Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wanchai Ferry Kung Pao Review and Product Giveaway

I'm still having troubles with my camera (meaning that in reality, I can't figure out where I put the memory card), so still no pictures. Sad, right? I have some good news, however! Today will be my first product giveaway.

The nice people at Wanchai Ferry have sent a product sample package to me, and have offered 5 product sample packages for winners. I received a package including one each: Sweet and Sour Chicken, Spicy Garlic Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken and Cashew Chicken. I believe these retail for $4.97 per package (so 20 dollar value, roughly). I'm going to randomly select 5 readers to receive a similar package. All you have to do is leave me a comment telling me how you make your favourite Asian dish (or just what it is, if you don't cook). The giveaway contest closes at 10 PM EST on Friday. Winners will be selected via random integer selector so it's fair for everyone. Good luck!

Now, on the to review portion. Today I did the Kung Pao Chicken box, though I'd originally intended to do the Spicy Garlic Chicken. Silly me, I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer so that didn't pan out. However, the grocery store had shrimp on sale for $2.99/lb, and I really like kung pao shrimp, so that's what we went with.

Cost:

I think you all know I'm a pretty frugal person, so it takes a lot for me to be willing to buy a box product of any sort. Because of this, I wanted to look at the cost first. If I assume that like most families, I don't have any of the stuff to make a dish like this (and therefore have to buy it all new, which is actually mostly true in this case, despite my normal food hording), the contents would be more than $5. I'd have to spend $4.95 just to buy the Kung Pao sauce. The rice would be another dollar or so for a new bag, and the peanuts would cost $2-3, and then 50 cents to a dollar for the chile pods. Plus meat. So walking out the door to creating this on my own, I'd be looking at roughly $9.50 before meat. This does actually make this an economical buy, unlike most packaged meals. Given that I used sale-priced shrimp (or I would've used another sale protein if shrimp hadn't been so cheap), the total cost on this package meal would run me approximately $8 for 5 servings as opposed to $12.50 for 5 servings. That makes the per serving cost $1.60 (as opposed to $2.50 done on one's own). Pretty frugal, really, when you break it down like that.

One caveat to this: while the package says it's a 5 serving meal (1 cup servings), it's really more like two unless you're using appetisers or sides. Even so, it's still $4 per meal which is frugal by most people's standards. I think this is kind of like how the Bertoli freezer meals say a certain number of servings, but most people just eat more in one sitting than a recommended serving might be.

Oh, and the website has a $1 coupon, as well as a satisfaction guarantee.

Ease of preparation:

I'm not certain that this could have been simpler. For ease of preparation purposes, I mostly rely on what I think P would if presented with the task of cooking this. He avoids the kitchen at all costs unless it's just to grab a snack or make a sandwich (and even sometimes then). Packaged meals were his thing before we got together.

The package directions call for the two times you need water as two separate ingredients rather than saying "x water, divided." The ingredients that don't come with the box are listed under a bold header "You Will Need:" which is good for people who might normally think it's all-inclusive. Additionally, they provide extra directions for people who don't have the type of pan specified, or need to make other changes. For example, it calls for a non-stick pan, but I use stainless. The directions are amended to tell you how much oil to increase to if you're not using non-stick. There are pictures to go with each step of the directions.

Each step is carefully written out for maximum clarity, and the main words of each step are either written in bold font or in another colour and bold. Other tips and possible amendments (including high altitude) are included.

P said that if he was of the mindset to cook a meal that didn't come with meat already (which he generally isn't), he would cook this. He said the pictures next to the directions provide some relief and that more importantly, the kit inclusion picture (Kit includes...) was ideal because it shows him what everything is, in case he didn't know what something looked like (in this instance, kung pao sauce itself).

And it only took twenty minutes to make, which is win. Oh, and they have extra tips and ideas if you want to mix it up a little from the normal directions.

