I absolutely love to cook. Nothing brings me more joy than whipping up meals for family and friends. From shopping for the freshest ingredients to prepping dishes in the kitchen, to plating and setting the table – I thoroughly enjoy every part of the cooking experience. There is only one problem… I cannot cook for nuts!

My parents are known for their skills in the kitchen; I, however, am known for having none of my family’s wizardry with the wok. No matter what I do, my dishes would come out lacking in flavour, or taste a little “off”. My curries were sometimes bland, other times, tongue-burningly spicy. On most occasions, my bakes would either collapse or come out burnt.

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I was so awful that my hubby Patrick* and my daughter Peishan* both called me the “Iron Chef” not only because I was a tyrant in keeping them out of the kitchen whenever I cooked, but also because only the metal utensils would survive my “experiments”!

Despite my lack of talent in the kitchen, I persevered by attending cooking classes, getting personally coached by my parents, and learning on my own from online tutorials. I spent many evenings and weekends trying my hand at simple dishes such as fried rice and stewed vegetables.

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Last year, I finally passed the “taste test”. Determined to prove myself, I decided to lay out an easy-to-prepare comfort food spread for Peishan’s 10th birthday. I convinced the father-and-daughter duo to head out for an excursion to the zoo while I holed myself up in the kitchen.

When they came home in the evening, they immediately took to the ham pizza, fried chicken, and beef lasagna, and were delightfully surprised that everything turned out delicious! I was happy that they were delighted.

(The pizza recipes on our website are really good, if you have not discovered them yet, click here!)

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The only problem was that most of the food was microwaved – I just added garnishings! I had prepared simpler fare such as open-faced sandwiches and a batch of my own marinated chicken wings (which I hid amongst the basket of quick-fix ones). But a sudden fear of disappointing my family had me scurrying to the supermarket to procure boxes of pre-cooked fare. I deluded myself into thinking that I had somewhat “cooked” the feast.

My justification soon became a delusion of grandeur. Since I had gotten away with these “shortcuts”, I became sure that I could do the same again. For extended family gatherings, I brought pots of stew (microwaved, stirred and served by yours truly) and claimed them as my own secret recipe (I did add some extra herbs to taste). I also brought soups made from pre-made mixes and lied that they were my creations.

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Chickpea & Vegetable Curry
I became so complacent and lazy that I stopped going for lessons or spending extensive time cooking. And thanks to the slew of delivery services and apps, I became even bolder and ordered dishes from cafes and restaurants, and plated and garnished them before presenting them as my own! I was shameless in relishing the attention and compliments.

In August last year, karma came to bite me… in the form of chicken curry. Our family was invited to Patrick’s colleague’s farewell gathering, and I brought along a pot of chicken curry that I had ordered from a newly-opened restaurant near our home that I thought no one would know of.

(Pssst… Have you tried our Chickpea and Vegetable Curry recipe? It’s easy to cook and so delicious!)

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When I presented my dish, I declared that it was my family’s secret recipe. To my horror, placed on another table, was the very same dish, still kept wrapped in the restaurant’s carrier packaging! I was about to be exposed as a fraud!

“Oh my wife’s sure to taste more exotic and spicier! Definitely our family’s one-and-only original Devil’s Curry Deluxe! She spent hours cooking it you know!” said my hubby, winking at me. To my relief, when everyone tried, they thought mine tasted spicier and thicker (luckily, I had added more spices).

Throughout the party, Patrick proudly told everyone how I spent hours in the kitchen, and how lucky he was to have a wife who’s a great cook. Everyone listened in agreement… save for me.

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These past months, I was determined to improve my cooking with hard work and practice. I have decided that even if my homecooked fare is not as tasty, it is really food which is cooked with love, and that’s what really matters.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

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