Steam on the go

Wave goodbye to plastic lunch boxes or expensive Thermos containers that office drones use to tote their lunch in.

And say hello to electric lunch boxes, which reheat or cook food using steam.

Simple dishes can be cooked in under 30 minutes.

There are at least two brands in the market now.

Yoei Group Singapore, which imports a range of kitchen products, introduced the Yoei Electric Lunch Box here early last year and has sold up to 10,000 sets.

The lunch boxes are available at selected FairPrice Xtra hypermarkets.

A single-tiered one costs $49.90 and a double-tiered one is $69.90.

A local company, Kessler, which sells household wares and appliances, also launched the Kessler Multi- Function Electric Lunch Box early last year.

Mr Mike Chan, 50, a director of the company, says it has sold more than 20,000 units.

The company has a permanent counter at People's Park Complex that sells its brand of single-tiered electric lunch box at $50.

Lunch boxes from both brands carry the Safety Mark certification by Spring Singapore.

Apart from these two brands, which have a physical presence in stores, electric lunch boxes can also be found online.

A search for "electric lunch box" turned up hundreds of results from a variety of brands and deals at online marketplaces such as Qoo10 and Rakuten.

Other online retailers include S.O.T.A Innovation, Sparknet Retail and smaller blogshops such as Mingoshopping.

Prices range from $16.50 to $69.

These lunch boxes appeal to busy office workers with tight lunch breaks, small families who want to do minimal cooking and travellers who want to cook food such as porridge for young children while on vacation.

Managing director of Yoei Group Singapore, Mr Joseph Liew, 32, says: "Eating out during lunch is not as healthy as eating home-cooked food, and heating food brought from home using a microwave oven often dries up the food and makes it lose its nutritional value as well."

Kessler's Mr Chan adds: "Some people who live alone do not want to buy bulky home appliances. This lunch box does not take up a lot of space."

Owner of blogshop Mingoshopping, Ms Tham Kuai Meng, 40, imports Self-Heating Happy Lunch Boxes from Hong Kong.

A double-tiered one costs $33.90 and a triple-tiered one goes for $45.90. She says she sells about 30 sets a month.

The electric lunch boxes are easy to use.

Add water to the heating plate, place the food in the stainless steel bowl over it, clasp the box securely, plug it into an electric socket and leave it to steam.

The device will turn itself off when all the water has evaporated.

The Yoei and Kessler lunch boxes come with a measuring cup and guide on the correct amounts of water to use and approximate steaming times for different dishes.

Ms Sherlynn Tan, 37, a housewife, recently bought a double-tiered Yoei electric lunch box.

The mother of two children aged 11 and seven, says: "Sometimes my kids will stay back after school and I eat lunch alone.

"I think this lunch box makes it more convenient to cook one-portion meals for myself."

Whipping up a hot meal on-the-go are other reasons people are buying the lunch boxes.

Ms Chen Xiaguang, 60, is thinking of buying an electric lunch box to cook meals for her one-year old grandson while on vacation this month.

She says: "My grandson needs to eat soft foods such as porridge. I thought this would come in useful for cooking food for him on the go."

rachell@sph.com.sg

Electric lunch box test

Does the electric lunch box live up to the hype? SundayLife! put a two- tiered electric lunch box to the test.

A novice cook, I tried steaming three dishes at home using recipes that came with the lunch box: Rice, steamed egg custard and a pork and radish stew.

For the stew, I had to blanch and stir fry the meat before placing it into the lunch box.

The next day, I took the food to the office and reheated the dishes for lunch.

Pros:

Convenient: The rice was cooked after 40 minutes with 180ml of water, while the egg custard took another 30 minutes and another 180ml of water. After an hour of stewing in the lunch box, the carrots, radish and meat came out tender.

The food was not dry and tasted just like it would had I cooked it on the stove.

Fast: The next day, the food was reheated in 15 minutes and still tasted fresh.

Portable: I carried the two-tiered lunch box from home to office using public transport. It was not very bulky and there were no messy spills.

Fuss-free and safe: I left the dishes to steam, knowing that the power supply would be cut off automatically once the water had evaporated . I did not need to monitor it constantly.

Cons:

Cooking multiple dishes concurrently could be troublesome and confusing when estimating the amount of water required for steaming. The user guide gives recommended amounts of water only for single-dish cooking.

Also, I had to put the egg custard in at a different time from the rice as I did not want it to be overcooked.


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