Posted by: omikun | April 26, 2009

How to cook on the cheap [Azn/Canto way]

A good friend of mine is in need to cook on the cheap to subsist on his meager grad student stipend, so this is my contribution to return his balance to the black. This is for anyone who is not familiar with cooking at all or have never cooked beyond ramen + fried eggs (yum!). I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘written for engineers, by an engineer’ but it is practical and tasty without any sort of thrill to it…

I only really learned how to cook with soy sauce, so it’s basically a very generic canto way of cooking but it should be pretty easy to get started and there aren’t many ingredients to get. It should be more than enough variety once you add in pastas, burritos, etc to your weekly diet.

Here are a few styles I know:

Stirfried meat + veggi combo servied over rice (long grain jasmine, don’t get anything else, even if it’s a bit more expensive. Rice averages out to just a few cents per bowl if you buy them @ ~$20 for 25lbs)

soy sauce, oyster sauce, oil, soy paste
salt, sugar
garlic (get a couple of cloves, they last for 3-4 weeks)
ginger (just a small piece is fine, this is optional but it makes napa cabage smell and taste extra awesome)
meat (anything cheap, really. Becareful with the beef, some of them have lots of tendons so it’ll end up chewy. I like to get the center cut serloin pork chops and boneless skinless chicken thighs. Aim to spend no more than $3.99 a pound. You can find meat on sale for $2-3/lb and the chicken thighs are generally $2-2.50/lb. Make sure you get the boneless skinless ones!) 
veggi (green beans, brocolli, napa cabage, regular cabage, bok choi, yu choy [油菜], ong choy [空心菜], CUCUMBERS*)

*I love cucumbers in this sort of dish 😀


  1. Cut your meat to bite sizes, either slice or chunks. 
  2. Add soy sauce to taste, I just pour it down until they’re pretty dark. I would say about 4 tablespoon for 2 lbs of meat, probably more. If not enough, add some salt.
  3. Let it sit for 30 min. If you’re impatient or just hungry, wait like 5 min. If you’re really hungry, you can skip this step.
  4. Cut the veggie. 
  5. Peel the garlic and cut them into little slices. I like to use 1/3rd or 1/2 of a clove depending on how much meat.
  6. Get a frying pan (12″ and up are good). Add a coat of oil, heat on high.
  7. [Optional: add 2 spoons of sugar to the oil right as you heat, let it melt. This’ll give your meat a really yummy sweet/salty taste.]
  8. Sprinkle some water on it every once in a while to see if it’s hot enough (the water should pop if it’s hot enough).
  9. Add garlic and hear them pop! Smell the aroma, yum~ Let it cook for about 5 sec before dumping your meat on it.
  10. Spread the meat out and let it cook for 1-2min without flipping them, depending on how thick you cut your meat.
  11. Lower the heat to medium and flip the meat, they should be golden brown now. If you are cooking beef, turn off stove right about now. You’ll get to cook it a bit more later. If you are not cooking beef, cook until they aren’t bleeding.
  12. Remove the meat to a container.
  13. Add a bit more oil if it’s not enough. Add some more garlic if you have any. Add veggie.
  14. Becareful with overcooking leafy veggi, test if they are done by taking a bite out of them every few minutes. For green beans, you gotta cook them for 10min on medium first, they take a while. For cucumbers, cook for a really, really long time. You want them to be transparent to really bring out the taste 😀
  15. Add some salt and stir. (add soy paste with green beans, or a little bit of oyster sauce with napa)
  16. Add the rest of your meat back in. Stir a bit. You have a little chance to cook your meat more here, but the veggie is probably done already, so don’t cook for too long.
  17. [optional: in a bowl, add some cornstarch, water, and soy sauce. Mix well and then add it to your pan. Heat on high and wait until the mixture bubbles all the way through. If your mixture was about a quarter cup, you’ll get this nice meat broth you can eat with your rice. If your mixture was more, it’ll taste like soy sauce and not the meat]
  18. Eat with rice. Done!

That seems like a lot, so in summary:

  1. Cut garlic
  2. Cut meat
  3. Cut veggie,
  4. Heat up oil
  5. Add garlic, then meat, cook to brown.
  6. Take out meat, add veggi, cook till done.
  7. Add meat back in, stir a bit.
  8. Eat with rice.

Tips on preparation/cooking:
Slices is easier to cook and less likely it’ll be tough (since you can cook them fast!). Chunks are good for when you’re lazy and you’re cooking really tender cuts or chicken thigh (it’s hard to over cook the chicken thigh to make them tough). 

