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In general, we think well of Saffron Road products. Of the 21 we have reviewed, 7 get a thumbs down. While I would be disappointed to find that 1/3 of my product wasn't equal to the other 2/3, in the frozen food business a 67% success rate isn't bad. Practically speaking, that means that when we see new products by Saffron Road we don't hesitate to purchase and put them to the test. This review comes with the bonus that all three new items on offer are seafood, something particularly challenging in the microwave food world.
First up was the Thai Red Curry Fish with Rice Noodles. This is described as "wild caught Alaskan Pollock in a classic Panang curry." To be honest, our expectations were a bit low: fish is one thing to reheat, but rice noodles can turn into a gloppy mess pretty quickly in the microwave. The instructions call for a three minute heating on high, then stirring the dish and cooking for another two minutes. After the first 3 minutes I was dubious as there was a lot of liquid. I thought that it might get absorbed by the rice noodles, and indeed, that is the case. The final product comes out quite well cooked with the noodles not overcooked and a slightly creamy sauce.
The flavor is quite good, but there was something missing: it was sufficiently spicy, with good Thai seasonings, and was salty enough - but it just misses the mark at being a great sauce. This is a disappointment given that the fish comes out pretty well cooked and the noodles are about as good as can be. They aren't stuck together, as you might expect, and come out al dente - not gummy at all. All of this is a shame because the numbers are pretty good, with only 220 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and 510 milligrams of sodium.
We don't often experiment with these dishes, but after discussing what might be wrong we decided to try an experiment. The feeling was that there was not enough flavor balance in the dish, with it having good umami, sour, and salty flavors to complement the spice, but lacking just a touch of sweetness. Adding a scant 1/4 teaspoon of maple syrup fixed the sauce in a major way, bringing out the creaminess and enhancing the saltiness and sourness of the dish. It did damp down the spiciness a little (if you are listening, Saffron Road), so it would be good to add a bit of red pepper flakes to bring that back. Even without these proposed modifications (we also think that using brown rice noodles would add 2 grams of fiber and a bit more body), this is a good dish.
The Lemongrass Basil Fish has the same well-executed rice noodles in a bright, lemony sauce touched with coconut milk, ginger, and a light curry zing. As in the Red Curry Fish, the Alaskan Pollock in this dish comes out just a little chewy, but that's to be expected any time you microwave fish, and especially when there are a number of smaller pieces, as here. The snowpeas might be a touch wilted, but they've still got crunch and lend a little pop of both sweet and bitter.
Once again we were intrigued by the possibility of balancing the flavors between the umami of the fish, the tartness of the lemongrass, and the bitterness of the snow peas, so this time we added a touch of honey. What a difference - a pretty darn good dish becomes a really good dish when the honey damps down the lemongrass to allow the other flavors to shine. Another fish option to add to your freezer at 240 calories, 400 milligrams of sodium and 3 grams of fiber.
The final dish in today's tasting was the Sesame Ginger Salmon. After 5+ minutes in the microwave the single large piece of salmon is (again) a little chewy, but the truth is that it's every bit as good as any piece of chicken or beef - and much better for you. It has a soft salmon flavor that should go over well with anyone who doesn't like their fish to taste too "fishy."
This time the fish comes with white rice, and as always we wished immediately that it were brown rice. Not only would it likely double the fiber content of the meal, brown rice would be less likely to become gummy, as the white rice does here. To be fair, the sauce might be partly to blame for the texture of the rice - it's a thick, creamy, and slightly sweet sauce of sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger with just a hint of a cayenne afterburn. The water chestnuts and julienned carrots add texture and sweetness, though we could wish for more snow peas: we counted five of them. This time no flavor balancing was needed - another winner at 280 calories, 410 milligrams of sodium, and 2 grams of fiber.
Reviewed: August 19, 2016