Food Picks: Frozen ready-to-eat dishes from Gim Tim, V:Pantry's healthier snacks

Hakka Abacus Seeds from Gim Tim (left) and energy balls from home-based business V:Pantry. ST PHOTOS: HEDY KHOO

Frozen ready-to-eat heritage dishes from Gim Tim

Braised Pork Belly and Lotus Buns from Gim Tim. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

If you crave heritage dishes but are too busy to cook from scratch, get the frozen ready-to-eat products from Gim Tim. Popular items are Braised Pork Belly ($14.80), Hakka Abacus Seeds ($11.80) and Salted Kampong Chicken ($17.80), which make pretty luxurious meals at home and are befitting of festive feasting.

Founded in 1975, Gim Tim started as a catering business and then expanded to a restaurant which specialises in Hokkien and Cantonese dishes. It moved to its current premises at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 in 1989.

The frozen products are prepared by chefs at the restaurant and offer plenty of value. All you need to do is reheat the food according to the instructions.

Salted Kampong Chicken comes as a whole chicken which needs to be thawed and then steamed for 15 minutes. It is best to chop it up as the meat, while still springy, is not soft enough to pull apart with a serving spoon. To get it more tender, steam the chicken longer.

Do not discard the liquid at the bottom of your steaming dish as it goes well with plain rice. You can also drizzle it over the chicken.

The chicken - marinated with a host of spices including sand ginger powder, black cardamom, star anise and bay leaf - is aromatic and flavoursome without the spices overwhelming the meat's natural flavour.

Salted kampong chicken from Gim Tim. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Braised Pork Belly comes in six pieces and with six buns. I could taste the five spice powder, oyster sauce and soya sauce in the gravy. The buns do not come with reheating instructions, but after thawing, steam them for two to three minutes.

What requires a little more work to reheat are the Hakka Abacus Seeds. The instructions say to boil the seeds for 10 seconds, but I do so for almost a minute until they are floating. Then add a tablespoon of oil to a non-stick pan, throw in the minced meat mixture, abacus seeds and sauce. There seems to be too much liquid in the sauce, but you can use high heat to reduce it.

I can taste yam in the abacus seeds, while the sliced cuttlefish and dried prawn lend savoury seafood flavours. I like the crunch from the black fungus strips. My only gripe is the tasteless dried beancurd strips, which I would have preferred to be left out.

Hakka abacus seeds from Gim Tim. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Another top seller is Deep-fried Prawn Dumplings ($16.80). Thaw them and put them in the air-fryer for 15 minutes. The perfectly golden beancurd skin is too salty, but the filling has good crunch from coarsely chopped pieces of water chestnut.

More filling could be used or the rolls can be wrapped more tightly so the filling does not taste like it is lacking.

Where: 01-546, Block 157 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4
Info: To order, go to this website. There is islandwide delivery, with delivery charges ranging from $8 to $15. Self-collection is from 11am to 9pm.

Healthier snacks from V:Pantry

The vegan energy balls from home-based outfit V:Pantry come in six flavours. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Is your festive snacking ruining your diet plan in the new year? Why not satisfy your peckishness with healthier options?

The vegan energy balls from home-based outfit V:Pantry come in six flavours - three premium (Stay Chia-ful, Cranberry Crush and Cocoa Truffle) and three basic (Loco For Coconut, Peanut Butter Party and Rollin' In Oats).

Go for the mixed box of nine pieces ($18.50). You get all six flavours, along with three randomly repeated ones. A box of nine balls in one premium flavour costs $16.50 and a box of nine in one basic flavour is $14.50.

The chief ingredients in all the flavours are rolled oats and dates, which lend natural sweetness so the snacks are not bland at all.

I am not usually a fan of rolled oats, but Ms Salimah Ali, owner of V:Pantry, blends them so finely, you can hardly tell there are oats in the mix.

The 58-year-old started making the energy balls last February when she wanted healthier snacks for herself and her family. She launched her business two months later.

My favourite flavour is Cranberry Crush. The tangy and chewy chopped dried cranberries pair well with the sweet date base. Almonds and flax seeds add a delectable nuttiness.

Stay Chia-ful is a winning combination of crunchiness from chia seeds, rich nuttiness from sunflower seeds and a slight chocolatey taste from cocoa powder that goes well with the sweet base of dates and oats.

Of the basic flavours, the two that stand out for me are Loco For Coconut and Peanut Butter Party.

For Loco For Coconut, the use of coconut oil in the filling lends moistness. The exterior coat of coconut flakes is light and crisp and the coconut flavour goes well with the almonds.

It is hard to go wrong with something like Peanut Butter Party. Even with sugar-free peanut butter - rounded off with a touch of pink Himalayan salt - the balls are sweet enough. Also seasoned with some pink Himalayan salt is Rollin' In Oats - a basic mix with flax and sunflower seeds.

I like Cocoa Truffle - made with cocoa nibs in the mix - the least as I found the coat of cocoa powder too dry for my taste.

Where: Website
Delivery: Free islandwide delivery for orders above $35; $6 delivery fee for orders below $35. Orders must be placed two days in advance and are delivered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays

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