An instant meal that requires only room-temperature water has been making its rounds on the Web and social media.
Say hello to the fuss-free instant mala or spicy hotpot.
It comes with a heat pack that, when activated by room-temperature water, generates enough heat to steam a small bowl of ingredients for 15 to 20 minutes.
One of the more popular brands available here is Ba Shu Lan Ren, a Chengdu-based instant hotpot brand. It comes in three mala flavours: original, rice and meat, and beef; and has also recently launched a Sichuan peppercorn soup base version. (See sidebar for hotpot ingredients.)
Other instant hotpot brands include Meet From Taste (Cong Wei Yu Jian) and Chong Qing Yu Xin. Prices start at about $10 a packet.
These instant hotpots are sold mostly online, on websites such as Qoo10 and Shopee Singapore.
Checks by The Sunday Times with major supermarket chains FairPrice and Cold Storage showed that such instant self-heating food products are not available at stores yet.
Convenience store chain 7-Eleven also does not stock such products and says it has no plans to do so in the near future.
This has not stopped diners from hunting down these miracle pots online.
Ms Eve Lim, 27, co-owner of Joneve Trading, which retails Ba Shu Lan Ren hotpots on online platforms Shopee Singapore and Qoo10, brought in the product in February after noticing its popularity in other Asian cities.
"I thought it was amazing that you could cook something without electricity or hot water," she says.
Her entire first shipment of 600 instant hotpots sold in two days.
Since then, her stock has been flying off the shelves. Last month, she sold more than 10,000 individual packs of Ba Shu Lan Ren hotpots.
Other online retailers of Ba Shu Lan Ren hotpots include Bashulanren Singapore, which started selling the hotpots at the end of May; and 1stShop, which began importing them earlier this month.
According to Ba Shu Lan Ren's website, the instant hotpots were launched last December.
A spokesman for the Chinese company says it has six main suppliers in Singapore.
Singapore diners can also look forward to a new instant hotpot product that is being developed by Joneve Trading to suit taste buds here. It is slated to be launched in November and will have a variety of soup bases.
Diners say they are excited to see such innovative food products on the market here.
Sales executive Calvin Lee, 42, who has had similar instant hotpots while travelling in China, likes the convenience of it.
He says: "For those who are strapped for time or stuck at their desks, this is revolutionary. There's nothing like access to a hot meal at your fingertips."
•Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan
NOTE: On Oct 9, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it has not approved the import of instant hotpot products containing meat. Food products containing meat can only be imported from approved sources that comply with AVA food safety standards and requirements, it added.
What is in the packets
The Ba Shu Lan Ren instant hotpots come in three main flavours: original, rice and meat, and beef.
The Chengdu-based brand has also launched a version that has a soup base made with two types of Sichuan peppercorns. However, it is not widely available in Singapore yet.
Here is a breakdown of what is included in each Ba Shu Lan Ren instant hotpot:
MALA SOUP BASE
Each instant hotpot comes with a sachet of mala or spicy Sichuan soup base. Ingredients listed on the packet include butter, bean paste, garlic, ginger, chilli, peppercorns and chicken seasoning.
The packet lists five types of vegetables: lotus root, potato, wood-ear fungus, bamboo shoot and king oyster mushroom. Vegetables are included in the three main versions of the instant hotpot.
The chewy noodles, which are included in all three main versions, are made with sweet potato and cassava flour.
The 70g packet of instant rice comes only with the rice and meat hotpot.
A sausage made with ingredients such as chicken, duck and beef is included in only the original version. It has China's halal-certification seal.
The beef version comes with pieces of braised beef and beef tripe.
The packet of meat that comes with the rice version of this instant hotpot contains ingredients such as chicken wing tips, duck intestines and duck gizzards.
STEWED QUAIL EGGS AND SEASONING OIL
The original and beef versions each come with a packet of three hard-boiled quail eggs, stewed and flavoured with five-spice powder; and a packet of sesame seasoning oil.