Quick meals are now getting the gourmet touch by some of the best in the industry.
Local celebrity chefs Justin Quek and Eric Teo are lending their names to ready-to-cook items, catering to busy people who want a satisfying and tasty meal that does not come in a frozen packet.
Teo’s range is called Private Chef, and comes complete with sliced fresh vegetables and sauce packets. In the five-product range are meal kits for making dishes such as Mixed Vegetables Curry, Thai Tom Yum Veggie Soup and Foo Yong Veggie Omelette .
Quek has launched a range of four sauces called Chef Justin Quek’s Flavours Of Asia, which includes a satay marinade as well as curry and sambal pastes. This adds to his first product – Chilli Sesame & Coriander Dip for steamboat– launched in January.
For the Private Chef products, chef-consultant Teo was roped in by Grower’s Synergy, a local agriculture consultancy and farm management company and subsidiary of At Fresh, a wholesaler that has been supplying vegetables to hotels and restaurants fo rmany years.
MrRanQuek, 47, general manager of Grower’s Synergy, says he does not rule out using fish and other meats for future meal kits, and trying other cuisines as well.
The meal kits are manufactured in Malaysia, and the company is building a processing plant here to shift operations to Singapore by early next year.
Chef Teo, 52, who owns food consultancy firm ET Culinary Arts, says it is up to people to add more ingredients if they want to. For example, seafood or meat can be added to the Thai Tom Yum Veggie Soup and Mixed Vegetables Curry.
In the pipeline are recipes for Chinese New Year dishes as well.
Chef Quek, 52, was inspired to launch his own sauce products because he was disappointed with the offerings he found in the supermarket.
“My overseas chef friends also lament the lack of raw ingredients and spices. This is something they can use readily,” he adds.
He has been refining his recipes over the years.
He is working on more recipes such as Asian Black Pepper Sauce and Prawn Noodle Paste, as well as developing a JQ Gift Pack for tourists.
Heis now in talks to distribute his products in China and Hong Kong, as well as in the United Kingdom and America.
Home cook Ng Tiong Sin, 55, managing director of an investment company, likes that chef Quek’s tasty sauces are packed with Asian spices and flavours.
“I hope he can create more products in the future,” he says.
For Madam Rosemary Lim, 60, the Private Chef meal kits are convenient options when cooking for her family of four.
For dinner, the tutor cooked Foo Yong Veggie Omelette and Nyonya Chap Chye Vegetable Stew. She appreciates the fresh ingredients and likes how the kits save time.
Her only complaint? “It would be great to have more vegetables in the pack.”
Eunice Quek tastes the meal kits and sauces
What: Launched last month, this range of ready-to-cook meal kits comes with five options.
Grower’s Synergy, a home-grown agriculture consultancy and farm management company, roped in celebrity chef Eric Teo to concoct the recipes.
The meal kits come with exact proportions of fresh ingredients and condiments, and a step-by-step guide on how to cook the dish.
Instead of MSG, hyomoro, made from vegetable and yeast extracts, is used. Each meal kit can last seven days in the fridge from the production date printed on the box. Prices range from $4.30 to $6.90.
Where: Selected major FairPrice supermarkets
Thai Tom Yum Veggie Soup
Verdict: My favourite meal of the lot as the spicy and sour notes in the tom yam soup are on point.
If you like it more spicy, smash up the chilli padi instead of adding them into the dish whole.
An easy one-pot dish – just add some prawns or fish, and perhaps more mushrooms as the oyster mushrooms provided are sliced a tad too thinly.
The recommended serving is for four people, but I think the soup is enough for just two generous portions. You will want seconds.
Nyonya Chap Chye Vegetable Stew
Verdict: I find cauliflower and broccoli in the packet, not the usual ingredients found in chap chye. The only familiar item is black fungus.
The seasoning is on the bland side, without the depth of flavour from dried shrimp, fermented bean paste and the sweetness of stewed cabbage.
