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At one time I would have said that Saffron Road has a good track record with us here at Dr. Gourmet: certainly the panel always seems interested when I bring out packages from Saffron Road. Then I actually did a count, only to find that we've given Saffron Road a thumbs down on about 1 in every 3 reviews (10 in 31 products). I would have said that's pretty good for a company with just 30 products.
Then I started looking at our records with other companies, wondering if 1 in 3 was really a good track record or not. By way of comparison, we've reviewed about the same number of products from Weight Watchers, and their average of 1 in 4 is not quite as good (7 in 28). Lean Cuisine, with three times the number of products, hasn't fared nearly as well, with 44 thumbs down in 97 products, closer to 1 in 2. evol Foods, our poster child of the small company that started out excellent and lost its way, is 16 in 30 (also 1 in 2).
Given those odds, we should probably be treating products from Saffron Road more like evol Foods or Lean Cuisine than Sweet Earth Foods (only 5 thumbs down in 28 products, or about 1 in 5).
All this to say that we had great expectations for Saffron Road's Ramen Bowls. When I saw these in our local Whole Foods Market, I looked at the nutrition facts and I have to admit I thought twice about bringing these in for testing. While we don't usually balk at sodium levels in the low 600 milligrams, these gave me pause: the Vegetable Tan Tan Ramen Bowl with Tofu has only 210 calories for its 620 milligrams of sodium (and 1 gram of fiber). That's almost 3 milligrams of sodium for every calorie and a much higher ratio of sodium to calories than we usually see.
These bowls ask you to add 1/2 cup water to the contents of the bowl and re-cover, then microwave on high for 3 minutes. Allow to stand 1-2 minutes, then uncover and serve.
We tasted the broth first and our first impression told us we might have done better to leave these on the shelf: the broth is salty. Behind the salt we can taste a little coconut milk, and there's a mild burn from red chili flakes.
On the plus side, the ramen noodles are just a little past al dente, but the finely julienned carrots and almost minced bok choy don't add much to the dish in the way of volume or flavor. There are substantial chunks of tofu, but they have the spongy, chewy texture that turns so many people off of tofu.
What a great idea. Too bad we just can't recommend it.
The Tan Tan Ramen Bowl with Chicken (220 calories, 660mg sodium, 1g fiber) is only somewhat better.
The good news is that this smells like chicken, not salt, and the broth tastes like fresh (albeit salty) chicken broth.
The chicken chunks are clearly pulled pieces of chicken and don't look processed, but the bad news is that they taste a bit dry despite their presence in a soup: "like all the fat's been cooked out of the chicken," said a panelist.
The bits of bok choy and other vegetables might be a little bigger than those in the Vegetable Ramen Bowl - and the bok choy might actually be crunchy - but they still don't add much to the dish. Finally, for some reason these noodles were utterly overcooked, and the dish as a whole is still "incredibly salty," said our panelists. This level of saltiness is utterly unnecessary and quite disappointing: avoid both Ramen Bowls from Saffron Road.
Review posted: August 9, 2019