Sometimes you just can't make it into the kitchen to cook. Dr. Gourmet has reviewed over 800 common convenience foods, ingredients, and restaurant selections so that you know what's worth eating - and what's not. View the Index of all Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews
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When we're choosing convenience meals for review, we look for items that are under 400 calories and under about 600 milligrams of sodium. Finding foods under 400 calories is pretty easy, as you might imagine; it's the sodium we really have to watch out for. We've gone as high as 650 milligrams on occasion, but generally we leave those higher-sodium items on the shelf.
Today is one of those exceptions. Saffron Road has an excellent track record here at Dr. Gourmet: all but one have gotten a thumbs up from our reviewers. The two meals we're reviewing today would probably remain on the shelf if it weren't for their positive record. The Chicken Tikka Masala has 290 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and 670 milligrams of sodium. That's definitely pushing our boundaries. The Manchurian Dumplings, on the other hand, have 340 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and a whopping 690 milligrams of sodium.
That's over twice as many milligrams of sodium as there are calories. When the ratio is that high in convenience meals (or any processed food, for that matter), you might want to step back and reconsider. Again, with Saffron Road's track record, we're willing to give these meals a chance. Would they taste too salty, or is the salt content important to the overall flavor?
We started with the meal marked "medium spicy" for the simple reason that eating the "hot" meal first might interfere with properly tasting the second meal. The medium spicy grading is accorded to the Chicken Tikka Masala. After microwaving for 4 minutes, stirring, and continuing to cook another minute or so, this yields a generous amount of savory tandoori/tomato sauce over chunks of chicken. The sauce is excellent with the right amount of bite, but unfortunately, despite being cooked in the sauce, the chicken ends up a little dry. The basmati rice is also on the dry side, although our tasters noted that if you mix the rice into the sauce that tends to hide the problem. (They also felt that "medium spicy" was putting the spice level rather strongly.) Taken together with the higher sodium level, we have to recommend that you pass on this one for one of the other Saffron Road meals.
But not the Manchurian Dumplings. These are described as "exotic vegetable dumplings made with cabbage, carrots, green beans and onions simmered in a spicy red chili and ginger sauce." Cut open one of these dumplings and you might see a hint of orange or green, but vegetables were not really evident in these dumplings.They seemed to our tasters more like bland meatballs made mostly of breadcrumbs. Crunchy and grainy, yes, but not very vegetable-y. The same basmati rice came out cooked just right in this meal, and the (again) generous amount of sauce is indeed redolent of red chili spice and ginger. (The panel agreed that most people would regard this meal as "hot" in terms of spiciness.) Even at a lower sodium level we would have to pass on this one - a good sauce isn't enough to overcome the bland, grainy dumplings.
Reviewed: May 31, 2013