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Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews

Healthy Choice Modern Classics

Sweet and Sour Chicken and Sesame Chicken

Healthy Choice Sweet and Sour Chicken Review by Dr. GourmetSweet and sour chicken (or pork) is hard to do well. The first issue is the breading, which should be crispy enough for texture but light enough to let you taste the meat inside. And then there's the sauce, which by its very name implies a balance of flavors between sweet and sour. All too often it's just sweet. Add to this the difficulty of reheating this in the microwave and you can see the challenges Healthy Choice faced in creating these meals.

I checked the ingredients list for both of today's offerings carefully, and the truth is that these are variations of the same meal: identically breaded chicken with a sweet and sour sauce. The differences are the starch (rice vs. noodles) and the vegetable (and even there it's pretty similar).

The Sweet and Sour Chicken comes with (surprise!) brown rice, so the panel tasted that first. The vegetable, broccoli, set the standard for this meal: it's thoroughly overcooked and is fairly evenly split between florets and stems. Those who think they don't like brown rice because of its more chewy texture and nutty flavor will find this brown rice more to their taste: it's so overcooked that you have to look closely at the grains to see that they are, indeed, brown. Part of the problem with the rice may be that it soaked up all of the sauce as it was cooking, leaving the chicken nothing like the picture on the box, which presents the sauce as a visible part of the dish, drizzled over the chicken fritters.

Healthy Choice Sesame Chicken Review by Dr. GourmetThe four chicken fritters are what you don't want your sweet and sour chicken to be: the chicken inside is dry and the breading has the flavor of styrofoam and the texture of wet cardboard. Similarly, the sauce skews strongly toward the sweet, even though the pineapple listed in the ingredients is nowhere visible. The chunks of green and red bell pepper seem almost to be afterthoughts along with the slight cayenne flavor: just a nod toward the "sour" part of the dish's name.

With those low expectations well established, we turned to the Sesame Chicken, which has whole grain noodles in place of the rice and broccoli and carrots as the vegetable. The noodles make a big difference: you can see the sauce. It doesn't matter, though, because it's the same sauce, and now you can also tell that it's very thick as well as too sweet. Although the noodles don't soak up the sauce like the rice did, it still soaks up the sauce to the point that the noodles are well overcooked.

The chicken inside the breading isn't dried out and the breading has less of a styrofoam flavor, but the breading is still mushy. The vegetables are overcooked as well, leading one taster to remark, "This is liking eating a big plate of sweet goo."

There you have it.