Chopstick Diner Caters To The Health-Conscious Crowd

Photo credit: @chopstickdinerlunchbox

I am a fan of healthy lunch boxes! However, when it comes down to it, the fact is that many people ‘do not have the time’ to cook, or do not possess the skills to do so – resulting in eating out most of the time.

I happen to be a very picky eater and absolutely cannot do chap fan (mixed rice/economy rice) which is what most people in the workforce do each day. I cook my own lunch most of the time, but there are times where I do not have the energy or inspiration to do so – which is why the rise of healthy lunchbox deliveries in Malaysia are one of the best things that has ever happened.

One of my absolute favorites, Chopstick Diner, is an example of wholesome, good foods that is not only affordable, but good for the body and soul too. Its founder, Elaine Ho, is a Food Technologist by profession, and a foodie at heart. She started Chopstick Diner as a food portal on educating people on food and providing simple recipes (she still has them there), but by August 2014, she revamped the site into a business that delivers healthy lunchboxes within the Klang valley.

To better understand the idea and concept behind her brainchild, she answers some of my questions on making it work.

What is the inspiration behind Chopstick Diner, and why chopsticks?
I started this site as a food portal, offering people recipes and writing up short articles based on the knowledge that I know. After running the food portal for about 2 years, I decided to revamp the site into a food delivery business, while still using the name Chopstick Diner for the business. Being Asian, I wanted the website to be associated with my heritage and so when it comes to food, looking at a pair of chopsticks, you’ll immediately know it has something Asian about it that is unique to itself. Healthy food + food delivery + eaten with a pair of chopsticks =  Chopstick Diner!

What prompted you to get into the healthy-lunchbox-delivery business?
My background is in food science, so I learnt a lot about the mechanics of food, quality systems, everything and anything food. Armed with this knowledge and working as a Quality Manager for 6 years, I was particular about what I ate and how it was prepared. Coming back to Malaysia after living in Australia for 10 years, I was most amazed to find some friends eating out for every meal… and it was considered “normal”. I couldn’t see myself doing that, as I am used to always preparing something home cooked and healthy for my family.

Providing people with recipes to cook from wasn’t enough as I always hear lame excuses like “I don’t have time to go to the groceries”,  “I’m always stuck at work”, etc. I thought, “Hey! I need to do something about this!” Why not deliver healthy food straight to them so I won’t have to hear anymore excuses of not eating healthy due to time/work constraints?

Photo credit: @chopstickdinerlunchbox & @alyshealow

Being an online business, how long did it take before you start seeing Chopstick Diner flourish?
Luck kicked in pretty quickly and most people began to hear about Chopstick Diner through word of mouth and of course, social media had helped a lot too. By the 2nd week of business I had to prepare almost 50 lunchboxes myself and even carried out some of the deliveries too! It was super crazy as I also have 2 toddlers to take care of, on top of this business.

What is your daily schedule like?
I’m normally awake before 7am, and I’ll drive to my central kitchen (which is 2 minutes from my home) to check on production. My production team starts work around 4am – washing veggies, grilling meats, preparing sauces etc. I usually go in halfway during the production process to spot check the lunchboxes to ensure the quality and presentation of the food.

Production and deliveries normally go out by 9.30am. The delivery boys will come around that time to pick up the boxes and make their rounds to every customer who has placed orders for the day. I spend most of my afternoons replying to emails and also attend a few meetings. My work resumes around 9pm onwards when I have to consolidate the orders for production the next day.

Photo credit: @chopstickdinerlunchbox & @chiceditions

Is healthy-eating a big part of your family’s mealtimes?
Definitely! I ensure my kids have enough intake of veggies and fruits in their diet. For example, instead of having normal white rice, I prefer to give them organic bario rice or red rice as it is a much healthier choice.

As a mother, how do you get around the challenge of getting the kids to eat more healthily – since we know kids are no fans of veggies? 
It’s so true that kids hate veggies. I have a handy hand-blender where I blend their veggies into their soup/stew/pasta sauce. That way they won’t bite into something crunchy like carrots or celery (and know I have tricked them) and I also cook crunchy veggies for a longer time so they will be softer.

What are the three most popular dishes sold on Chopstick Diner (in order of popularity)?
1. Half half Chicken caesar (I think people like the variety)
2. Fresh Spring Rolls
3. Chicken caesar salad

*Michelle’s note: Her fresh spring rolls are the bomb and my favorite!

Who is your biggest inspiration when it comes to making good, wholesome meals?
Yotam Ottolenghi. His food is so simple and delicious. I’m not a big fan of fine dining, small portion meals. I think meals should be full, wholesome and healthy, just the way my lunchboxes are.

Are there any future plans to expand Chopstick Diner and/or its menu?
I’ll be expanding my menu in the next couple of months. I’m working and experimenting right now as I need to get it right before making it available for my customers. Passion and love plays a big part in ensuring my customers receive healthy, wholesome meals and I want that to show through the lunchboxes I prepare for them.

Chopstick Diner also features a weekly special alongside its regular menu, and has an easy, seamless ordering system. Orders placed before 10pm will be delivered the next working day. To start ordering your healthy lunchbox, click here.

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