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Instant Chinese Meals – Product Review

July 18, 2008

I don’t like to use instant pastes and powders while cooking. Not that I haven’t tried them. I have tried a lot of these instant mixes – from sauce and noodle mixes to pickle and soup mixes but I hate them all. If I do find the taste of some mix tolerable, I cannot enjoy it the second time. Well, not for a year at least! Some of them make me puke. At times I wonder if its my body trying to tell me something.

I don’t hate them because they are ready mixes and because I am a puritan about cooking. I make my own masalas and pastes and freeze them. I also use them for weeks afterwards.

The ready-made ones taste horrible, well, many of them. I know that the day I reach for an instant mix I do it because I am desperate to save time and see it as an alternative to eating out on that particular day. So I always keep a few on hand for emergencies.

Of late I have been trying the Chinese mixes. I have been making Chinese food for some time now, mostly by laboring over recipe books and studiously avoiding Ajinomoto (monosodium glutamate) as I believe its not good for health. However I bought these Chinese mixes, wondering about their taste even though I knew they contained Ajinomoto… I thought, what the heck, let me at least try it. Chinese restaurants use Ajinomoto liberally anyway.

A nutritious and tasty way of using an instant recipe mix: To be on the safe side, I did not use the mix as they had suggested. I used half the quantity but made up for it by adding the very same ingredients mentioned in the ingredient list. I also added some red wine and a little salt. The end result was not bad at all and left me pleasantly surprised.

In the last few months I tried out other flavours and though I like sweet and sour best, I think this isn’t a bad alternative to eating out. At least you know you are using a lot of your own ingredients. Amazing what freshly pureed tomato can do to a dish like this!

Related Reading: 12 things to be wary of while eating out
My recipe for a quick nutritious pasta
Four ways to use your left-overs
Street food is often more hygienic than restaurant food!
Eating out in China
Food habits and exercise trends in India
Are “Vegetable” and “Dal” noodles healthy?
Instant Noodles are unhealthy
The success story of Deepak Kumar Singh, alias Munna Maharaj

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2008 10:21 am

    I hate these things, too. I make my own gravies, or use canned, imported sauces that are available these days. But, believe me, these readymade imported sauces are also not as good as what we could make. If you don’t want the hassle, then use some of the sauce, and add some other ingredients yourself, rather like what you do. Yes, tomato puree makes a great base for chilly sauce, but oyster sauce and mushrooms (with the stock of boiled mushrooms) make for tasty ones, too.

  2. July 18, 2008 10:32 am

    I can’t understand anything!! You are talking something related to cooking? yeah may thats the reason why I am blank :D

  3. batta420 permalink
    July 18, 2008 11:44 am

    My mothers makes me loads of homemade SouthIndian Items.
    And I don’t like Chinese Food either nor instant or whatever.

  4. July 18, 2008 12:56 pm

    We regularly use these Knorr brand products: Make a Meal and Soups. They taste good and also reduce cooking time. You can add variety of vegetables like carrot,cabbage,beans,spring onion,sprouted dal and also paneer,frozen peas,frozen american corn. I myself make these for a change at home. It suits good with plain noodles. I think this is better than eating in restaurants in terms cost,time and hygiene.

  5. July 18, 2008 1:29 pm

    I dont like this products either and i dont use them never.
    Not soups, not concentrated pills, not instant meals…
    I freeze too Nita. When i cook i try to make more, so i can keep some gravy, sauce,…for another day (freezer) . The same with soups: i make big big pot, then i freeze rations…if u really think about it, handmade soup, dont give u any work!
    It cooks alone!!!

    *Have all a nive fridaaaaaaaay:-)

  6. July 18, 2008 1:41 pm

    I have not used these chinese sauces.
    I recently tried a chicken recipe and it turned out to be good (minus the mess).
    May be I should post the recipe on my blog excluding my secret ingredient. :D

  7. Guqin permalink
    July 18, 2008 1:59 pm

    Instant Chinese food is like canned and frigerated Chinese tea, don’t know what fools invented them. It is the evil Coca-cola-lization of our taste.

    Chinese food takes patience and TALENT to make and a particular school of it (药膳) is related to Chinese medicine. It is the change of our living environment (natural and social) that makes authentic quality Chinese food hard to come by. I am never boastful of anything Chinese, but I must be honest this time: Chinese food is the most delicate and the best in the world, all others in comparison are at best like boxing to Kung Fu!

  8. July 18, 2008 2:53 pm

    I just love Knorr hot and sour.

    I have been using ready to serve and various mixes too, as the best thing about them is they are time saver.

    Well I really do not look for ingredients, taste is what mattters to me,

    Impressive article.

    and yes I want to thank you for many things.

  9. July 18, 2008 3:44 pm

    Once me and my sister had bought some MTR instant paneer dish (dont remember the name) Maybe we did smthg wrong or what, it tasted yuck and I put my foot down to finish it. Since then I kind of dont like instant mixes. I had once tasted cup o noodles and that sucked too.

  10. July 18, 2008 5:05 pm

    I have had soups made in India and those made in Thailand and gulf and us – the products made here arent half as good as the imported maal
    Instant food or heat and eat food is generally terrible and comparatively very expensive
    but some of Kohinoor’s pastes r good

    All in all they are all right i guess .

  11. July 18, 2008 5:06 pm

    doc it has been a real long time since u have posted a food post – i read a jam recipee i think a long time ago

  12. July 18, 2008 5:35 pm

    I like Knorr’s Hot and Sour soups, I think they taste good for a readymade soup. Some of the instant powders are good. MTR is a very good brand. They give a homely taste to everything. But we use them when we run out of home made mixes and powders. As much as possible we also try to avoid Ajinomoto in our dishes. So when we pick packed food, we read the ingredients and make sure it doesnt contain that.