Flavour:

Okay, so I have to admit. I was a little worried. Most pre-packaged food items (especially those with sauces) are viscous, overly sweet and not very flavourful. This was a surprising change from what we normally might expect from a package.

The sauce was not especially viscous, but still provided a good coat to the shrimp and rice. The sauce had a bit of finishing sweetness, but not cloyingly so (I am very sensitive to the sweetness of packaged meals, and I found this pleasant instead of vomit-inducing like I normally do). It had enough salt that I didn't pour more on, but not so much that P complained about the saltiness (which he normally will do). It had a pleasant amount of spicy kick to it. If you are abnormally into spice, it gives directions (that I did not use, thankfully) to make it spicier. Despite the spiciness, the sauce still had a readily discernible and pleasing flavour.

It was a surprisingly good kung pao. There were a good amount of peanuts - enough that I wasn't thinking, "Man, I wish I'd added more peanuts." I got some in each bite. The only thing I was missing in the meal was the extra vegetables that normally come with kung pao when you're at a restaurant. I didn't miss them enough for it to be a disappointment, but rather something I realised long after I finished eating.

Calories:

Per person, this worked out to about 800 calories each (we split it in half). That's a little higher than I might normally like to see, but significantly lower than it would've been if we'd eaten out.

All in all, I think I would be willing to keep these stocked on my shelf for days I don't really feel like cooking but don't want to spend the money going out to eat. Although the calories were a little higher than I prefer, it definitely had good flavour, was cost-efficient and was so easy to make I can't really express how easy it was. I recommend this product for those who want to give it a try.

I am really, really, really thankful that my first review worked out to be on a product I actually enjoyed.

My internet kung-fu apparently is crap, but I've finally managed to get the picture of the product from the site (woo!). So this is what the box looks like:

13 comments:

  1. Great Giveaway. I have to say my favorite Asian food is gyoza or dumplings or dim sum. Whatever you call them, I love them. I can eat them all day and when I go to any Asian restaurant, this is one thig I always order. I finally made my own the other day and they weren't bad. SO now I can enjoy them anytime.

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  2. I was looking into this product this would be very helpful. Of late, I am on a miso soup kick. I have been making very hearty versions of this dish compared to the "broth with little bits" that bone normally gets at a sushi place. I add more seaweed and dried mushrooms, green onions, and have been adding shrimp and scallops to make more of a hearty miso meal. Its wonderful (just make sure that you really rinse any seaweed you are using thoroughly or you get a kind of gritty texture that is not so good).

    I have also been on a cabbage kick of late. I can happily eat cooked cabbage steamed in a little chicken stock and seasoned with black pepper. Recently, I have taken to making what I call "szechuan cashew cabbage". Its essentially shredded cabbage and carrots (often I buy this pre-shredded when its on sale) stir fried with baby corn, bamboo shoots, or whatever one likes in a stir fry. I use "House of Tsang" brand spicy szechuan sauce (the best bottled sauce I have found) and add that once the cabbage is cooked to my liking. I add crimbled cashews and am done! I really like this dish. Meat is optional.

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  3. One of my favorite asian dishes that I like to cook is Thai dish called Gai Pad Graprow (Chicken with Holy Basil). I like the sweety-saltiness of the sauce and the aroma of the basil mixed in with the pieces of chicken as it's stir fried together. The sauce ends up being like a gravy, and goes extremely well with jasmine rice. Also it's really quick to make, so perfect for me. Most of the time I come home from work and have an hour to have dinner ready on the table. Unfortunately I usually don't know what I'm going to make until I get home, it takes a while to get stuff ready to cook.

    So, how do I make it? I'll just write a quick description.

    I cut up chicken meat (usually breast, but have been known to use dark meat) into bite-sized pieces, then set it aside to prepare everything else.

    I usually prepare about 4 garlic cloves, a chopped onion, and then mince them up really good. After that I heat up about 2 Tbsp of oil in a wok, then toss the garlic and onions in until the flavor is released, trying not to brown them.

