Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Marie Callender's Home-Style Creations Classic Stroganoff

Made By:  ConAgra Foods Inc.
Tools Required:  Microwave, eating utensil(s) of choice
Light Meal size (310 calories per package)
Rating:  :b

(available online through

I do realize that this is a little far afield from the products I usually review.  However, it is a shelf-stable convenience lunch, and I did eat it with chopsticks.  (Yes, I also realize I am in the tiny minority of people who would eat it that way.)  I actually don't know why I bought this, it doesn't seem like I got an especially good deal... maybe I was just looking for some variety.  In any case, this is lunch today, so Marie's stroganoff is going to get compared to instant ramen.  Hope she's ready!

We open up the package and find a tray of shelf-stable sauce and a helping of fairly plain-looking egg noodles.  We are supposed to fill the bowl to the fill line with water, and tear the label off of the lid to reveal some strainer holes and put it back on.  Then the noodles get microwaved for five minutes, and while we turn the bowl upside down over the sink to drain the noodles, we heat the sauce separately for 30 seconds.  (The instructions say to vent the corner of the film, which ended up requiring a knife to get done.)  Peel the film off the rest of the way, stir the sauce into the noodles, and it is ready to serve!

The aroma is fairly straightforward mushroom soup, except that I am smelling an odd plastic undertone for some reason.  It makes me want to not Google "plastic leaching into food."  Fortunately the food itself doesn't taste like plastic, but it really isn't that amazing either.  The noodles are similar quality to the really cheap store-brand egg noodles you find on the bottom shelf of the pasta aisle.  I greatly preferred the egg noodles in the Nissin Bowl Noodles I had, both in texture and in flavor. The sauce is basically a thick, oddly-tangy version of condensed mushroom soup; the bits of real beef and mushroom were nice, but overall it was just not that great.  When I add the fact that for the same price, I could get at least four packs of some really delicious ramen, I really can't give this any kind of positive recommendation.

Bottom line:  Not horrible, just horribly overpriced.  :b

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Indomie Mi Goreng BBQ Chicken

Made by:  Indofood (Indonesia)
Tools Required:  Saucepan & Range, Strainer, Bowl or Plate, Chopsticks
Meal Size (460 calories per package)
Rating:  :)

(Available online at

Today I am going to break the streak of grocery-store ramen reviews and have an imported noodle for lunch.  (I really need to get back to an Asian grocery soon...)  This BBQ Chicken flavor Mi Goreng sounds interesting--I'm having trouble imagining what barbecue flavored noodles will taste like.  Well, there's one way to find out!

The starburst on the front of the package advertises the fact that there are lots of seasoning sachets included inside the package, and it is true--there are five total.  We have a clear triple-packet that has seasoning oil, chili sauce, and sweet soy sauce, and then a foil double-packet with the powdered seasoning and some fried onions for garnish.  And, of course, a fairly average-looking block of instant ramen-style noodles.  The directions tell us to boil the noodles in 400ml of water for three minutes--although, honestly, there is no real need to measure since we are going to drain the noodles anyway.  Meanwhile, we stir all the flavorings besides the onions together into a paste in the bottom of our bowl.  When the noodles are done, we drain them in our strainer and dump them in the bowl, toss with the seasoning paste, and then top with the fried onion bits.  Just like that, we are ready to eat!

I'll just get right to the point and say that I like this one.  The noodles are a nice texture, and they have a really nice flavor.  It isn't like a western-style barbecue flavor, not that I expected it to be; it's more like what Asian restaurants refer to as Korean BBQ, or maybe along the lines of a General Tso flavor.  It's pleasantly spicy, and the sweetness is about the perfect level to contrast the spice without feeling syrupy.  The little extra 'crunch' that the onion garnish provides is a nice touch too.  Like the other Mi Goreng I reviewed, this seems like it could have a lot of possibilities as a base for added ingredients, but this one is perfectly capable of standing on its own as well.  I'm looking forward to getting more of these! :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nissin Chow Mein Teriyaki Chicken Flavor

Made By:  Nissin USA
Tools Required:  Microwave, Chopsticks
Meal Size (500 calories per package)
Rating:  :D

(available online through

I am craving some teriyaki noodles today for some reason, these just sounded really good.  I know that my experience with the Teriyaki Beef flavor was less than stellar, but I am an eternal optimist and I am hoping these will hit the spot (since they are the only teriyaki flavored thing up there in the Stash right now).  I'm giving you another chance, Nissin--don't let me down, okay?

