Friday, 4 September 2015

#ewew cooks Sweet & Sour Chicken by Urban Stove

After my earlier two meals of Crispy Seabass with Tomatoes & Capers in Butter Sauce and Beef Shepherd's Pie with Mixed Salad, I've finally come to the last meal pack in my dinner box by Urban Stove.

After two western inspired dishes, this last one is one of the most common Chinese dishes that's a rather popular order at Chinese restaurants or "tai chow" places....Chinese-style Sweet and Sour Chicken with Steamed Rice though I favour the pork and fish version more! ;D

Meal 3 - Chinese-style Sweet and Sour Chicken with Steamed Rice
The nicely measured portions of food that have been properly sealed and labelled.

The Ingredients:
Chicken, onion, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, pineapple, cucumber, sweet and sour sauce, corn flour and rice grains.
The Prep Needed:

Cut the onion, red and green bell pepper, pineapple and cucumber (core removed) into cubes.
Season the chicken (which I cut in half into smaller bite-sized pieces).  Coat chicken in egg (your own) and cornflour mixture (the recipe says one egg but I used only half which was more than enough for the portion of chicken).
The Cooking:
This is the recipe card for the dish with simple to follow instructions.

First, you need to boil the rice, of course.
Then, fry the chicken pieces.
Finally, make the sweet and sour sauce (I actually used only half the sauce)....and toss everything together.
Here's my Chinese-style Sweet and Sour Chicken with Steamed Rice for two.
You can always add-on an extra fried egg for a more fulfilling meal.
My thoughts on the dish:
The messiest cooking of the three recipes because of the deep frying process but a relatively easy recipe to nail as well.  I've never made anything sweet-sour before since I don't know how to balance the sauce until I got this ready-made one.

I found the chicken pieces tender and the taste of the sweet and sour sauce to be more than decent although one would think that RM38 for a plate of sweet and sour chicken is rather pricey (as I can easily get one from a "tai chow" place for a lot less).  But knowing that I can replicate this dish again (with the balance half of the sauce) does take the sting out of the price...just a bit ;)
If you're a non-Chinese and you've made this Chinese-style Sweet and Sour Chicken, I think you'll be quite pleased with yourself.

After cooking all 3 meals in Urban Stove's dinner box, this is what I think.

RM19 for a meal seems reasonable taking into consideration the shopping, prepping, packing and delivering the food to our doorstep.  More so when the menu choices are western inspired dishes like crispy seabass and shepherd's pie.  But not when the choices are simple to prepare salads or simple stir-fry dishes like sweet and sour chicken.  Of course, if we were to buy the ingredients individually, it may come up to be more expensive (for example, we may only need a small piece of red bell pepper but we need to buy the whole red bell pepper).  And we mustn't forget that we can also easily get a pre-packaged salad or a sweet-sour chicken dish from a "tai chow" place for a lot less.

The overall box and insulation is excellent but the individual packing of the food items can be improved (although each piece of vegetable was individually wrapped in cling film...maybe they could look into compartmentalised boxes).  May need to rethink on how to pack fresh salad leaves to ensure they stay crisp.  Also more care needed on the packing of soft vegetables in plastic bags (so that they don't get squished) and/or the vacuum-packed cooked vegetables (to retain optimum freshness).  The packing of sauces in sealed plastic bags is the right move as this will be leakage-proof.

Definitely pleased with the freshness of the produce, especially the fish and meats.  The freshness of some of the vegetables (or the possibility of it staying in its prime over 3 - 5 days is questionable though).

The portions were nicely sufficient for each person...not too light and not too heavy.  Great healthy meals for weight-watchers who want to exercise portion control and not overeat like when they dine outside.

The proteins do keep very well (in the fridge or freezer) but the vegetables deteriorate a lot faster.  So, I would suggest that you cook your meals quickly (within 2 - 3 days if possible).  As for the recipes, they're simple enough to follow even for a novice cook but the degree of success depends on you as a cook (even if you don't cook regularly or not very good at it but as long as you've cooked before, you should be alright).
What I hope to see from Urban Stove moving forward?
More western inspired dishes
This would make RM19 seem like a more reasonable price to pay for a similar dish that could come out of a cafe's menu.

More complex dishes and sauces
I'd like to see more complex recipes with more complex (pre-prepared) sauces that I can't possibly know how to make.  This way, I'm more willing to pay RM19 for something I can't make + it'll also be difficult for us to replicate the dishes on our own (without knowing how to make the sauce).  Some possibilities that I can think of...good sauces for steaks and chicken chops.....or even possibly a good beef rendang mix or a curry chicken paste.
More choices on the weekly menu
I had difficulty selecting 3 out of 5 as it was really limited.  Especially so when you have picky eaters in your family.
Different prices for different dishes
Instead of limiting us to preset combinations, I'd rather pay a little bit more for the dish that I truly want.  This could pave the way for them to (maybe) incorporate pricier proteins (like steaks, fish, squid and prawns) into their menu and give us the choice to select the higher priced meals if we want.

