Dueling Dishes--A Brace of Quick Curries

Suffering through a horrid cold, I thought I'd sample two healthy-ish frozen, microwaveable curries, to try to clear out the sinuses.

First up: Trader Joe's Chicken Vindaloo.

Now, as much as I love TJ's, I've had pre-packaged frozen entrées from them before, and, suffice to say, they were not a success. One, a disgusting concoction of chicken and blue cheese, was so vile it went from oven to trash almost without touching the plate. Yeuch!
At least the ingredients are all natural, and, with 290 calories and 3.5g fat (of which 0g are saturated), it's not fattening.

The instructions for the curry said to cook it for four minutes, then stir it, then cook it for a further four. So that's exactly what I did. The result was that, as well as splattering the interior of the oven, it formed a disgusting-looking crust.

I stirred it all up and tucked in.

The taste was... okay. The consistency was rather like paella--stodgy, in a pleasant way--but the curry flavor was too mild. Certainly not vindaloo-level. And the quality of the chicken was poor: dry, chewy and obliterated. The peas and cubed carrots added nothing.

Overall, it reminded me of the 'chicken curry' my sister cooked in her first Home Ec class. In other words, it was edible--just--and in no way, shape or form anything like a proper curry.

Next up: an Ethnic Gourmet Chicken Tikka Masala, from VONS.

OK, it's perhaps not as healthy as the fare found at TJ's, but the box does say: 'all natural, no artificial ingredients, flavors, colors or preservatives. Minimally processed.' And while it contains more fat than the TJ's dish (6g fat, of which 2g saturated), it has fewer calories (just 260).

I should point out at this point that I realize vindaloos and masalas aren't the same thing, but bearing mind the option of this challenge was to find a quick, time-saving dish, I improvised.
In its pre-cooked form, this curry sucked. Solid as tundra and covered in a layer of frost, it looked like something they might dig up with Scott of the Antarctic.

Again, I followed the instructions to the letter. Surprisingly, despite being far runnier than the TJ's curry, it didn't coat the interior of the microwave. Bonus point for that!

And, again, the quality of the meat was poor, but at least it was white, unlike the horrid grey-yellow concoction in the vindaloo.

And this one actually tasted something like a curry--it had a pleasant, buttery feel, and, although not too hot, it was spicier than the vindaloo! And at least they'd made the effort with some cardamon mixed in with the rice.

Verdict? To be honest, I wouldn't choose to eat either again.

But if I absolutely had to have a curry, I'd go for the Market Gourmet brand. If you're on an ultra-tight budget, it'd have to be Trader Joe's, which, at $2.49, was precisely half the price of Market Gourmet. Pair it with some TJ's naan (which isn't bad), a dollop of mango chutney and a ton of beer, and your dining partner--please, don't inflict this kind of thing on a date!--might just forgive you.

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