Update: Chef In Box ready-to-eat meals have new packaging labels now that show a detailed listing of ingredients used. When contacted, they explained that the ‘preservatives’ that were printed on the label were from the seasoning sauces used and that they did not add any extra preservatives to the food.
When I was in college, my dinners were mostly frozen meals heated in the microwave because they were cheap and so easy and quick to prepare. Perfect on days when my mates and I returned home late and no one wanted to cook.
Since then, I had shunned frozen dinners. Because we all know processed foods aren’t great for health as they are loaded with saturated fat, sodium, calories and hardly any nutrients or benefits. Not like they taste spectacular anyway, lol.
Last year, I was at The Future of Us exhibition at Gardens by the Bay. I happened to see a Chef-In-Box hot food vending machine. Saw someone buying a spaghetti that did come out hot and steaming. Nice.
Couple of months back, I saw Chef In Box selling their ready meals on Qoo10 (click on above link or image to go to their store). I was tempted to give them a try because they claimed that their meals contain no added preservatives, additives or artificial flavourings.
Basically, nothing is processed so once food is cooked, it is quickly frozen to seal in the freshness and nutrients. Definitely different from all the frozen dinners I had seen previously. Their selections seemed pretty appealing too.
By the way, the prices on their Qoo10 store are slightly higher than what’s shown on their website. However if you use coupons and Q-points to purchase, then you can still enjoy more savings if you buy through Qoo10.
I ordered 2 starter packs (‘cos free delivery if purchase >$30) that came in cooler bags like these.
Each Chef In Box starter pack consisted of 5 different meals – Seafood Hor Fun, Curry Chicken with Rice, Chicken Bolognese with Spaghetti, Vegetarian Rice Noodle and Casserole Chicken Rice.
As I don’t use a microwave at home, I transferred out the contents of the meal (without thawing) onto a plate and then steamed on high heat for 10 minutes. If you are using a microwave, then just follow the instructions on the label and heat for a couple of minutes.
This was the Seafood Hor Fun when still frozen.
And this was when it was heated and ready to eat. Looked exactly like what you would get from a tze char stall and probably of the same standard too.
The chicken was tender and the prawns and vegetables were still crunchy. Flavour wise, I must say this did taste as good if not better than some of the hor funs out there. There was so much wok hei in it and the gravy was just flavoursome and tasty.
I supposed there was MSG in it but I didn’t feel very thirsty after having it.
The Casserole Chicken Rice was actually claypot chicken rice. This was my top favourite of all.
Plenty of chicken, mushrooms and there were even chicken sausage hiding below the chicken. I could also taste salted fish bits and dried shrimps in the very fragrant rice. Overall, this was like a very authentic claypot rice. Delicious!
The Vegetarian Rice Noodles was my least favourite. Even though it was supposed to have a deep aromatic wok hei, I thought the bee hoon tasted burnt and somewhat weird. It was also very oily. My husband didn’t mind it though.
French beans weren’t included in the Curry Chicken Rice. I added them in to boost my intake of veggies. Curry was flavoursome but this could do with a bit more gravy. I liked that boneless chicken leg & thigh were used so they were moist and juicy.
However, it seemed like there was high content of ice or water on the rice while frozen so when I steamed the whole thing, the rice ended up in a puddle of water and became quite stodgy like porridge.
Again, I added french beans to the Chicken Bolognese Spaghetti. Of all 5 flavours, this came in the smallest portion. There wasn’t much ingredients in it. The meat sauce was quite watery after I steamed it but it was tasty even though it was a little on the salty side. Spaghetti was al dente, overall not too bad.
I was quite happy with my first purchase so decided to order more to stock up in the freezer. The husband was frequently away on business trips so these would come in handy. And I didn’t have to cook.
I sent an enquiry to the seller to ask if it was possible to swap out the vegetarian bee hoon with another flavour as I didn’t like the burnt taste. Received a phone call the next day from a lady from their marketing & sales team that she would like to send me 2 complimentary boxes of their newest flavour Mutton Rendang with Biryani Rice to sample. I was surprised by the move as I really didn’t expect it. She even thanked me for my feedback and said she would let the chef know to take note of the ‘burnt’ flavour next time.
I was impressed with their customer service because I merely wanted to swap out one flavour for another (which couldn’t be done because starter packs were fixed). Yet I was offered extras at no cost and delivery was made a few days later right to my doorstep.
The briyani rice was fragrant and I could taste cardamom in it. But the mutton rendang wasn’t fantastic. Tasted a little gamey and was quite tough too. There was also an obvious lack of rendang gravy so everything was like very dry and hard to swallow.
So my verdict is?
These Chef In Box frozen meals were nothing like those processed ones. These were tasty and fresh as though they were just cooked and served straightaway. Calories wise, each meal was in the range of 500-600 kcal. Quite alright unless you’re on a diet. Seriously, I really didn’t feel like I was eating frozen meals at all which was the real bonus.
Seafood Hor Fun and Casserole Chicken Rice were the clear winners. If next time they would allow customers to choose flavours for the starter packs, I would definitely see myself coming back to order more. Also looking forward to seeing more new flavours. 🙂
I highly recommend these Chef In Box ready meals because they would come in very handy on busy or rainy days when you would rather eat in the office. Or when you are eating alone and just don’t feel like cooking at home. Fuss free solution. Perfect time saver.