Option for single meals
Although Urban Stove will be launching their Family Plan (for 4 pax), I'd like to see them offering single meals too.  This is welcomed if you happen to have picky eaters in your family.  Plus, I think there's a real market for single meals....for singles who still want a gourmet meal but can't go out to a nice restaurant (coz they're...well...single and without a 'date' or probably too shy to eat out alone)! :D

Will I order more dinner boxes from Urban Stove?
Yes, if I come across a menu (with western inspired dishes) that I like but I don't think I'd be willing to pay this price for a salad or a simple stir-fry dish with steamed rice (which I can easily make myself).  Also, at such prices, this could probably be a non-regular thing but certainly a good choice when we want a restaurant-grade meal (sometimes) at home.

My favourite was definitely the crispy seabass which I wouldn't mind re-ordering for sure.  The shepherd's pie, I'm not so keen on and the sweet and sour chicken, I probably wouldn't mind having again.

At the end of the day, cooking in the comfort of your home and getting to enjoy a home-cooked, restaurant-quality meal is what this Urban Stove experience is all about....and, along the way, I picked up some cooking tips too.

So, if you don't want to worry your little head over what to cook or how to cook, turn to Urban Stove.....your friend in the kitchen......and your 'ticket' to a gourmet-like meal at home!


  1. Totally agree with you! Firstly, I also prefer pork.. and TONS of wok hei. Secondly, it's pricey! But at least it's home cooked and MSG free, I'd still try the S&S chicken once i suppose! :D Your cooking looks nice though.. would love to try it! :)

    1. If it's home-cooked, that's one thing you have to sacrifice.....and that's wok hei. That's why I say that Chinese stir-fry dishes would seem pricey since we can easily get those from tai chow places.

  2. Did they give you 5 spice? you need that surely..

    1. No, there wasn't any 5-spice....I don't think this dish has 5-spice in it unless it's in the sauce. That I wouldn't know since the sauce was pre-prepared.

    2. Yah it should have 5 spice in the seasoning. perhaps already mixed in

    3. No, they didn't provide any seasoning. The chicken was seasoned with salt and pepper only (my own), then mixed with egg (my own) and cornflour (they provided)...that's it!

  3. You keep saying it would be more worth if the menu is more western inspired. Why lah? I know if we eat out, western cuisine is usually priced higher, but if we talk about ingredients cost, they should be similar to Chinese food isn't it? I think I wouldn't mind what type of dishes, it would be good deal if the price correlate with the ingredients cost.

    I... I will eat sweet and sour chicken and like it... IF the pork version is not available... XD

    1. I think you just answered your own question. Yes, western cuisine is usually priced higher...and that's why if we get a western-inspired dish, the RM19 would seem cheaper and worth it compared to if we eat the same dish outside. Depending on the dish, the ingredients cost for a western dish are usually higher.

  4. This tells me that I have not attempted a sweet and sour chicken or pork for that matter! I also prefer pork. Well, after reading your review, I guess there are the pros and cons and also some room for improvement. But overall I think this is a very good initiative by Urban Stove. It's not easy to gather all the little bits and pieces together and some ingredients keep or pack much better than others. Do keep us posted on other dishes that you try in the future.

    1. Yes, I do think this is a good concept but it still has its pros and cons. If the menu is to my liking, I'm sure I will be trying other dishes in future.

  5. That sure looks good, restaurant standard...and oooo...I love your fried egg, just the way I like it!

    1. I guess we both like our fried egg the same way.....and we even fry them in the same way! :D

  6. I have not eaten sweet and sour chicken before. Only sweet and sour pork or fish. I really wonder whether there will be enough market here to sustain this business. Let's see one year or more years down the road whether or not they are still around.

    1. It's a good concept, no doubt, and I do think there's a market for it. It all depends on the menu choices, cost and freshness of produce to ensure business sustainability.

  7. yay, a thoughtful analysis of urbanstove - i do like most of your points, though i guess some are tricky to implement in the initial stage of a start-up that has to stick to a disciplined budget. but hopefully the next time you try them, you'll find they've improved further to your liking :)

    1. I guess I went rambling on and on about what I would like personally though I do appreciate that some may be tricky to implement. As with anything new, we need to give them time to iron out the issues and hopefully, over time, we can see some improvements.

  8. Hmm.... maybe this can save those with zero cooking knowledge :P


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