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Back in February we reviewed two bowls from Sweet Earth Foods with Asian flavors: the Veggie Lo Mein and the Chinese Chik'n with Black Bean Sauce. They received thumbs up and thumbs down reviews, respectively, and another Asian-inspired dish, their Pad Thai, also received a negative review.
The problems vary from overall flavor to specific issues with ingredients - from the Pad Thai's complete lack of sauce to the rubbery and sometimes hard bits of "chik'n" in the Chinese Chik'n with Black Bean Sauce.
While we applaud Sweet Earth's endeavor to create great vegetarian frozen meals by taking advantage of some of the world's great flavor profiles, the application has clearly been hit or miss.
Today's offerings are more of the same. First we started with the Korean Japchae (290 calories, 690mg sodium, 5g fiber), which is a dish of yam noodles with shiitake mushrooms, seitan, and vegetables, including green onions, the ubiquitous julienned carrots, and red bell pepper.
It's worth noting that although we cooked this dish according to package directions, in our 1100-watt microwave this still came out quite cold in the middle. It does have a very sharp, vinegary scent, but despite the presence of brown sugar in the ingredients, the sauce here is not overly sweet at all - "Actually very savory," my wife commented.
The shiitake are nice and chewy and full of umami flavor, while the veggies still have some texture to them. The seitan chunks are very chewy, my wife reported, and "not very flavorful - just a faint nuttiness."
The noodles themselves held up impressively well to cooking in that they didn't break up when stirred, but we found them "oddly chewy" and "almost rubbery and slippery." Our verdict? We give it a thumbs up. "It's not my kind of thing, but some people will really like it," according to my wife.
Puttanesca is a classic Italian pasta sauce made with black olives and capers. The Sweet Earth Foods version (35 calories, 390mg sodium, 5g fiber) adds what they call their "Awesome grounds", which are essentially processed pea protein.
My first thought on seeing this dish just out of the microwave is that it looks really grainy. The second, that it smells really vinegary. The latter wouldn't be surprising in a Puttanesca - after all, Kalamata olives and capers are preserved in vinegar - but this is overwhelming.
And unfortunately that overwhelmingly sharp and vinegary scent is reflected in the flavor - my wife noted that the vinegar "almost burned my palate".
It's too bad: the pasta isn't too overcooked and the graininess of the "awesome grounds" could be explained away with its textural similarity to ground beef.
But as my wife remarked, "This is like taking a big mouthful of olives and vinegar." Leave this one on the shelf.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Review posted: May 29, 2020