From Maggi to Udon Noodle Soup

I always thought I'd marry someone who cooked. It turns out the only thing more attractive than a man who cooks... is a man who doesn't cook, but attempts it for you anyway. Over the last five years, A's cooked for me exactly two times. Ready-to-cook cake, and a ready-to-cook mac and cheese, as he's always quick to point out. But, no sarcasm, I still think it's really sweet. This week, after binge-watching Masterchef Australia and hearing me talk about the idiot-proofness of Built2Cook, he volunteered to make dinner. I figured it was an interesting opportunity to stress-test the product... would someone who'd only ever made Maggi noodles be able to pull off an Udon noodle soup? :)

eM and I took our seats in the Rao kitchen and settled down to watch. First off, I should mention that I was very impressed with Built2Cook's ability to take feedback & refine their product. I'd just mentioned an oil spill in last week's box, and this week saw the oil in a different type of container! Everything continued to be neatly labelled and packed. I'm a fan of consistency, especially from startups, so this is very promising. As A set up his kitchen, he asked if I had a strainer, a vital utensil for this dish. I do, but as I'm rating Built2Cook from the perspective of the average bachelor who doesn't cook - it may be worth noting if a recipe needs 'special' equipment like a strainer or a grinder that such kitchens may not have. They do mention it in the recipe, but it'd be good to have it mentioned upfront to avoid disappointment.

Inspired by the advice on MC Aus, A decided to 'keep his bench clean'. He opened everything, carefully re-sticking the labels for each ingredient onto the containers as he went along... he didn't want to risk grabbing the dark soy rather than the light soy, or the aromat in place of the tempura crumble. Thanks to his meticulousness, we noticed a couple of minor discrepancies. The recipe said to garnish with leeks & broccoli; but the ingredients list only mentioned leeks, and the box itself had neither. This wasn't a big deal though, as the box was chock-full of other lovely fresh veg - carrots, spinach, asparagus, yellow & red bell peppers, mushrooms. We certainly didn't miss the leeks & broccoli. It was a beautiful display of chiffonade, which made the finished dish look “exactly like the picture on the flyer!” as A said.
An added advantage is that it's impossible for each vegetable not to get cooked properly as they're all cut so evenly. If I had to nitpick I'd cook the asparagus slightly before throwing in the rest, as it remained slightly bitey, but mostly, it's foolproof... and so healthy, given it’s all blanched! A ate everything except one asparagus without complaint. So I definitely recommend making this with/for kids who may be picky about their vegetables otherwise.

We were also impressed with the ingredients for the curried broth. When I cook Oriental from scratch, I invariably skip things like aromat, or replace the castor sugar with white. I just can't be bothered stocking a full Oriental kitchen for the few times that I cook it. With Built2Cook, there's no such compromise because you have everything you need, in the proportions that you need. A was hesitant at first, asking if he could really just use exactly what was given without tasting along the way. In the interest of checking idiot-proofness, I told him to go for it, leaving out just the salt. The resulting broth was a thing of beauty. As A put it, "I feel so proud of making something taste like that, even though I didn't actually do anything." Hint, hint: if trying to get to someone's heart through their stomach, this is bound to impress!

The broth and vegetables are perfectly balanced, and the whole thing has a complex flavour profile which you wouldn't think came from just four basic steps. It probably took A about ten minutes to cook - 8 more than Maggi; but 10,000 times more healthy; and, frankly, just as moreish. I'd be happy to drink mugfuls of that every day. I wasn't this impressed with thetacos since their taste depended on my ability to season. This, on the other hand, was gorgeous enough to inspire poetry - the crunch of the tempura crumble against the freshness of the spring onions, while the veg stayed firm but tender in that rich broth... I hope they keep a Japanese dish on their menu at all times, because the chef absolutely nailed this one! 

I think the only advice I'd give non-cooks who try Built2Cook is to follow the recipes verbatim except for the amount of oil & salt to be used. With a non-stick kadai, we used about 1/3rd the oil provided, and none of the salt. It was lovely to sit around doing nothing while A whipped up a beautiful meal. I could see his confidence growing as he cooked, and the dish's resounding success has him rearing to try something else soon!

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