Ann J. Kelley
Healthy Choice has added Asian-inspired dishes to its Cafe Steamers microwave meals, and members of the Times-Union Consumer Panel recently tried the Kung Pao Chicken.
Several panelists found the entree, which consists of chicken tenderloins, brown rice, broccoli, red peppers, water chestnuts and Kung Pao sauce, too skimpy a portion to make a satisfying meal, while others were surprised at the bland flavor of the usually spicy dish.
“For a frozen entree, it serves the bill,” said retiree Jim Duggan, whose favorite part of the meal was the chicken. “It’s in fairly good size pieces, and I was amazed at how good it was. I thought it would be dry, but it was tender and moist.”
He described the dish, which he ate with a side salad, as having plenty of sauce but found the rice chewy, with a little bite in the center. And he would have liked a bigger portion of food.
“It was mild and didn’t seem to have enough herbs. We added some low-sodium soy sauce and a pinch of sea salt. That helped punch it up.”
Paraprofessional Warren Roberts also liked the chicken in the Asian dish but didn’t think much of the flavor. “It doesn’t have much taste at all. I had to add a lot of salt and pepper, and it’s very expensive for the amount of food. It’s not a full meal – hardly even a snack. The portions are tiny; there’s not much in the dish at all.”
Nursing student Brigitte Santos described the Kung Pao chicken as having broccoli, red peppers and just enough rice in a creamy sauce.
“The chicken was really good but kind of rubbery. I don’t know if I cooked it too long or it might have been my microwave. Some people at work tried it and liked it except for the chicken.”
Naval retiree Jeff McDowell liked the two-part steamer bowl, which he said cooked perfectly in the microwave. “It’s neat the way the sauce is separate.”
What he didn’t like was the amount of fat – 20 percent of the calories – and sodium in the dish. “You have all the right ingredients until you mix it with the sauce, which has all the salt and preservatives.” He described the vegetables as diced the size of a pencil eraser and said the meal, although convenient, is too small. “You’re not going to get full. It seems like it has five or six tablespoons of food.”
Business owner Parveen Hughes found the Kung Pao Chicken easy to prepare, not too expensive and fairly healthful but said although her family thought it was OK, no one loved it. “The rice was chewy, and it doesn’t have enough vegetables – mostly water chestnuts, a good amount of red peppers and very little broccoli. I felt the consistency of the sauce was good and thick enough to coat all the vegetables, but the flavor was too mild. I wouldn’t buy it again unless I was dieting and needed a quick meal.”
One meal contains 300 calories, 6 grams of fat, 560 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of sugars, 35 milligrams of cholesterol and no trans fat.