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After last week's disaster of a trio of meals from Beetnik Foods, it was a relief to bring in new meals from Saffron Road Foods. While their meals haven't received positive marks across the board, they're usually pretty good, and of 28 varieties we've tested, only 9 have received negative reviews. A 2 in 3 chance of having something good made the whole panel perk up.
The Chicken Vindaloo carries a "NEW - Now with Chicken" label. I thought the idea of a Vindaloo from Saffron Road sounded familiar, and sure enough, about 4 years ago we reviewed their Lamb Vindaloo along with their Lamb Saag. At the time it was a split decision, with the Vindaloo receiving poor marks for its too-salty flavor, while the Saag got a thumbs up.
The first thing we noticed this time around is that the Chicken Vindaloo has far less sodium than its Lamb counterpart - only 500 milligrams for its 300 calories and 3 grams of fiber. That's encouraging, as was the aroma of this dish as it cooks. Savory, spicy, and sweet - almost exactly as we described the Lamb Vindaloo.
This is almost everything we would want it to be: juicy chunks of dark meat chicken with firm, slightly crunchy diced potato swim in classic Vindaloo flavors of ginger, garlic, and sauteed onions, with a touch of vinegar to balance the sweetness of the tamarind and a pleasantly spicy burn (the dish is labeled "HOT," after all). The basmati rice comes out perfectly cooked, with each grain soft, fluffy, and distinct. As always, I'd rather see brown basmati rice for the added fiber.
In short, this is what the Lamb Vindaloo could have been, but was ruined by far too much salt. I see from the Saffron Road web site that the sodium level hasn't changed in their Lamb Vindaloo, so choose the Chicken Vindaloo instead. Honestly, this is one of the best frozen meals we've ever had. If you like spicy food, keep this on hand.
The Chicken Saag was... a bit more complicated. These meals are labeled with instructions that specify a 1000-watt microwave oven. The Dr. Gourmet microwave is 1200 watts, so we typically cook to the lower end of the instructed cooking time to avoid overcooking the meal. Generally this works out very well. Unfortunately, after cooking the Saag for the first couple of minutes, we removed the dish from the oven for its obligatory stirring only to notice that the chicken chunks seemed to be almost completely raw. That certainly explains why the chicken comes out so well, as it's clearly not pre-cooked and then reheated by the consumer. Yet it's still concerning, so after the second couple of minutes we checked again. We could still see raw bits of chicken, so we ended up cooking the dish for another 1 1/2 minutes, and this gave us properly cooked chicken.
This left us with rice that was a little tougher than we'd like, but once again this is essentially the same Saag we tested before: a rich, savory sauce of spinach and garlic with a touch of cayenne for a hint of zing. The chicken suffers from that extra cooking, being a bit more chewy, but mix the sauce with the rice and you have a dish we'll call a winner as long as you use care to make sure the chicken is cooked properly. Two thumbs up for Saffron Road, and a welcome relief from bad food for our panel.
Reviewed: April 1, 2016