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It's true: we first reviewed Saffron Road's Chicken Pad Thai in 2017 and tried it again in February of this year (with 420 calories, 640 milligrams sodium, 1 gram fiber). The first review (2017) was negative, while the second (2019) was positive. Yet just this week I noticed the product again in our local Whole Foods Market, emblazoned with "NEW RECIPE" (now 430 calories, 650 mg sodium, 2g fiber). With such mixed reviews in a comparatively short time period, I couldn't resist trying the "new recipe" dish.
Long-term readers of the Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews Newsletter may recall me talking about our particularly powerful microwave: it's 1200 watts, while most microwaves these days seem to be 1100 watts or less. That means that we have to exert some care in cooking our frozen foods.
The instructions on the "new recipe" dish are geared toward an 1100-watt microwave and call for venting a corner of the plastic dish, then cooking at 4 minutes. Stir, replace film, and cook for another 1-1.5 minutes. With our 1200-watt machine, it seemed reasonable to cook the dish for the first 4 full minutes, as directed, then cut it to just 45 seconds for the second cooking (usually 1 1/2 minutes). Allow to stand in the microwave for at least a minute, and serve (such as "serving" might be).
If this looks like nothing but a bunch of noodles with some bits of chicken and sauce, you're right. The few chunks of chicken don't look processed and certainly have a nice chicken flavor: they're a bit dry but I chalk that up to our overcooking the dish: Mea culpa.
The bits of chicken that aren't overcooked are soft and savory and don't have that processed look. The rice noodles, however, are overcooked and gummy - almost chewy. The pad thai sauce (such as it is) isn't too sweet, has "a nice little afterburn," and certainly lacks the overly-sweet fake barbecue flavor we complained about back in 2017. It does, however, lack volume. The cooked dish is essentially dry, dry, dry, with the sauce soaked up by the noodles. Again, that could be our (my) fault.
Bearing in mind that we overcooked this dish, we still can't give it a thumbs up. A panelist summed it up thusly: "87% noodles, maybe 7% sauce, 3% chicken, 3% veg: this is basically a plastic tub of noodles pretending to be a meal."
The Lamb Saag (now 340 calories, 690 mg sodium, 2g fiber), which we last reviewed back in 2011, fared no better.
We were far more careful cooking the Lamb Saag, and this seemed to work better than our efforts with the pad thai.
Yet this was also a bit disappointing.
The panel noted that the product is described as "tender lamb lightly seasoned with cumin, turmeric and ginger, served in a thick bed of spinach." Well, first of all I wouldn't describe the dish of spinach-based sauce as "a thick bed of spinach." Sure, there's a fair amount of spinach in the sauce, but the fact is that the sauce is still majority liquid.
In stirring the dish I took note of the amount of lamb in the dish, and it caught my eye enough that my panelist colleagues and I worked through every bit of the saag to find any and all bits of the lamb, and weighed them. The lamb is quite tender and flavorful... but we found 0.9 ounces of actual lamb in the dish.
To be fair, I can forgive this small amount of protein as a part of a lunch meal. There are only 340 calories, after all. But there are 690 milligrams of sodium, and the previous version of this dish had 300 calories, 690 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of fiber - twice the fiber of the previous version. The basmati rice is a bit gummy and the sauce has "a bit of zing," but the panel felt that the overall impression of this dish was still "meh."
We can't recommend either of these dishes, especially at $4.49 apiece. A very disappointing result for Saffron Road.
Review posted: June 14, 2019