend German Riesling.German Riesling is light, fruity and has a nervy acidity of citrus of gooseberries, green apple and pineapple. It marries well with turmeric spiced chicken. 

Alvin’s turmeric chicken recipe

PHOTO: Alvin Ee

Ingredients:

  • 4 pcs thigh meat
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
  • Dry parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Put the chicken inside a ziplock bag. Put in the rest of the ingredients, except the olive oil.
  2. Shake the bag well.
  3. Leave it for at least 10 minutes.
  4. When ready to eat, heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  5. Oil your oven tray with a bit of olive oil.
  6. Set chicken to roast for 40 minutes.
  7. Check on it and coat it with a little bit of olive oil from time to time to ensure browning.
  8. When your chicken is done, you will get a tender juicy texture. Plate and serve.

This article was first published in Shape.