As a repeat customer of Hai Di Lao hotpot restaurant, I am interested in all things Hai Di Lao. Hai Di Lao needs no mention as they have become famous worldwide for of their top notch service as well as quality food. You can read about my review here. The only thing that turns customers away is really their 2 to 3 hours wait for a table.
Riding on the popularity of their hotpot, they first launched their soup base sachets a few years back and started selling them in all major supermarkets for customers to enjoy their own Hai Di Lao styled hotpot at home and it was a big success with some of their flavours like the tomato soup constantly out of stock. Their tomato soup base was equally good for cooking instant noodles.
In 2018, they launched this new item in China which is the self heating hotpot and it instantly became a sell out. They carry a huge variety of flavours and it was slowly introduced to Singapore in major supermarkets. There are a limited selection of flavours found in the supermarkets due to the food quality control but you could probably get a bigger variety online. I was pretty skeptical when they launched this product and felt it should be a gimmick more than a realistic product worth trying. Due to the pandemic as more people stayed home and Hai Di Lao stayed closed, this product became even more popular, therefore I finally decided to buy 1 to try at home.
A tomato fan, the choice was simple so I picked up the tomato vegetable pot and it costs approximately SGD 7.90 which is pretty pricey for an instant product. This was also one of the reason why it took me so long to decided to buy one for review. The packaging was quite big and the weight was quite substantial. I realised they have the tomato with pork version as well online.
Once open, you get many air tight sachet of items; 1 packet f vermicelli, 2 packet of vegetables, 1 packet of tomato soup base paste, 1 packet of utensils and also a pack of the self heating pad.
The instructions is found on the flip side of the packaging paper and is very simple to follow as they have both pictorial instructions and English and Mandarin captions.
First, you can put all the ingredients into the white container and pour in the water and stir in the soup base paste. Place the white container at one side and next you can fill water in the big black bowl till where the line is. This is where the heating pad will be heating the bowl which is to be placed into this black bowl. The water cannot be move than this line
Make sure your hands are not wet when dealing with the heating pad as you might burn yourself. I will explain more at the end of the post. Throw in the heating pad and make sure the water covers it.
Place the white bowl into the black bowl and by now you should be able to hear the heat pad sizzling below in the bottom of the black bowl and lots of smoke will be rising at this moment.
Quickly cover up the bowl with the cover provided. I made my hot pot on top of a rubber mat as I was worried of burning my table.
There is a small hole at the cover and at this point, you will see a some heat vapours escaping the hole. The vapours are hot so do not place your fingers there. The instructions mention to leave it to cook for 15 mins.
This is the set of utensils provided which is pretty cute and useful. You will see water vapours on both the cover and the white container and at this point after 15 mins, there was still al ot of sizzling and noise coming from below and I was constantly wondering if the bowl is going to explode into my face.
As I dig into the bowl, the sizzling subsided and the smoke lessened. The vermicelli was quite well cooked and soft having soaked up the tomato soup. Other root vegetables like potatoes and lotus root were more on the crunchy side so if you prefer them to be softer, leave them to cook up to 20 mins. There was a lot of lotus root, seaweed, bean curd and potatoes which were surprisingly fresh as they did not have that canned texture and taste. The vegetables were still juicy and crunchy so that was a plus point.
The soup was a small disappointment though as it was very light and almost bland. The ingredients did absorb the tomato flavours leaving the soup less desirable. It definitely did not satisfy my tomato soup cravings.
By the end of my meal, I was curious about the heating pack and took a look at it and saw this bloated packet where most of the water has already evaporated. The heating pad was lukewarm to the touch and although when you press it, it still sizzles a little bit. As I was paranoid about setting my apartment’s rubbish chute on fire, I decided to soak the heating pad in tap water for another good 10 mins to make sure it was no longer generating heat.
Overall, I do think this is a very innovative idea and might appeal to some people with busy schedules and have not time to cook or buy fresh food. Personally, I would stick to their soup base packs instead and cook my own instant noodles or soup pot with it as the taste resembles the soup in the restaurant much more compared to the self-heating pot. Another reason why I will not purchase it anymore is really due to the health hazards of the heating pad – I did some research and found out that most heating pads use lime powder which reacts chemically with water to produce heat very fast. In laboratory tests, the fumes given out during this chemical reaction are not very good for health so I am not sure what it does to the food cooked within the same container. The item did not taste good enough for me to risk testing what it does to my health on a long-term basis. For people who say it is good for travelling or camping as the only thing you need is water but I seriously will not waste precious luggage space for this. Therefore, my verdict is that this is indeed a gimmick and not worth it.