Cuckoo Kitchen’s szechuan sesame cold noodles

The brainchild of three friends who wanted to free Chinese food from its unhealthy reputation, Cuckoo Kitchen makes some big promises: healthier versions of popular Chinese dishes, quick delivery, high-quality ingredients and, the most impressive, a three-step cooking method that takes less than five minutes. It sounded perfect for the busy home cook who works a full-time job—or for someone who wants to make her own Chinese food at home on Christmas this year. But I’ll admit I was suspicious.

The delivery service quickly won me over with its catalog, which includes staples like General Tso’s chicken and kung pao chicken, as well as the less familiar (but one of my favorite Chinese dishes) ma po tofu, which also comes with a vegan option. And sure enough, the food doesn’t contain any MSG or artificial additives, and the company’s chefs only use all-natural ingredients, which include organic tofu and hormone-free, non-antibiotic meat.

I appreciated the appealing options and high-quality ingredients. Even the delivery time was impressive. (I ordered early on a Thursday and my food arrived Friday morning, neatly organized in eco-friendly packaging that was kept cold with frozen water bottles.) But I was still suspicious of their biggest promise of all: the cooking time. The words “easy” and “quick” are thrown around far too often in recipes. Could these meals really go from carton to plate in less than five minutes and taste any good?

Sure enough, each dish I ordered was ready in minutes. Like, three minutes. Each dirtied only one pan and could be served in the bamboo and sugarcane container in which it came. And best of all, the food actually tasted good! Many of the ingredients are partially or fully cooked, so they only need those few minutes to cook through or heat up, and then get lacquered in sauce. The General Tso’s chicken was crispy, the eggplant with chili garlic sauce was soft but not mushy, and the sauces all around were flavorful and spicy. (Check out my meal photos below.)

Another bonus is the price: My order of five dishes (each generously portioned) plus rice came to a totally reasonable $38. With its affordable prices and quick prep, Cuckoo Kitchen is certainly worth making yourself on Christmas—or any night you want tasty, healthy Chinese food without the wait.

General Tso’s chicken

Eggplant with chili garlic sauce

Ma po tofu

Cumin beef