cooking while travelling

As a Muslim traveler, food is always a concern of mine. At places where halal restaurants are difficult to find, I'm left with no choice but to cook my own meals. But how to cook when you stay in a hotel? Let me share with you some tips, based on my very own experience.

First, let's talk about the most important item - travel cooker. I bought my SONA travel cooker in Singapore for SGD 69 (about RM 190) early last year. Had to buy it there because I couldn't find any in KL. Surfed the internet and found out that Malaysian travel cooker owners bought theirs either in Singapore or Japan. So I contacted my Singaporean aunt and asked her to help me buy one. She could easily find it at various electrical shops in Singapore, including the famous Mustafa Centre.

My precious treasure. It stays in the box when I'm not using it. 

Mine is a newer version. Recently I heard there's a Malaysian company selling an older version (the pot is squarish and looks like an army mess tin). There's also mini rice cooker in the market but I don't recommend it. I had one before, it only survived a month or so. I dislike the fact that the pot is attached to the cooker, therefore you have to be extremely careful when washing it with all the wires inside. I suspect mine had some water dripping into electronics thus the entire thing went bust. Another thing I dislike about mini rice cooker is that it takes a long time to heat up and you can't control the temperature.

Back to travel cooker. If you are planning to buy one, please make sure it has dual voltage. It's very important because different parts of the world use different voltage i.e. European countries mostly use 220-240V, but USA and Latin America mostly use 110-120V. Therefore you need to adjust the voltage accordingly. Failure to do so may result in catastrophe. Ok I'm exaggerating, but you get what I mean.

The handle is foldable. The stove is inside the pot. That's how it goes into my luggage when traveling. 

Tadaaa! ON - standby mode, lights up when plugged in. HEAT - cooking mode, turn the switch here to heat up the stove and start cooking. If it gets too hot, flip the switch back to ON. That's how I control the temperature.

Bottom view. See how the cord is nicely tucked at the sides and the plug is slotted at the centre? Neat! But the more important thing I want to show here is the dual voltage switch. It's now pointed at 220-240V. Turn it clockwise to change to 110-120V.

Now let's talk about cooking utensils. These to me are musts:

(1) Fork and spoon, steel ones so you can use them for both cooking and eating. Need extra? Most airlines provide disposable fork and spoon during inflight meals. Keep them.

(2) Food container. Plays the role of plate, a bowl and of course your leftover storage.

(3) Swiss army knife. Pack the knife in your check-in luggage. Never ever put it in your hand-carry, you won't get pass security and they'll confiscate the knife.

(4) Small cutting board. Trust me it's very useful. Doubles up as a serving dish.

(5) Wet tissue. Excellent substitute to dishwashing sponge, no kidding. My favourite brand is Dettol. Smells nice and more importantly it's really good at cleaning oil stains.

Now let's talk about food. I always bring these from home:

(1) Rice. I normally cook for dinner and reheat the leftover for breakfast, so a small 1kg pack will last me a week. My favourite brand is Beras Moghul Faiza Basmathi (the packaging is red and blue). I call it no-fuss rice. Even if I put in a bit more or a bit less water, it still turns out well.

(2) Brahim's ready to eat dishes. They come in boxes and contain real meat. The easiest and most satisfying travel meals ever. Here's how they look like.

I've tasted them all except Sambal Ikan Bilis. They are so yummy I don't mind eating them everyday throughout my trip.  
Photo credit to 

(3) Brahim's cooking sauces. They are merely gravies, so you have to add meat and water. I only bring them of I travel longer than a week.

I like the Kuah Masak Lemak. Add in some crab meat, fabulous! 
Photo credit to

(4) Sambal ikan bilis. I love spicy food, so make it point to bring some when I travel. My favourite is Tean's Gourmet sambal rangup ikan bilis halus. It comes in an airtight container, perfect for travelling. You can find it at Jusco or Giant.

With items 1, 2 and 4 my daily meals are pretty much ready. At the destination I would just buy some eggs, salads and fruits to add variety. If I stay longer than a week, I would buy raw seafood to cook with item 3.

Cooker's ready. Utensil's ready. Food's ready. Time to get into action. Let's cook! Now some cooking tips:

(1) Cook in the bathroom. Why? So it's easy to clean up any spills. And also because bathrooms don't have smoke detectors therefore you won't trigger any alarm. I prefer to cook near the sink.

(2) If you really have to cook in the room (maybe because there's no plug point in the bathroom), put a layer of plastic bag under the stove before you start cooking, so if you spill anything it won't stain the furniture/carpet. And beware of smoke detectors! Stay as far away from it as you can. Fan away any smoke that comes out of your pot.

(3) Done cooking? Time to do the dishes. As I said earlier, use wet tissue as substitute for sponge. Solid waste must be thrown into the trash bin. As for liquid waste, do not pour it into the sink, especially if it's oily. You will clog the sink. Pour liquid waste into the toilet and flush immediately. Yes, immediately. If you wait any longer the toilet bowl will stain.

So there you go, that's how I cook while travelling. After doing it many times I've grown to enjoy it. I don't miss homecook meals anymore. I don't have worries of finding halal food. Saves me lots of money too, especially in places were eating out is expensive.

One last tip: Don't overdo it. The idea is for you to cook just enough to survive, not to prepare a 7-course culinary art. Make it simple, make it fast, so you have more time to enjoy your trip.

Happy cooking my fellow travelers!


MiAmIrA said...

awesome.. thanx for the tips..

dieya said...

no problem amira. have a great trip!

Sha@Mama Tina said...

tips yang sangat best. even tak travel macam dieya.. may be info tu boleh membantu orang lain dimasa hadapan.. thanks!

~jeet~ said...

tu dia.. lengkap cik kiah :) thanks for being the chefs in our trip.. i sampai la ni, takde mojo nak tulis pasal travel panjang, post Brazil ke laut la jawabnya.. so sayang!!

i need my mojo... i need my mojo... :)

Rashidah Ibrahim said...

Thanks for the info Dieya..

dieya said...

Kak Sha,
U r most welcome :-) mudah2an berguna utk semua

No prob babe! I pun baru dpt balik mojo sepoi2 bahasa. Kekonon nak tulis about Brazil from our planning stage. Ntah bila la.. Haha

Kak Rashidah,
U r most welcome :-) terima kasih sudi baca

elly lim said...

Hi, Can the aboved mentioned cooker be used inJapan? Hope u can reply asap. Thanks

dieya said...

Yes, but you need to use an international adapter to fit thw plug. Don't forget to adjust the voltage accordingly when you use it.

San said...

How long does it takes to cook rice? (assuming full capacity)