Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Truth in Advertising Special: Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken vs. PF Chang's Home Menu Orange Chicken

In recent weeks, I've noticed a particular TV commercial for Wanchai Ferry frozen dinner kits which claims that their Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken is preferred in taste tests over the competing P.F. Chang's Home Menu Orange Chicken.  As I said to my sweetie upon viewing this commercial, "I'll just see about that!"
I picked up one of each at the store, so let the taste-testing begin!

Wanchai Ferry Orange Chicken

Made By:  General Mills Inc.
Tools Required:  Skillet & Range, Microwave
Additional Ingredients Needed:  2 tbsp. Vegetable Oil, 1/4 cup water
610 calories per 1/2 package

Okay, first up is the challenger, Wanchai Ferry!  I have used their dry box-dinner kits before, but this will be my first time trying one of their frozen offerings.  They seem pretty confident in their commercial, let's see if their product can back it up!

Unlike the P.F. Chang product (and indeed, unlike most frozen skillet dinners I've used), inside the outer package we find several packages containing the components of our dinner:  There is a bag of breaded chicken nuggets, a packet of sauce, a steamer bag of frozen rice, and finally there are veggies (broccoli, carrots, and baby corn) loose in the outer bag.  Preparation is also fairly complex for a skillet meal; first we are supposed to fry the chicken nuggets over medium-high heat in 2 tbsp. of oil for a few minutes until it is browned, then we take the chicken back out of the skillet, turn down the heat to medium, and put in the veggies, sauce, and 1/4 cup of water.  Once it boils, we cover it and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently.  After that, we put the chicken back in the skillet, take the lid off, and cook for a few minutes more until everything is "thoroughly cooked."  Finally, we microwave the rice pouch for three minutes and let it stand for one, at which point dinner is ready to be served.  Whew!  Honestly, that really wasn't that much more convenient than preparing the box dinner.  Hopefully the food is worth it!

After getting the dinner separated into two bowls, the main thing I notice is that it looks like a really small portion.  There is probably around 1/2 cup of rice per portion, and around one cup or less of food.  The sauce actually has a really nice robust flavor; it is sweet yet not syrupy, and it became nicely thick and coated the pieces well.  I am not sure what all that nonsense about frying the chicken separately and taking it out and putting it in was all about, because it sure didn't keep the breading from getting soggy in the sauce.  The veggies are nicely crisp and flavorful.  The rice, on the other hand, is totally unacceptable--not only is the included portion very small, but the grains don't stick together like they should in an Asian dish, and the flavor is dull and mealy.  Overall, even though the sauce has a nice flavor, the unsatisfying portion size and the poor quality of the rice portion ends up sinking this one.  I found it disappointing. :\

P.F. Chang's Home Menu Orange Chicken

Distributed by:  Unilever
Tools Required:  Skillet & Range
Added Ingredients Needed:  cooked rice (if desired)
450 calories per 1/2 package (665 calories w/ 1 cup cooked rice added)

And in the other corner, the defending meal, P.F. Chang's Orange Chicken!  I was very satisfied with the other P.F. Chang's Home Menu product I've tried, so it looks like this battle is P.F. Chang's to lose.

This product is a much more traditional skillet meal, both in presentation and preparation:  Inside the package we find a loose assortment of breaded chicken nuggets, sauce chips, and vegetables, which appear to be carrots, edamame {green soybeans}, and water chestnut slices.  Preparation is very simple in comparison to the Wanchai Ferry meal; we simply put the contents of the bag in a covered skillet, and cook over medium-high heat for 12 minutes (or until the sauce gets thick), stirring occasionally.  At the end of the 12 minutes, the sauce still hasn't thickened much, so I uncover and let it simmer a bit more to thicken, reasoning that it will thicken much faster uncovered.  There is no rice included with this product, which might be a point in its favor after tasting what came with the other one, so I also cook some rice in my handy-dandy rice cooker, and dinner is ready to serve!

This portion seems to be a much more respectable size, though part of that is the one cup of rice that I added.  However, even with the added rice, the calorie count is comparable to the prepared Wanchai Ferry meal, and adding 200 calories' worth of rice seems better than adding 200 calories' worth of oil to me.  Again, the sauce has a nice flavor; this one is more spicy-sweet rather than tangy-sweet, though.  I like the veggie mix, especially the edamame, although if there were the baby corn in this along with the other stuff, that would just be perfect.  The chicken might be a little less firm in this one, but it is still appetizing.  Most importantly, once I am finished with the dish, I feel like I have had enough to eat!  I think I preferred the General Chang's Chicken to the Orange Chicken, but I wouldn't mind having this one again either, and now that I've had two good experiences with P.F. Chang's Home Menu, I am even more interested to try the rest of the offerings. :)

The Verdict:
The victory goes to P.F. Chang!  Wanchai Ferry could have been a contender with the flavor of their sauce, but the small portion size and the abysmal rice cost them the title.  Honestly, if they could change the preparation to avoid adding so many calories in oil, leave out that nasty rice, and replace it with more of the other stuff, they would have a lot better product.  Also, I can't ignore the fact that the P.F. Chang meal is significantly easier and more convenient to prepare.

I can't testify as to whether they have taste-test results that show their product is better or not, but--especially considering that the P.F. Chang meal makes me more interested to try the rest of their line, and the Wanchai Ferry meal makes me less interested to try theirs--the Ramen Butterfly Testing Institute hereby finds the advertisement in question to be Completely False.

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