Inside the package is a block of straight-cut "Chow Mein" noodles; a Premium Ingredients packet that looks to contain dried cabbage, mushroom, carrot, and imitation chicken; and a liquid seasoning packet.  The dried stuff goes in first, we fill the tray to the line with water, microwave for five minutes and stand for one, and then stir in the seasoning sauce.  I notice that there seems to be a lot more of the sauce than I remember from the Teriyaki Beef one, and the finished product turns out a much deeper, tastier-looking color.  The aroma is pretty good too, I am smelling the teriyaki sauce.  I am getting my hopes up!

No question, these are much better than the Teriyaki Beef ones I tried last month.  The sauce is nice and thick, the noodles are well-coated, and the flavor is deep and savory-sweet, just like I had in mind.  I don't remember there being any cabbage in the other flavor, but I don't think it matters much since I still don't taste the "Premium Ingredients."  To be fair, maybe they impart their flavor into the broth or something and contribute that way, but all I know is I don't taste much difference between the bites that have veggies and the ones that don't.  That's not a major criticism though, I thoroughly enjoyed these. 

It actually makes me want to try the Teriyaki Beef one again too, just to see if I got one with a defective sauce packet or something.  Sometimes it pays to be an optimist!  :D

Monday, April 4, 2011

Souped-Up Ramen Review: Nong Shim Savory Chicken Bowl Noodle

Nong Shim Savory Chicken Bowl Noodle
an egg
a green onion
Sriracha sauce

Meal Size (~500 calories)
Rating:  Major Upgrade!

Okay, I had sort of been planning to do some "Souped-Up" reviews like this from the beginning--I'm actually sort of surprised it took me this long to get to one.  I think I mentioned in the original review that I ended up getting 36 of these in a buy-one-case-get-one-free deal from Costco, right?  Well, I've had nine of them so far.  I think I also mentioned that they were a bit bland and unexciting.  With 27 bowls left to go, I think it's high time I tried to make them more interesting!

So, while the water for the noodles (and tea) was heating on the stove, I chopped the green onion and added it to the bowl along with the seasoning packet, and got a small skillet ready by melting about 1/2 tbsp. butter over low heat.  While the noodles were standing in the hot water, I fried the egg sunny-side up (covered skillet method) and slid it onto the top when the noodles were done, then topped everything with a drizzle of Sriracha hot sauce.

Before eating, I like to cut the egg up with my chopsticks and stir it in a bit, so that the yolk (and hot sauce) blends in with the broth.  The finished result is a broth that is very rich and creamy, nicely savory, and not nearly as spicy as one would imagine by looking at the hot sauce in the picture.  Eggs have an interesting property of countering a lot of spice heat, so the Sriracha just ends up keeping things from being too bland, especially since I didn't season the egg with anything else.

This has got to be the best bowl of noodles I have had in months.  And the add-in ingredients are very economical, too!  This will make it a lot easier to finish the case-and-a-half of these bowls that I have left.  I call this a Major Upgrade!  Om nom nom. :D

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nissin Top Ramen Picante Beef Flavor

Made By:  Nissin USA
Tools Required:  Saucepan & Range, Bowl, Spoon & Chopsticks
Meal Size (380 calories per package)
Price:  25¢ (sale at Safeway in Woodinville)
Rating:  :)

Well, it looks like I am back to doing lunchtime reviews from home for the time being--I managed to hurt my back and am under doctor's orders to stay home and make myself useless.  Today I'm going to try the Top Ramen Picante Beef that's been hanging around in the cabinet for a while.

Everyone already knows what to expect inside a package of Top Ramen, right?  We have a stereotypical block of instant ramen noodles and one foil packet which is simply marked "Seasoning".  We bring two cups of water to a boil, drop in the noodles and cook for three minutes, then stir in the seasoning packet and put the soup in the bowl.  I'm not sure what to call the aroma, except to say that it smells like instant ramen noodles--I am not sure the aroma changed at all after I put the seasoning in.  Anyway, the eating is more important than the smelling, I guess.

I was surprised to see that unlike the Oriental Flavor, the broth has some seasoning flecks visible in it; I see some things that look like chives, some crushed red pepper flakes, and various other tiny red and green flecks.  The noodles are of course the typical American grocery-store variety, which means that they are a bit mushy compared to the "upscale" brands.  The broth actually has a very nice flavor; it is mostly a beef broth flavor, but there is enough spice to make it seem interesting.  It doesn't really seem like a mexican flavor, though, despite using the word "Picante" in the name; it's really just a spiced-up beef ramen soup.

For a domestic ramen noodle soup, this was actually quite good.  It fits pretty well between the aggressively-spicy Korean-style noodles and the sometimes-bland American ones.  I was hoping for something that would have an interesting flavor without being too assertive, and this fit the need quite nicely.  Maybe the noodles were a bit soggy, but you can't have everything for a quarter.  I'd eat them again.  :)