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As you know, we are always on the lookout for something new in the convenience food area to review. It can be a bit of a drudge at times because there is so much awful food out there. Most of the time I am in the freezer aisle but I will often look in the rice or pasta aisle. Sometimes I will search in the international foods section. I am usually disappointed, mostly because the sodium content is so high. There are always new companies it seems but none of them ever seem very innovative. Until now....
I came across the Mojo Bowls by a company called Tambobamba. Strange name, but the allure of a Peruvian rice and beans dish that was described as being "fresh-cooked rice, papaya sauce with black beans and vegetable toppings" seemed too good to be true. Even more amazing was that the nutrition facts indicated that the serving contained only 190 mg of sodium. That really seemed too good to be true and checking the Brazilian Rice and Beans the package showed only 105 mg.
Strangely the Caribbean Rice and Beans comes in at 580 mg of sodium (their Web site claims 480 mg). It just didn't make sense. Why create similar products with such a wide range of salt content? Maybe not as innovative as I thought.
The packaging is interesting. Each comes in a bowl with a lid and inside are a package of dry ingredients, one of moist fully cooked rice and a third packet of sauce.
The instructions call for putting the dry ingredients (beans, veggies and herbs) in the bottom of the bowl and adding two tablespoons of water.
After placing the rice on top and covering with the lid, the meal goes in the microwave for 90 seconds. It comes out pretty hot and that's when the sauce is added.
Stir and let stand for a minute before eating.
The first one sampled was the Peruvian style. This was pretty good with a hint of papaya flavor and overtones of garlic, rosemary and pepper. It was not very salty but not completely bland either. The flavor did seem to support the sodium content at 190 mg. The black beans come out decidedly undercooked, but the rice is not gummy. Overall, the dish was OK but had me feeling like it was something that I might have in space or on a long camping trip – it's food but not quite.
The same holds true with the Caribbean version. This one is decidedly more salty. The seasonings are, however, not very good. They are not overly offensive but more of a raw and astringent taste. The oregano is just overpowering. The beans were also undercooked with this one.
The Brazilian Rice and Beans we cooked a bit differently. Our idea was that by adding a little more water (two extra tablespoons) and cooking a little longer (30 seconds) the beans might get done. Well, that didn't work. They were just as dry. This meal has a very soapy taste that comes from the spearmint. This is not a little bit bad but really awful. It is seldom that our tasters don't want to take a second or third bite but everyone turned up their nose at this.
The calorie counts range between 290 and 370 per serving and there's between 3 and 4 grams of fiber. Who cares? At $3.99 you don't want to purchase these products. They are cute but complicated, innovative but taste bland to awful. Spend your money on some of the better choices we've reviewed.