The recipe recommends pouring the seasoning sauce over the boiled vegetables, or you can also drain the vegetables and toss them quickly in the sauce before plating. It works as a simple vegetable dish, but I wouldn’t call this chap chye.
Mixed Vegetables Curry
Verdict: No more slaving over the stove to cook a pot of curry. To make it even easier, skip the step of frying the brinjal, so that there is one fewer pan to wash.
Even though I followed the instructions, I found the curry to be on the watery side – although the flavours are not diluted. So if you prefer a thicker gravy, simmer it for a longer period of time.
For a heartier meal, add meat or seafood, and serve hot with rice.
Long Bean Stir Fry With Black Bean Sauce
Verdict: Do I really need a kit to fry long beans? Maybe not, but I do think that the condiments of chopped garlic, shallots and chilli padi, as well as the black bean sauce paste elevate the dish.
The combination of flavours is spot on – from the spicy chilli to the slightly salty black bean sauce.
The portion is just right too, with each of the long bean pieces coated nicely in the sauce. The last thing I want are the beans going limp while swimming in gravy. I also like that I don’t have to do any chopping at all and can cook this dish in under five minutes.
Foo Yong Veggie Omelette
Verdict: A good way to use up any remaining eggs in your pantry as these are not provided in this kit.
The vegetables are very fresh and all sliced to the same length for easy cooking.
The seasoning paste for the eggs can be omitted if you prefer to season your eggs with salt and pepper.
Another dish done in about five minutes, simply because I saved plenty of preparation time for the vegetables.
Chef Justin Quek’s Flavours Of Asia
What: Get a taste of local celebrity chef Justin Quek’s dishes from Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands in your own home. The flavours chosen for his range of sauces are the base of popular dishes in his restaurant. The packaging comes with general cooking instructions. For recommended recipes, go to www.facebook.com/justin.quek.54/
Each packet has a shelf life of one year, and requires refrigeration after opening. The products do not contain pork or lard and are awaiting halal certification.
The sauces are priced at $5.50 a pack, with a $15 delivery fee for orders under $200. The pastes will soon hit supermarkets such as Cold Storage, Jasons Market Place and Culina Dempsey.
Info: www.justinquek.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Straits Chinese Sweet & Sour Chilli Sauce
Verdict: When I see “sweet and sour”, I think of the ketchup and chilli sauce-based sweet and sour pork and fish dish.
In this case, the sauce is more like what you get with assam fish. After all, the ingredients list includes tamarind, plum sauce, ginger torch flower and turmeric – all of which are more commonly seen in assam fish recipes.
The robust sauce is thicker than I expect, so it coats the 200g of snapper that I used instead of forming a pool of gravy.
Sambal Seafood Paste
Verdict: The instructions say to use 60g of the sambal paste for a fish dish, but I don’t want to be stuck with the other half of the paste in my fridge.
So at the supermarket, I pick up both stingray as well as squid – and both work equally well with the fragrant and spicy sambal paste.
Just spoon the paste over the seafood, steam and serve with pickled onions and a drizzle of lime. I would take this paste to my next barbecue – perfect for grilled sambal stingray and sotong, complete with the smoky charcoal aroma.
Singapore Curry Fish Paste
Verdict: The instructions on how much water and coconut milk to add to the curry are not clear on the packet. So I refer to chef Quek’s Facebook page for a recipe. He adds 300ml of water and 30ml of coconut milk to the curry – I follow suit and it is just right.
I add 200g of batang, chopped into chunks, as the firm fish will not break apart in the curry. I also add other vegetables such as eggplant, lady’s finger and tomatoes.
Spices such as cumin, mustard seeds, tamarind and fenugreek give the curry great flavour.
Verdict: It is best to leave the marinated meat for up to a day in the fridge for the flavours to permeate it.
I use 200g of chicken and 200g of beef, sliced into chunks.
I like the combination of lemongrass, cumin and turmeric in the marinade, which is neither too spicy nor too salty.
All I need is some peanut gravy and ketupat to complete the dish.
This, too, would be good for my next barbecue.