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Our last visit with Saffron Road in the Fall of last year was mostly with their their new line of ramen bowls, the Vegetable Tan Tan Ramen Bowl with Tofu, the Tan Tan Ramen Bowl with Chicken, and the Shoyu Ramen Bowl with Chicken, which were, without exception, too salty.
This is disappointing. Way back in 2011, when we first discovered Saffron Road, we were really impressed. The first two products we tasted were the Lemongrass Basil Chicken and the Lamb Koftis, and both had very reasonable amounts of sodium and 330mg and 450mg respectively. It was so refreshing to find meals that were flavorful and didn't rely on salt for that flavor.
Today we're revisiting that Lemongrass Basil Chicken along with a different lamb dish - Lamb Saag.
When we last reviewed the Lemongrass Basil chicken it had 370 calories and 3 grams of fiber to go with its 330 milligrams of sodium. The bad news is that it now has fewer calories - only 310 - and much more salt at 540 milligrams. Worse, it's down to 1 gram of fiber.
The good news is that this is still good. It has a fantastic lemongrass and basil scent and the sauce is thick and rich. The chunks of chicken are moist and tender. Then I tasted the rice on its own and found out where all that extra salt went - it's in the rice.
Those of you who also read Wednesday's newsletter, our Health & Nutrition Bites, may recall that this week I wrote about whether you should put salt in your pasta water. The researchers found that at least some of the salt you put in your pasta water definitely ends up in your pasta - which would make sense if you were going to eat plain pasta. But ordinarily you put a sauce of some kind on your pasta, so my argument is that in the interest of controlling the amount of sodium you eat, you should salt the sauce, not the water.
A similar argument applies here: while the chicken and sauce, without the rice, is well seasoned, when you put the two together as it's presented on the package it's edging into too salty. We'll still give this a thumbs up, but I suspect that sodium levels are going to continue to be an issue for Saffron Road.
The Lamb Saag started out fairly high in sodium, and that hasn't changed: it's still 690 milligrams of sodium. I said back in 2011 that spinach and milder spices did require a bit more sodium, and I stand by that. The original version also had only 300 calories (today it's at 340) and 4 grams of fiber compared to today's only 2 grams. I can only guess that in order to have more calories and less fiber that they did away with some of the vegetables and replaced them with more white rice.
We stirred up the saag and my wife noted that the lamb pieces aren't nearly as big as those on the package. Out of curiosity, she fished out all the little bits of lamb and put them on the rice for you to see.
That might be an ounce of meat.
Once again, good news and bad news: the good news is that the lamb is tender and has that deep, gamy flavor of good lamb stew. The bad news is that not only does the saag look much more like palak paneer than it should, now you can taste every single milligram of sodium in this dish. It's mouth-burningly salty.
Leave this one on the shelf and reach for the Lemongrass Basil Chicken instead.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Review posted: June 26, 2020