I cooked this dish 2-3 times over the last 1-2 years, and I really like how flavorful this dish is! But the outcome hadn't been nice. I decided to submit this recipe anyway since I know I can comfortably prepare and cook it within 1 hour (that's another challenge of this contest - one hour cooking time was allowed, no a single minute extra).
Back to the contest.
It's my first time to participate in cooking contest in my entire life! Yes, true, there is always the first time for everything we do since the first day we were born, right? This is one of the first I so need to record. I somehow felt that my "auntie-ness" is suddenly up many levels once I registered and got my number, lucky number "7". Really felt very auntie at the beginning. Then I saw some young contestants and there were even 3 males (3 out of 14, that's 21%, really not bad, huh!), and that kinda make me feel better, haha!
Getting ready to kick start!
I only realised that Maggi is the main sponsor at the briefing. As expected, extra points will be given if Maggi product is used. I don't use any, and I don't intent to use any just because of the extra points. Have to stay true to myself, haven't I? If product with the "healthier choice" logo is picked, extra points will be given too. Basic cooking utensils are provided, including an induction cooker, and also the basic cooking ingredients like oil and salt. Any special kitchenware had to be brought from home, after getting prior approval. I didn't bring any extra. We were then given about half an hour to shop for our ingredients after the briefing.
It's real fun to shop when you don't have to pay for it. I got all I wanted just below $40
The most ingredient that I bought was the Chinese Shao Xing wine. When I was looking through the bottles, one kind auntie came to tell me to just buy the most expensive one as only that one tastes decent. So I listened to her. Also I bought a small bottle of good quality black sesame oil. I was very tempted to get a premium quality soy sauce, but since it's provided, I didn't want to waste it. I got a bottle of Himalayan pink salt instead. Since I don't use any seasoning or MSG or soup stock/cubes, etc, these basic condiments of good quality are thus very important for the dish.
At 1pm sharp, all 14 of us started food preparation and cooking. I was very relax as my dish was a very simple, and am very sure one hour was enough for me. I washed up the vegetable and cut the chicken drumsticks into pieces, sliced the ginger, peeled to skin of the garlic and I was ready to cook. Throughout the 60 min, my table was kept very clean and neat, and I think this had helped me in getting quite some points (one of the judging criteria - taste, presentation, creativity, hygiene and I don't remember exactly what else). By the time I finished cooking, everything had been washed and dried, and kept nicely, and table and floor and the cooker are near sparking clean :-P. That's how I would do at home also, so it's more like a habit. Good habit is sure to be kept!
The cheering from the kids sure got me a few more points :-) They really cheered loudly "Mama, jia you, Mama, jia you!" LOL!
Some of the judges came talking to me and I explained to them how I had to substitute sweet basil with the spring onion. They were pretty impressed with that (though I didn't tell them I got the help from Google!) and a few more points were given for this last minute change for my "creativity", I think. And they all said it smell really nice, all thanks to the good quality of the wine and sesame oil, and the chicken are very nicely colored. Another thing that amazed people is that I don't taste my food while cooking. I don't measure how much I put in, I just anyhow pour in based on my gut feeling and the dishes usually turned out just nice (that explains why I am very bad in coming out with a recipe, because I simply don't measure!).
Finally, 1 hour was gone. Dishes were lined up for the 5 judges to sample the food! Can you guess which one was the winning dish from the photos below?
I was talking to my colleague when the results was announced. We kept on talking and suddenly my name was called! We both jumped, literally! And yes, I was the 1st runner up for this contest!!! I really, seriously, honestly didn't expect it at all.
When I received the prize ($500 shopping voucher!) from one the judges, Mr Png Eng Huat, who is the MP for Hougang, he congratulated me, and said to me "your children are really blessed to have home cook meals that is cooked with love!" It really touched me when I heard that, a stranger can understand/feel my 用心良苦！
(Note: I didn't know he is the MP for Hougang! I kinda felt that he looks familiar, and I suspected he must be a politician, but I didn't know it's him, sorry for my ignorance. But I must say, he is really a very friendly and down to earth kinda person, thumbs up!)
And, present to you, the 1st runner up dish - "
I have totally no talent in food presentation. I don't "beautify" the dishes almost all the time, I don't even garnish my dishes. Could have been presented nicer, but this was the best that I could come out with :-) And you may want to ask, how did the dish taste like without the sweet basil? The chicken tasted about the same since the main ingredients are the wine, sesame oil and the soy sauce, which made up the "3 cups". But it's lacking the unique fragrance from the sweet basil. If given a choice, I would always prefer to add in some sweet basil. Those thing besides the brown rice was mushroom cooked in the same sauce, and kinda garnished with the red pepper (I know, looking so ugly, try harder next time, haha!).
It's a good experience which I enjoyed! And the shopping vouchers are surely a big bonus :-) Thank you, Hougang Mall!