Cut the meat to bite size slices against the grain! You should see lines running across your pork/beef, make sure you cut perpendicular to them to make sure the meat is easy to chew. Slices I cook about 2 lbs at a time. That feeds me for about 2 days, maybe less if you eat less rice with it.

[Optional: in a small bowl add a teaspoon or two of corn starch and a bit of water and stir it into a gooey soup mixture and pour it over the meat in a bowl, this will allow them to absorb more soy sauce and give it a better taste] 

[Optional2: for tough beef, mix a teaspoon of baking powder/soda into the meat, and let it sit for a few minutes, this will tenderize it]

For napa, tear each leaf, wash them, then cut them into inch long strips. For cabbages, just cut them into strips after washing the outside, and tearing out the first few layers cause they’re really dirty. For green beans (frozen, you don’t have to do anything!). For brocolli, cut them to bite sizes pieces after washing. For bok choi tear the leaves and wash, then cut into 3-4 inch strips unless they’re baby boc choy, in which case don’t bother cutting. Just wash ong choy and I like yu choy uncut or cut them in the middle after washing (the flowers are edible).

Chicken! (drumsticks, wings)

oil, salt sugar
soy sauce, soy paste
veggie of your choice


  1. Cut your chicken at the joints, cut off any fat or skin you don’t like. Poke a hole at each piece with your knife (speeds up the cooking process)
  2. Cut garlic to slices.
  3. Heat up oil on high,
  4. Add garlic,
  5. Add chicken, cook at medium high, cover your pan. Check at 3min intervals. Flip when necessary.
  6. Cook until when you take the chicken out and cut it open and no blood spills out.
  7. Cook your veggie of choice and eat with rice! Yum!

Tomatoes and Eggs! Or Onion and eggs!

oil, salt, sugar


  1. crack some eggs on to a bowl, stir it well.
  2. Dice tomatoes (at a ratio of about 1 to 1.2x # of small tomatoes (roma) to # eggs)
  3. add oil to pan, heat on high
  4. When it’s really hot, pour eggs in and cook it till it’s all congealed (shouldn’t take more than a minute max)
  5. Take the eggs out and put tomatoes in (you could have heated up some garlic before hand, it enhances the taste)
  6. Cook it for a while, maybe 10min max. Add salt and sugar to taste. Tip here is to add enough sugar until it’s not sour anymore (might be a few spoon full), then add salt until it’s equally sweet and salty for perfection.
  7. Add eggs back in, mix. You’re done!
  8. If you’re cooking onions instead…. just cook it instead of tomatoes. No special instructions for onions. They’re pretty straight forward.

Tomato Beef Noodles!

This is my new favorite. My grandparents make this for breakfast almost everyday and I do too now 😀

Ingredients (for 1 serving):
soy sauce, seasame oil
1/2 tomatoe
beef (1 serving)
wide, flat noodles
1-2 stalks green onion
2-4 baby bak choy
1 egg 


  1.  You’ll need to cut and marinate the beef the night before for max taste.
  2. Heat up water to cook the noodles (6 cups of water should do)
  3. Cut up your green onion in to slanted slices, and your half a tomato into wedges. Put them into your big bowl.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of seasame oil (to prevent the noodles from sticking and adds an extra taste to it)
  5. When the water is boiling, add your noodle (as much as you like!) Add your egg here too (hard boil it with the noodles)
  6. Set the timer for 5 min for the noodle, 10min for the egg. Or just set the timer for 5min again when it rings the first time.
  7. Take our the noodle with chopstick or slotted spoon and place it in your prepared bowl.
  8. Mix the noodles up with your stuff so it doesn’t stick.
  9. Tear the leaves of your baby bok choy apart, clearn them. No need to cut.
  10. Take out the egg when time is up and put it in a bowl of cold water.
  11. Dump the water and add enough new water for your soup. Heat it up on high.
  12. Put your beef in when it boils. If the water is still clear once you stir the beef a bit, add a dash or two more of soy sauce. Cook for about 10-20 sec if that. Take the beef out with chopstick or something and put it in your bowl.
  13. Cook your bak choy. It takes about 30 sec if you kept the water boiling. Dump it all in your bowl.
  14. Peel your egg and put it in the bowl.
  15. Enjoy! Awesome breakfast in 20min if you have two pots and can cook the noodle/beef in tandum!


  1. Thanks a lot~~!!!!

    Just what i needed

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