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Saffron Road has such a good reputation with us that we look forward to reviewing them. They've had some failures, to be sure, but generally we look forward to new products from them.
Today's selections promised to be no exception: the Korean-Style Sweet Chili Chicken Bowl (260 calories, 490mg sodium, 3g fiber) and the Thai Mango (230 calories, 400mg sodium, 1g fiber) are just the kinds of spicy foods, with bold flavors, that work so well out of the frozen foods aisle.
Our first hint that things wouldn't go so well was while the first meal, the Korean-Style Sweet Chili Chicken, was cooking in the microwave. "You'd think it would have some kind of scent," remarked a panelist. It doesn't, much - just a vague hint of sesame and chili pepper. Just out of the microwave the meal even looks disappointing: "Those snow peas are just sad," said a panelist. You'd be sad, too if you were cooked to heck and gone like these are. "Gray and flabby" was one of the more accurate descriptions. Worse yet, the julienned carrots - carrots - were also cooked to mush.
The chicken ("hardly enough chicken to notice, except for that flavor") is in very small, shredded "bits" and has such a strong poultry flavor that one panelist asked if the meal contained turkey. Some bits were OK, but others were dry and chewy. Finally, the sauce lived up to its promise of nearly no flavor at all - just a slight afterburn.
Surely the Thai-Style Mango Chicken would be better. It certainly smelled good coming out of the microwave, and with the yellow mango, red peppers, and sliced bok choy it's certainly colorful. The rice noodles, which are hard to cook well even fresh, hold up to stirring and don't stick together. That's the good news.
The bad news is that there's only a faint mango flavor with a bit of a spicy aftertaste - nothing near the "medium heat" promised on the box (unless perhaps you have GERD). We could find barely any chicken and what we did find was oddly dry - and that's odd because the dish as a whole is "pretty much mush."
Both meals are cooked for 4-5 minutes - perhaps they're simply cooked too long (we opted for 4)? We can't imagine how meals with julienned carrots and baby bok choy were both devoid of texture. Looking at our listing of all of our Saffron Road reviews reveals that the majority of their best meals are those with Indian flavors. Perhaps this is another company that's strayed too far from its core competency, like evol? Needless to say, leave both of these on the shelf and reach for one of their Indian meals instead. You're far more likely to get a good meal.
Reviewed: October 20, 2017