Chinese-style dishes for a hearty lunch break

Three popular dishes served at Jessie Set Lunch are (clockwise from bottom left) Chicken Curry, Mushroom Pork Leg and Kacangma Chicken.

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By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Aug 18: Lunch time during a work day provides an opportunity to recharge and and take in enough food to gain sufficient energy to power on through the rest of the afternoon til it is time to clock out.

The ideal meal should not only be tasty and satisfying, but also not too heavy and have enough calories to keep the hunger pangs at bay until it is time for dinner.

In fact, it would not be amiss to recognise the importance of lunch as a welcomed break (and perhaps even a highlight) in a demanding work day.

Food vendors and eateries do their best to offer a wide range of delightful gastronomical choices, including set meals where one or two dishes are paired with a serving of carbohydrates, usually white rice.

Set meals are a popular lunch choice for those who work 9-to-5 jobs because of the variety on offer and their value for money. Most people have at least a favourite spot or two to enjoy such fare.

If one has lunch at these spots with a few friends, it is not uncommon for each person to order a different set and to share it with others at the table so each can sample what the different dishes taste like. This not only supports a spirit of camaraderie but is also a useful way to quickly suss out which dishes are good enough to order for the next outing to this particular location.

Mushroom Pork Leg

For this writer, the set meal is a lifesaver and hassle-free lunch. As a matter of personal preference, this writer tends to go for Chinese set lunches which usually takes the form of a main dish served in a bowl to go with a plate of rice.

Despite their simplicity, these Chinese set lunches are prepared and cooked using traditional methods and preparations to preserve the authenticity of the dishes.

Besides a satisfying lunch, these meals are ideal for takeaways and to eat in the comfort of the home.

Popular dishes included as part of Chinese-style set lunches include succulent braised or stewed pork cuts or pork leg, mild chicken curry and herbal chicken dishes, sweet and sour meat  or fish dishes, mixed vegetables, and vegetable and meat broths.

Jessie Set Lunch is one such stall offering a tasty selection of Chinese-style set meals.

The stall is operated and owned by Jessie Goh, who had picked up cooking skills from family and friends since she was young.

When met at her stall recently, Goh told the writer that she grew up living in the vicinity of the well known Kai Joo Lane in the heritage area of Kuching city and most of her neighbours possessed excellent culinary skills.

She added that her own culinary knowledge and skills had been influenced by her neighbours even up until today decades later.

“I always like traditional Chinese-style food and how it is prepared and done. My dish might not be the best, but I try to follow how these culinary experts prepared them.

“We have to take the chance, for as long as people come and eat my food, I am happy. If they enjoy and appreciate the food, then it is acceptable (to me).

“I started this food business here five years ago since my children are all grown up, and I was quite free,” she revealed, sharing how she got started in the food business.

Jessie Goh preparing a customer’s order.

Goh disclosed that she receives inspiration from her friends who are generous in sharing tips in cooking and how to prepare dishes.

“They help me enhance the taste of my food as there are many ways of cooking Chinese dishes,” she added.

“Most traditional Chinese-style dishes are familiar to patrons. I think providing them with a set meal is a good idea as they are familiar with it,” she opined.

Goh confessed that she is generous with her portions, and she sometimes gives more rice to her patrons, especially contract workers who need more calories to do hard labour.

She prepared six types of dishes for her meal sets daily, namely Mushroom Pork Leg, Kacangma Chicken (Chicken with Herbs and Wine), Curry Chicken, Sesame Ginger Chicken, Pineapple Chicken and Vegetable Soup.

Servings of Mushroom Pork Leg (far left) and Chicken Curry (near right) being reheated on the stove before being served to customers.

“My patrons’ favourites are Mushroom Pork Leg, Curry Chicken and Kacangma Chicken, for which I prepared slightly more in quantity than other dishes,” she revealed.

“The one dish that my regular patrons always come back for more is my Mushroom Pork Leg dish. They often call me in advance to reserve their orders. They either have it dine-in or takeaway,” she added.

When describing how she prepared the dish, Goh disclosed that she has to cook it a day earlier as the meat and mushroom need time to get tender as well as absorb the flavours of the various ingredients.

Goh prepares the rest of her dishes before bringing them all to her stall.

“Later at the stall, when I receive an order from a customer, I heat the dish on a stove and serve them,” she added.

The menu at Jessie Set Lunch.

“These days, set lunch meals are a perfect choice to eat during lunch break. The food is enough and of course if they are good eaters they can always order more selections.

“I am happy that we can serve our customers in this way because we know the food also does not go to waste,” she said.

Goh’s stall Jessie Set Lunch is located at Loong Coffee Shop at BDC Commercial Centre. She operates the stall from 9am to 2.30pm daily except on Thursdays.  For further inquiries, call 012-887 6123. — DayakDaily