Wednesday 4 May 2011

[$20 Budget Meal] Winter Melon, Woodear and Pork Ribs Soup, Stir-fry Nai Bai and Steamed Threadfin With Zha Cai

With S$12.00 on hand what do you usually order for dinner to feed a family of 3 - 4 person? Is it a S$3.00 packet of Chicken Rice or those mixed vegetables Economical Rice(Chap Chye Rice)? Here with S$12.20 we managed to whip up a hearty Winter Melon Soup to cool down the heat, Stir-fry Nai Bai for the greens and a plate of healthy Steamed Threadfin to increase daily protein in-take especially for growing kids.

This is a very light and refreshing soup with the nature sweetness from the sweetcorn, red dates and wolfberries. The adding of winter melon helps to cool down the body system whereas the woodear(black fungus) in Chinese herbal medicine term it is usually use to increase the fluidity of the blood and improving circulation.


Ingredients: (serves 2 - 3)
300g Of Pork Ribs
150g Winter Melon, cut into chunk
2 Cluster of Fresh Woodears(Black Fungus/木耳), cut into big pieces
1 Sweet Corn, cut into sections
6 Big Red Dates

1. Blanched pork ribs in boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes, remove and rinse with tap water. Set aside.

2. Bring 1.5 litres of water to boil in a soup pot.

3. Add in all the ingredients except wolfberries and when the mixture comes to boil again, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 - 40 minutes.

4. Lastly drop in wolfberries and season with salt to taste according to own preference.

Total cost for this dish is about S$6.00 with breakdown shown below:-
Cost of Ingredients:
~ Pork Ribs = S$3.00
~ Fresh Woodear = S$1.00
~ Fresh Winter melon and Corn= S$2.00

This is one type of Baby Bok Choy or also known as "China Nai Bai(乃白菜)" that comes with curl and dark green leaves compared to the other type with lime green leaves. I usually bought this type "mini" veggie instead of the full-grown size to use for stir-fry as they are more tasty and crunch. And what you need to do is just trim the leaves/stalks, rinse it with water to get rid of the dirt/soil in between before cooking.

1 Packet of Baby Bok Choy Nai Bai Cai(乃白菜)
2 Slices of Ginger
2 Cloves of Garlic, light pound
Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon of Cooking Wine
Some Wolfberries, optional

1. Heat up a large frying pan with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil.

2. Add in garlic and ginger, saute it for about 30 seconds till fragrant.

3. Quickly throw in drained bok choy and stir till the leaves begin to wilt.

4. Season with salt, cooking wine and add in the wolfberries, give it a quick toss before dishing it up on serving plate.

Total cost for this dish is about S$2.00 with breakdown shown below:-
Cost of Ingredients:
~ Baby Bok Choy Nai Bai Cai(乃白菜) = S$2.00


Ingredients: (serves 2)
1 Piece of Threafin Fillet, around 300g
50g of Salted Pickles(榨菜)
2 Stalls of Spring Onion, cut into sections
Few Slices of Ginger, jubilee
1 Chili (optional), cut into thin slices

1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil
1 Teaspoon of Cooking Wine
Dash of Pepper

1. Clean and remove any scales from the fish, rinse and pat dry using kitchen paper towel. Set aside.

2. Rinse salted pickles under tap water, drain well and cut into 0.5cm thick strips. Put 1/2 portion of it on steaming plate together with some ginger and spring onion before placing the fish on top.

3. Top fish with the rest of the ingredients and drizzle with seasonings.

4. When the pot of water comes to boil, steamed fish over medium high heat for about 10 - 15 minute till the fish is cooked through.(you can test using a fork to flake the fish meat after 10 minutes to check)

5. To serve, drizzle some extra sesame oil and dash of pepper on it and spoon some sauce at the bottom of the fish to moist the fillet and enhance the taste.

Total cost for this dish is about S$4.20 with breakdown shown below:-
Cost of Ingredients:
~ Threadfin = S$3.50
~ Salted Pickles = S$0.30
~ Ginger, Chili and Spring onion = S$0.40


  1. I definitely choose this wholesome meal over chicken rice / mixed veg rice!

  2. I always love Chinese steam fish! And the thickness of fish is very Chinese too. Always thick nice piece unlike thin Japanese fish. Haha. I need to check singapore $ conversion to the US$ to see how much these meal really costs! :-)

  3. Hi Ellena, I'm a big fan of your blog. Just like to find out where you purchased the threadfin fish, is it at the wet market? Because I don't think I can get such a big piece for $3.50 if I were to buy it at the supermarket. I reckon that since you cook often you should be getting all your ingredients from the market since they're fresher which in turn perhaps the stallholder might charge you cheaper since you're a regular. The prices that you quote, are they on-par with supermarket prices or just strictly wet market prices? Thank you.

  4. Parsley Sage4/5/11 9:19 pm

    Fantastic budget meal! I'm a huge mushroom fan but I've never had any woodear before...I'll have to find some here! Thanks so much for sharing :)

  5. Yup! It is also known as "Black Fungus/木耳" :)

  6. Can u find threadfin over there at US? Barramundi is also a good fish for steaming too.

  7. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for your kind compliment :) It depends, sometime i get it from wet market, sometime at NTUC and a certain time fairprice do have decent size fish for a great steal of price compare to Cold Storage. I don't cook often only on certain days hahaha and usually i just pay whatever they quote, but i find wet market prices are somtime higher than supermarkets.

  8. Thanks Parsley. Hope i can see one of your submission for the event soon :)

  9. very nice combo and easy to make too - thks :)

  10. mycookinghut8/5/11 1:43 am

    This miss a meal like this... now that I live in London, I rather make more than 2 dishes to eat with rice.. :(


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