How to Cook in a Tiny Kitchen

My love for cooking did not waver when I went to Malaysia this summer. Living in the intern apartment, we had a very cute mini kitchen to work with.

Our tiny kitchen in Malaysia!
Our tiny kitchen in Malaysia!

It came equipped with all the basic necessities, including a fridge, a sink, counter space, cabinets, and this single burner camp stove.

Camp burner where we lovingly fried rice and noodles
Camp burner where we lovingly fried rice and noodles. Yes, we did need the lighter because the ignition was broken.

I accepted the challenge of cooking in Malaysia. At first, I was alone in my quest to prepare meals that included 3 or more food groups. Soon enough, a fellow intern and I decided to embark on the journey together, and so began the cooking adventures.

Once we joined forces, our meals got a lot more creative. I usually preferred cooking Chinese and Indian dishes while my friend suggested things like pasta and pizza. It was great to have another person’s input to increase the variety rather than having the same thing day after day (a good tip if you’re considering cooking with roommates!).

Pita pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, corn, and parsley
Pita pizza with tomato sauce, cheese, corn, and parsley, Photo credit: Dominika.

So this was probably one of my favourite dishes we created together. The idea was suggested by my friend. We opened up a pita into two halves, smeared on a base layer of homemade tomato sauce and topped it with canned corn, sliced mozzarella cheese, and Italian parsley. The most complicated step was getting all the ingredients prepared. First, we cooked some chopped onion with diced tomatoes, ketchup, and water to create the sauce (not the most authentic, but it tasted great!). After loading the other ingredients on the pizza, we carefully transferred it into a small frying pan and slowly heated it with a turned plate acting as the lid to trap the heat. This helped to melted the cheese and gently toasted the bottom.

Best part of this was definitely the combination of ingredients. I’ve never put corn on pizza before and the sweetness of it was perfect to balance the tartness of the tomato sauce. The cheese was the mellow “glue” that held the pizza together and the parsley gave a fresh finish to the pizza.

Stir-fried rice with tofu, scallions, and sweet potato.
Stir-fried rice with tofu, scallions, and sweet potato. Photo credit: Dominika.

Another dish that was more Asian inspired was this lovely stir-fry. It was actually 2 dishes that got mixed together. The first was tofu with oyster sauce, cubed tofu gets lightly fried with some oil before getting sprinkled with oyster sauce. For the fried rice, we sauteed the sweet potatoes first to thoroughly cook it before adding the already steamed rice.

The key to preparing meals in a small space and with a limited amount of time is to “prepare once, eat twice”. For example, leftover steamed rice gets turned into fried rice, another good idea is to cut extra veggies and store them to use another day. I cut extra sweet potatoes here and sauteed them with a little cumin for a Mexican-inspired dish.

Dominika (R) and I (L) in Malaysia
My partner in food Dominika (R) and I (L). Photo credit: Laura.

The food may be gone, but the memories remain!

Thank you previous intern for leaving us a rice cooker!
Thank you for leaving us a rice cooker!

The real secret weapon in Malaysia was our beloved rice cooker. It’s essentially an insulated, self-heating pot with two settings: cook and warm. To cook rice, just add rice and water, set the pot to “cook” and the pot will automatically turn to “warm” once it senses that the water’s evaporated / absorbed. In addition to cooking rice, we also used the “cook” setting to boil eggs, pasta, lentils, and vegetables. It came in handy when our beloved camp stove ran out of gas.

Sitting down to dinner!
Interns sitting down to dinner! Photo credit: Dominika. 

This was our family dinner! We all sat down and had homemade food together! One of my favourite memories with the interns in Malaysia.

Bowtie pasta with tomato sauce, vegetables, and parsley
Bowtie pasta with tomato sauce, vegetables, and parsley. Photo credit: Dominika

Benefits of cooking with a larger group of people: it’s social and fun, if everyone contributes, it’s less work for each person, I usually learn something new or help others learn something new.

Got a small kitchen? No time to cook? I hope this post gave you some ideas for how to overcome these issues! Let’s stop making up excuses and start making real food!


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