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A Taste of Thai in a Box?

For the longest time the company A Taste of Thai were one of the few to bring exotic Asian products into the country for wide distribution. Back in the 1990s it was difficult to find even basic ingredients, and I can remember going to more than one store to find light coconut milk. Most times A Taste of Thai was the only brand available.

Looking around the international aisle the other day, I came across a new product line by them labeled Quick Meals. These are packaged to look like the take out boxes from a Chinese restaurant. They are marketed as full meals and at first looked like a worthy product. That is, until I took a critical look at the nutrition facts. This is one of those examples where a critical eye is needed. Close inspection reveals that the box is two servings. As such, most of the "meals" come in at close to 500 calories.

A Taste of Thai Coconut Ginger NoodlesThe first one we tried was the Coconut Ginger Noodles. In the box are four packets - two for seasoning, one containing powdered coconut milk and one with four ounces of rice noodles. The instructions call for placing one cup of water in the box, adding the seasoning, coconut milk and then the noodles. Microwave, stir, microwave, let rest and serve. (Note that there are stovetop directions included.)

I was prepared to hate this, but it isn't terrible (but it's not great either). A dish with fair ginger flavor and properly cooked noodles. Basically this is expensive ramen noodles. There isn't much sauce and so the dish comes out a bit dry, but the texture is still good. At 502 calories and 1 gram of fiber for the box, this comes in at about the same as Top Ramen. There may be a little less sodium than ramen, at 542 mg for the box, but only marginally since most ramen would come in at about 660 mg.

A Taste of Thai Pad Thai NoodlesThe Pad Thai Noodles are similar, except there is a single packet containing liquid sauce, the noodles and a packet of crushed peanuts. Preparation is similar except that the peanuts are added after cooking. The flavor is a respectable, if ordinary, Pad Thai. The noodles aren't gummy, but they don't have much texture either. Calories are similar at 520, as is the amount of salt. Again, there is not much fiber.

This is a good illustration of how people have come to view food, however. These are labeled as quick meals but they are not a meal. Noodles are a side dish or part of a meal that should also include some protein (tofu, chicken, fish, etc.) and some vegetables. The serving size for those noodles is 2 ounces. What is in these boxes is a starch side dish that is two servings. The problem is that they are expensive and not all that tasty.

There are recipe recommendations on their Web site that turn these into full meals, but if you are going to do that, why not just make the noodles yourself? I love rice noodles and there are a lot of simple one pot recipes on the Dr. Gourmet Web site (see below) that use them - along with veggies and protein - and take only about 20-30 minutes start to finish.

This is not one of those products that I see a lot of value in. It's a shame, because this is a great company that makes good basic ingredients to make quality dishes.

Rice Noodle Recipes:

Shrimp with Rice Noodles and Peanut Sauce
Spicy Shrimp and Rice Noodles | Low Sodium Spicy Shrimp and Rice Noodles
Teriyaki Noodles with Shrimp
Rice Noodle Chicken Salad
Asian Meatballs with Noodles and Ginger Mustard Sauce
Eggplant Curry with Rice Noodles
Lemongrass Beef
Asian Peanut Chicken Salad