ANN/THE STAR – When it comes to a camping trip, avoid settling for simple fare like instant noodles, eggs, and field rations. Elevate your culinary experience by bringing along crabs, unagi, prawns, jellyfish, lamb chops, and steaks for a truly indulgent feast. Discover tips on how to prepare a sumptuous meal fit for royalty during a two-night camp, particularly at managed campgrounds that allow you to conveniently drive directly to your campsite.
First off, you need a large ice box. Do not use a polystyrene box. They do not hold the cold in well; they collect mold and bacteria in microscopic crevasses that are hard to eradicate, and when they break (easily), there is no reusing or recycling of polystyrene.
There are many varieties of ice boxes for sale across a wide range of prices, so shop around and speak with friends who have experience using them to find one suitable for you.
Consider getting reusable gel ice packs that can be frozen down to subzero temperatures.
Most modern home freezers will chill things down to minus 18 degrees Celsius and these ice packs can be frozen to minus 16 degrees Celsius and even lower.
Use regular, well-crushed ice (you can buy it in coffee shops and nasi kandar restaurants) to fill the spaces left in the ice box.
So lay down several frozen gel ice packs at the bottom and sides before putting in your frozen food. A good rule of thumb is to use two-thirds of the space in the ice box for the food and one-third for gel ice packs and crushed ice.
As for the food itself, never use containers to hold it because these take up a whole lot of space.
Instead, invest in a vacuum sealer and suitable, sealable plastic bags of various sizes to vacuum-seal and then freeze your meats and seafood.
Cut them to your intended cooking sizes and portions before sealing them to save a tonne of time at camp; do not, for example, attempt to freeze a whole chicken and chop it up at camp.
Now, how you store the food in the ice box is important, and the logic is plain and simple: store the food you want to eat on the last day at camp at the bottom and the food for your first day on top.
This means you need your meal plans outlined for your camping trip. A good idea is to enjoy a steamboat dinner on your first night, and you can relish squid, prawns, jellyfish, and any other good stuff you want to throw in.
This makes sense because seafood does not really stay fresh for long after it begins to thaw. Plus, you may be tired from your journey to the campsite, and a steamboat dinner is easy to set up.
Some people plan a barbecue on the first night, only to find that their lamb chops are still frozen solid on arrival. It is quite hilarious to watch people wait till way after dark for the meat to thaw before they can start grilling.
On your second day, you have plenty of time to prepare super meals. Pull out the vacuum-sealed salmon steaks and grill them with potatoes and various greens for breakfast, maybe.
Have grilled unagi with rice and a side of vegetables stir-fried with salted fish for lunch.
Come evening, take out the lamp chops, chicken wings and what not a little earlier if they are still frozen, and barbecue them with brinjals and lady’s fingers.
By the morning of your final day, it is understandable that your ice box will not be so icy any more, so hopefully that bag of minced meat will have thawed down and is ready for you to stir up a marvellously meaty spaghetti sauce for a big pasta breakfast served with coffee and the morning mist.
Don’t put stuff like cold drinks in the ice box that will cause you and your campmates to regularly open the box to get them because that will mess up the temperature in no time. Have a different ice box for that enjoyment.
Thanks to modern technology, there is now such a thing as an electric ice box, powered by a portable power station, and if you are into that level of creature comfort, you can really live it up at camp. – Lam Meng Tuck