Tan Ching Yee tries out the affordable – and delicious – microwavable meals on campus that you can easily cook on the spot in-store and files her verdict
1. MENTAI CREAM BAKED PASTA ($4.50)
Fans of cod roe will like this mentaiko twist on the usual mac and cheese, which is creamy, flavourful and ready in minutes. The baked pasta comes with two crab sticks and a little garnish, making it pleasing to both the eye and the palette. There is also that satisfying cheese pull as you spoon out your first bite of pasta. But those who don’t like fish may not be able to stomach the smell of the mentaiko.
2. SHRIMP WONTON NOODLE WITH VEGETABLE ($4.95)
Noodles in soup with vegetables – this is as close to a balanced meal as you can get with ready meals. The clear broth, made from adding water to soup powder, has a hint of prawn flavour. The noodles are wellcut and firm to the bite. But the star in this bowl of noodle soup is the shrimp wonton. Each of the three wontons is wrapped in silky, delicate wonton skin, and comes with a generous portion of shrimp that is lightly seasoned with pepper. All in all, a very satisfying, wholesome meal.
3. NASI LEMAK WITH SAMBAL TELUR ($3.90)
The whiff of coconut from the rice whets the appetite, and the ikan bilis (anchovies) adds a good crunch, making each bite even more savoury. The two eggs, which are coated with fried fishcake batter, add textural variety. While the sambal is spicy, it lacks the punch packed in traditional sambal. The seasoned nasi lemak lover may also find that this dish lacks the necessary layers of sweet and salty.
4. BUTTER CHICKEN BIRYANI ($3.90)
This is one of 7-Eleven’s hot picks for a good reason. The curry and chicken are well-seasoned and complement each other well. The basmati rice, which is kept separate from the chicken and curry, is pleasantly fluffy, and acts as a great canvas for the richness of the butter chicken, giving the dish some balance. Overall, a fantastic choice for convenience food.
5. JAPCHAE ($4.80)
This instant version of the Korean sweet potato glass noodles is as close as you can get to the real thing, and it comes with the usual array of carrots, leafy greens and onions. The blend of soy sauce, sesame oil and spices provides a medley of flavours, which the silky smooth glass noodles soak up nicely. One thing to note though: the portion is smaller than what most would consider a meal, making it more suitable for those looking for a hearty snack.
6. SINGAPORE LAKSA ($5.80)
This vending machine meal hits all the classic, comfortingly creamy notes in a good bowl of laksa. Its broth is rich with coconut milk – you can smell it right away – and the tofu puff soaks up gravy like a delicious sponge. The dish does not taste “jelak” (overwhelmingly rich) thanks to the laksa beehoon, which does not turn soggy and has bite to it. Another delicious point – you can choose to dispense your laksa hot or frozen, which means you can decide to eat it on the spot or have it later.
7. LEMONGRASS CHICKEN WITH RICE ($3.90)
Who says convenience food can’t be made with quality ingredients? The slowcooked chicken cubes in this Vietnamese dish are tender, and the chopped lemongrass in the gravy gives it a slightly sweet citrusy flavour. The moist and aromatic jasmine rice soaks up the gravy, which is actually closer to the consistency of a curry. This meal is a nice change from the usual ready meals, and is definitely worth a try.
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