Fast food vegetarian – or – when is processed food okay?

So here I am, with a counter full of Annie Chun products, hoping against hope I have some luck with these because the husband is, alas, a processed food junkie.

So let’s try some Annie Chun and see which items are keepers and which are not.

In one corner: Annie Chun
Annie Chun makes a wide range of processed Asian foods of the type so commonly found in Whole Foods and the like.

In the other corner: The husband
Once again, our intrepid husband takes on his mantle of taste tester. Will Annie Chun live up to his discriminating taste? Or will her foods fall flat? Let us see.

Bowled over, or under
First up, we have a selection of bowls. Convenient, with that whole meal-in-a-bowl thing going for it, let’s see what the man, otherwise known as the husband, has to say.
“I tried two noodle bowls: Peanut Sesame and Teriyaki. And, in both cases, the taste was good but the texture was really bad. The noodles were gummy. And the dry spice packets you mixed in were difficult to swallow. So I wouldn’t get this again.”

But what about the soup bowls? Would they, too, meet an unsavory fate?
“I tried the udon and a miso soup bowls. Both had really great noodles; succulent. The udon soup bowl had a really tasty broth, so I would definitely buy this one again. But the miso one was just too bland, so I’ll pass.”

Yes, but with a caveat
Next up, we reach for the chow mein, a dish the husband typically adores. After he spent ten frustrating (for him) and amusing (for wicked me) minutes trying to figure out how many cups in the quart measure the directions call for (4 cups), he finally gets to taste the dish.
“The noodles are good, good texture and cooked well. But the sauce is too strong and the dish needs vegetables. I’d buy this again but only if I would have to doctor it with lots of vegetables which kind of defeats the purpose.”

I’m sad he did not love this, but you can’t imagine my delight that he is asking for more vegetables.

However, Annie Chun also has a Noodles Express Chinese Chow Mein, which I offer the man (lest you think he is a glutton, he tried these over a series of several days, cleansing his palette with Indian food, he so loves to eat around the world).
“Well, this Chow Mein was easier to prepare, but it had a weird salty aftertaste like I had been munching on some green herb. I wouldn’t buy this one again, either.”

Rice, rice, and more rice

Next, we had the man try a handful of precooked rice.

Of the Rice Express Sprouted Brown Rice he said: “It was unpleasantly sticky with this chewy, crunchy taste.” Of the Rice Express Sticky White Rice he said: “Sticky, with a taste like plastic. But the texture was good.” And of the Pad Thai Rice Noodles he said: “Bland and sticky and it was impossible to twirl only as much food as I wanted in one mouthful on my fork. Instead, I kept ending up with something that strongly resembled cotton candy.”

In all three cases, he would not buy the items again. Which is a surprise because he loves rice.

Finally, we fare better
Next, we tried the Sticky White Rice Sushi Wraps. These consist of a container of sticky rice you heat in the microwave and rectangles of seaweed. To this, you add whatever you want, then roll it all up to make sushi rolls.

I added vegetables to make California rolls.

First, these were the messiest sushi rolls I have ever seen. But they didn’t fall apart, which was a relief. Second, the hot rice tended to singe my fingertips. Third, these were fussy to do. Fourth, although these were fussy, they were a lot of fun.

And the verdict?

The husband: “This was really good. I’d have it again.”

Me: “It was good. But I’d rather learn how to make sushi properly, then buy a bag of rice and big sheets of seaweed instead of these fussy little sheets.”

You saucy wench
Finally, we tried four of the Annie Chun sauces: Pad Thai, Teriyaki, Korean Barbeque, and Thai Peanut. And, once again, we turned to the very patient husband.
“Hated the Pad Thai, just hated it. It was fishy and nasty and I would not have that again. I also didn’t like the Teriyaki. Normally I love teriyaki, but this one tasted way too much of vinegar. Now, the Korean Barbeque has a nice, spicy kick, even though it is too salty which is surprising because all the sauces have a lot of sugar. And the Thai Peanut is surprisingly good, acidic, but not too acidic. But, you know, none of the sauces had any depth or interest to them, all were just one-dimension. So I wouldn’t buy any again.”

And the winner is . . .
Alas, the only item the husband said he would buy again is the udon soup bowl. I didn’t want to give you ingredients for everything because that would make for a pretty dull read. But I do want to give you some ingredients, so here are the ingredients for the udon soup bowl:
Noodles: wheat flour, water, tapioca starch, lactic acid, salt. Soup: naturally brewed soy sauce (water, wheat, soybeans, salt), shiitake mushroom, sea vegetable, evaporated cane juice, rice wine, yeast extract. Toppings: fried tofu*, carrot*, green onion*, spinach*. *Dehydrated

Despite the sugar (cane juice), this is a pretty good ingredient list. So I’m glad he did, at least, find one thing he liked enough to buy again. But I’m sorry we did not find more.

As for me, the only interesting thing was the sushi wrap. But only interesting in that it tweak my curiosity about sushi. Not my desire to buy Annie Chun.

Still, I encourage you to try for yourself. Everyone has different tastes, and the ingredient lists were certainly better than those supermarket brands.