    After that I'll introduce the chicken to the onion and garlic. They meet up and I'll cook the chicken until most if seems to be cooked. Some pink is usually showing, but that's fine because I'm not done cooking :)

    Now it's time to make the unique flavor of the dish. I'll add the sauces I use: dark soy sauce (very similar to molasses) and fish sauce. I usually add about 2 Tbsp of fish sauce, and then I add the soy sauce to taste. Add these to the chicken, mixing it up until the chicken is just about cooked. After that, I add about 1c up fresh holy basil (or sweet basil), mixed it up until the fragrance comes out.

    I think that's it... it's all from memory. That's one of my favorite dishes :)

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  4. My favorite homemade Asian dish is really just any sort of stir-fried veggies with leftover meat, gussied up with dark soy sauce, rice cooking wine, lots of ginger and garlic and a bit of powdered galangal, and maybe just a little bit of five-spice powder. We usually serve a bit of sambal on the side, and plenty of rice. It's quick and filling.

    I've been avoiding these Wanchai Ferry dishes because of the peanut content. Do any of them come without peanuts?

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  5. I agree with Carolyn - goyza or real, honest made from scratch spring rolls. I have yet to come up with good one I've made, but even the bad ones have been okay.

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  6. You guys have some awesome suggestions! Like, seriously.

    As for peanuts: I imagine if you're looking at an allergy to them, none of their products will be safe, because they're all processed in the same plant (along w/ other tree nuts).

    If you just don't like peanuts, the cashew chicken has cashews, as well as almond, brazil nut, macadamia, peanut, walnut, pine nut, hazelnut, pistachio and pecan. The sweet and sour has no peanuts, but does have cashew and almond flour in them. The spicy garlic has cashew and almond flour also.

    So, yes - sweet and sour, and spicy garlic are without peanuts, but not without tree nuts.

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  7. I have a sensitivity, not an allergy, if that makes sense. I can't eat actual peanuts, but food processed on the same equipment, or with a moderate amount of peanut oil won't make me sick. The spicy garlic's sounding kind of good.

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  8. My favorite asian food is Ramen! I like packaged ramen well enough, but real ramen from a Japanese restaurant (with the obligatory gyoza on the side) is my favorite meal ever.

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  9. I like to fix General Tso's chicken, with stir fry veggies. The chicken comes from a box though...

    Something that I make from scratch though, is what a friend of mine calls my Chinese Take Out Noodles. I boil chicken breasts in chicken broth, sesame oil, cooking sherry, and soy sauce until cooked through. While the chicken is cooking, I saute fresh ginger with some onion until browned. I then add some veggies (usually snow peas, broccoli, water chestnuts, carrots, and sometimes mushrooms). I also prepare pasta of some sort, usually spaghetti noodles. Once everything is cooked, I combine everything in a large bowl, and mix it well. It's fantastic... though the leftovers are even better!

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  10. This is in response to your post (elsewhere, not here) requesting info about replacing the clamp on your pasta maker: you can buy one here (as well as other accessories):

    http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details.asp?SKU=11490

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  11. Dakotawitch from LJ here. I'd love to try this stuff...

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  12. Anonymous8:03 pm

    I find the hardest part about asian cooking is catching the cats.

    I would however like to try these products.

    come on random integer selector.

    BTW. I enjoyed your economic analysis, but you were a little week on the detail of your calorimetry. Simple bomb, or Isothermal titration. Prolly swag calorimeter.

    tcg

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  13. You guys have given really, really good ideas! And I never realised how easy gai pad grapow was to make. great to know! I agree w/ all of you who love gyoza that they're delicious, but I've never made them before. The homemade stir fries are among my favourites to make too.

    Tim, thanks for the link on the clamp replacement. Handrolling pasta isn't too hard, but the pasta roller makes things so much easier!

    Todd, you're funny. Of course my calorie analysis is weak - I snaked it right off the box! :P

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