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Taste, balance and nutrition drive Harry’s cooking

September 8, 2020

Harry Singh’s go-to meal is a chicken laksa, a slurp-worthy staple across Southeast Asia. It is not a one-size-fits-all dish, rather each region has its own variation whether it is a rich coconut sauce, a tamarind tang or a belacan punch.

The secret to a great chicken laksa is balance, according to Harry, which sums up his attitude to cooking in general.

For the past five years, Harry has been the chef at Rushall Park village where he lovingly prepares every meal from fresh food with an emphasis on look, taste and nutrition.

“I love it that the residents love food as much as I do, it is a great feeling and makes every day a real delight,” Harry said.

He draws up seasonal menus with great involvement from staff and assisted living residents, many of whom have strict dietary requirements to cater for and with changing taste buds.

“Many of the residents used to love cooking so it is wonderful to sit down with them and learn more from them about what they like to eat and how they used to cook specific meals,” Harry said.

He comes to OCAV with a wealth of experience having worked in the kitchens of cafes, hotels, army barracks, as well as aged care homes and hospitals.

“Every place is different, every kitchen is different but one thing remains the same – having pride in the food I make,” he said.

Like many male chefs, Harry learned his craft from his mother. He spent many happy hours in the family kitchen with her, watching her mix spices, prepare curries, stir sauces. Not surprisingly, his favourite foods remain curries and salad evoking memories of home.

Over recent months, Harry and the kitchen team have been facing up to the challenge of the coronavirus. The dining room at Rushall Park has changed radically to meet the physical distancing requirements. Each resident has their own table away from each other, and Harry is unable to serve meals as he would have done pre-pandemic or have a table chat with the residents.

“Safety has to come first in these days but the changes don’t mean that we cannot continue to serve up delicious, tasty, nutritious and balanced meals,” Harry said.

Other changes have meant that independent and assisted living residents can no longer have their meals together – because of physical distancing and space in the dining room.

With typical OCAV ingenuity, Harry and his team have been preparing take-away frozen meals – which have been well received by many in the village. The choice is varied but there are always three options on offer from poultry, meat and vegetables.

“We have had orders for more than 600 frozen meals since we started in April, and the demand is growing,” he said.

All this cooking and tasting does take a toll on Harry, which is as well that he is a fitness freak.

“I spend time in the gym doing cardio and strength training – anything which keeps my heart beat up. Life is all about balance, after all.”

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