Piping hot rice meal that takes only 15 minutes to be ready? A product that has the hottest male celebrity in China right now as its spokesperson?!!
I'm totally sold. Why wouldn't I when 肖战 (Xiao Zhan) holds a spoonful of rice, looks at
me the camera, and asks, "想不想吃?" ("want to eat?") as my tummy grumbled. My heart melted at the same time too. Omg what a potent double strike!
Touted to be a combination of "instant cooking technology" with "Northeast China rice and exquisite cooking techniques", the self-heating instant rice is produced by 开小灶 (Kai Xiao Zao), a brand under 統一企業 (Uni-President) which also manufactures beverages and instant noodles.
Using self-heating technology, all it takes is a chemical heat pack and by adding cold or room temperature water to it, it induces an exothermic reaction that can actually be used to heat food.
Yes, you can have your instant rice meal quick, hot, and without any fuss.
Or when you're working from home where the line between work and home is annoyingly blurred. You suddenly realized it's beyond your usual meal time and you haven't had a bite because you're busy with meetings or responding non-stop even to non-urgent emails because you felt compelled to (in case your boss think you went to "eat snake" during your moment of absence). Hey, Kai Xiao Zao can at least rescue you from being hangry.
We had to cancel our trip to Europe last year due to the dire Covid-19 situation. My friends and I were actually intending to bring an electric kettle along and boil water for cup noodles when we miss Asian food lol. Now I can only dream of picnic-ing with a hot rice meal up in the Swiss Alps overlooking the snow-capped mountains in wintry weather. How warm and heart-warming that Kai Xiao Zao meal would be... awwwwwww <3
To be honest, most of the time when I opened a pack of Kai Xiao Zao, I was working from home alone and simply feeling super lazy lah hahahahaha.
Thankfully, there's a variety of both spicy and non-spicy flavors available which I can enjoy on rotating basis without getting bored.
The six regular rice flavors are:-
- Cantonese Pot Rice With Sausage 广式腊味煲仔饭(182g) - Non-Spicy
- Meatballs With Bamboo Shoot 三鲜烩四喜 (254g) - Non-Spicy
- Pork With Mushroom 小香菇烧肉 (236g) - Spiciness Level: 1/5
- Kung-pao Chicken 宫保鸡丁 (251g) - Spiciness Level: 2/5
- Beef With Potato 土豆煨牛肉 (251g) - Spiciness Level: 2/5
- Sliced Beef In Hot Chili Oil 水煮牛肉 (241g) - Spiciness Level: 5/5
Kai Xiao Zao has also released two limited rice flavors: Angelica Pork Belly Chicken 当归猪肚鸡, and Beer Duck 啤酒鸭. Looking forward to my pre-order though it will only arrive in early/mid-March as the China shipper has gone on a long holiday (watch this space for updates).
There's the hotpot series as well: Mala Beef Hotpot 麻辣牛肉, and Double Flavor Hotpot 鸳鸯小火锅, which comes with glass noodles instead of rice.
How to cook the rice?
Preparation instructions are printed on the back cover in Mandarin. No worries if you do not understand a word as there are accompanying pictures to provide a very clear guide. Here's the steps in English for your easy reference:-
Step 1 - Place ingredients into the white inner tray:
(a) Rice Pack - big compartment
(b) Vegetable Pack - over the rice
(c) Meat Pack - small compartment
Add cold water to rice till indicated line. Stir well.
Step 2 - Remove heat pack from transparent wrapper. Place it inside the black external container. Add cold water till indicated line.
Step 3 - Quickly place the white inner tray into black external container. Cover with provided lid. Ensure the little hole on the lid is opened to release the steam. You will hear sizzling sounds and the water boiling up within seconds.
Step 4 - Wait till the steam stops (around 15-20 minutes), lift the lid, add the provided sauce/pickles/peanuts according to your preference, and... your meal is ready!
I generally prefer the spicy to non-spicy flavors. Beef With Potato is very enjoyable with tender beef and soft potato cubes in appetizing sauce, perfect with the white pearl rice. Kung-pao Chicken counts as one of my favorites too with its mild sweet-spiciness and crunchy peanuts. My only wish is for bigger portion of meat.
There were times when I was feeling a little adventurous, and decided to spruce up the rice with eggs.
Simply pour the meat pack over the rice, and use the white tray's small compartment for steamed egg. Add two beaten eggs, vegetable pack and pickles for a dense frittata-like consistency. For a silky chawanmushi-like texture, use only one egg and add water to the mixture. You might want to add salt and pepper for seasoning, but I just used a bit of gravy from the meat pack. Easy!
It was also real easy to crack an egg over the rice to get a perfect sunny-side-up.
Once, I was inspired by cheese baked rice and added grated mozzerella over the rice. It worked!
Self-love is just as important as giving love, so I also took delight in doing the heart-shaped arrangements, and cutting cherry tomatoes into little hearts and rabbits to create a bento-like feel and make my meal even more visually appealing.
I've not seen any local brick and mortar stores in Singapore selling the Kai Xiao Zao self-heating rice and hotpot yet, but if you head over online to e-commerce sites like Shopee and Lazada, you'd find quite a number of sellers selling these products.
Price mostly average at around SGD7.50 per rice box though I do see it go as low as SGD6.50 each (not inclusive of shipping costs).
My preference is to buy from sellers with good reviews/ratings, high number of sales, and generous with free Kai Xiao Zao-related merchandise and Xiao Zhan posters hehee. Do note that you need to purchase a minimum quantity (usually 8 boxes) to get the freebies.
Tip: If you do not wish to wait too long to receive your purchase, look out for local sellers with ready stocks.
Naysayers would probably dismiss these products as unhealthy processed food. It would also be totally unfair to compare the taste with freshly-prepared dishes in restaurants, or home-cooked meals/mum's cooking.
But there's no denying the convenience that the self-heating rice offers. Whenever you want it, wherever you want it, you can have it. Instant gratification! Just keep in mind that moderation is the key for all things.
Ending this post with my favorite Kai Xiao Zao tagline which translates as "Xiao Zhan open small stove for you".
Yessssssssss!!!!! <3 <3 <3
After waiting for over a month, my pre-order for the two limited flavors have FINALLY arrived!
Xiao Zhan is also the spokesperson for Budweiser Pulse, so Kai Xiao Zao's collaboration with the American-style lager brand is not a huge surprise. The Beer Duck 啤酒鸭 flavor pleased much with succulent pieces of duck meat smothered in gentle spicy gravy.
I was also very happy with the Angelica Pork Belly Chicken 当归猪肚鸡 with its mild herbal, ambrosial broth. This flavor doesn't come with the usual dehydrated vegetables and pickles, but contains black sesame seeds and gogi berries which are known for their nutritional value.
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