  13. July 18, 2008 5:49 pm

    lol ya it isn’t all that bad :)

  14. July 18, 2008 5:55 pm

    Not specific to this post but a general comment. Recently I have started following your blog and I have to say that this is the one of the most useful blog out there. You take objective analytical approach to interesting issues and present wide variety of opinions. Very informative and very entertaining! Thank you.

  15. July 18, 2008 6:37 pm

    Rambodoc, How about posting some of your recipes online? :)

    Suda, batta420, aha, you are those who gets food all ready-made without you helping out!! I guess when you guys get married that will change! :P

    OldSailor, agreed, anytime more hygienic than eating out!

    francina, you and me are on the same wavelength! :) Have a good week-end!!

    Xylene, am waiting for the recipe! Please post it with all ingredients!! :)

    Guqin, as I have tasted authentic chinese food in china, I agree that I have never tasted it outside China. Not in the west, nor in africa nor in India. We loved the food in China! If you have any recipes do email them to me! Er…easy ones!

    Sharad, thanks. You should try adding your own ingredients to the ready mixes, you will like them even more!

    Reema,
    I too have had some taste disasters with instant mixes. As for ready made food, I find them bad! Even instant cup noodles, I can’t have more than two bites!

    Prax, I buy imported soups too and while some brands are good, some are bad. I have found the made in south africa quite bad! At times I think they fob off cheap stuff here.

    Dinesh Babu, yeah as you say its a stop gap arrangement when other stuff has run out!

    Vishesh, Ashish, thanks. :)

  16. July 18, 2008 6:53 pm

    Adding freshly pureed tomato? :) It’s amazing how our tastes gravitate towards Indianized Chinese, rather than the original version. Here in the US, you get Americanized Chinese. So unlike you, I have never tasted authentic Chinese because I’ve never been to China..but I like my Indo-chinese.

  17. July 18, 2008 10:31 pm

    I think instant mixes are at best good for people staying outside India. (I am sorry I am not aware of Chinese Instant mixes, other than soups..atleast not yet in US). I did try couple of chinese recipes when I was doing my B.Tech. I bet self made stuff is always great than instant mixes. The Indian stores here in US are flooded with frozen Indian food. We try not to purchase them, but then you know, they are always tempting :D Easy to cook. Personally, I try to stay away these instant mixes and frozen food as much as possible. I guess venegar is used in frozen foods and that adds a strange smell to them! Yak yak!!

  18. July 18, 2008 10:32 pm

    sound delicious. maybe i’ll try it some day.

  19. Ravi permalink
    July 19, 2008 12:46 am

    Nita

    I wonder if it is the same chinese stuff you get in India like we do in Walmart or in any grocery store. I bet they must be indian made and definitely lacks pork flavor cause any instant food/mix of chinese made makes me puke cause of its weird flavor. I think it might be due to the preservative they use that gives out the smell EEWWW.

  20. Ravi permalink
    July 19, 2008 12:51 am

    I like the instant curries (not frozen) like panner buttermasala, mutter masala…. by MTR and Priya. They taste yummy and I feel like home whenever my roommate offers me :-)

  21. July 19, 2008 1:03 am

    Ravi, As far as frozen food, Vinegar is used and hence the strange smell. MTR and Priya, I think, are better brands with some quality stuff. Otherwise, mostly everything else is for crazy people :D

  22. July 19, 2008 8:10 am

    Lekhni, thats what my husband tells me because he is much more of a puritan where food is concerned. Actually he is the foodie but I have this habit of adding just about anything to food. The taste matters most! I like Indian Chinese only as long as it is not spicy and in fact there are very few chinese restaurants in India which I really like. I prefer my home-made chinese better.
    I liked the Chinese in China far far better than I ate in any restaurant here! Actually we were unique in China in the sense that everyone told us how Indians made a beeline for Indian or continental restaurants as they could not eat the authentic chinese food because I think the pork oil smell. But we loved it. We opted for chinese at every meal surprising our guide.

    Manoj, these mixes are catching on here too and thats because of lifestyle changes. And I don’t know what exactly they put in these ready mixes, but it has a horrible synthetic smell.

    unduk, :)

    Ravi, yes it is Indian made and made to suit Indian tastes. As you said here pork flavour is not liked by anybody and yes it makes many people feel the same way you do. When we were in China, Indians couldn’t eat that food, we were the rare Indians who could eat it day in and day out! But then Indians generally prefer Indian food anywhere they go. That we have seen even on other foreign tours. Why even when we were in Africa, we searched for authentic Tanzanian food, but we were told Indians couldn’t enjoy it!

  23. Sakhi permalink
    July 19, 2008 1:10 pm

    I dont like processed food.. barring processed cheese! :)

    i dont like the taste, somehow i get metallic tasted from it and that puts me off! and i dont want my daughter to get hooked to these things !

    Though we do eat out, i prefer to keep it once a week or once every two weeks!

    Par ghar ke khane ka swaad hi kuchh aur hai!

  24. July 19, 2008 8:23 pm

    i was not aware of any chinese mixes till now :(
    well , i like instant popcorns and maggi soups ..
    yes they dont taste like they should but then for people liek who dont know cooking can try :P

  25. July 19, 2008 11:10 pm

    Sakhi, I am the same. I hate processed food!

    Arvind, I guess these instant foods are okay for those who can’t cook but that is what surprises me. cooking a simple meal is so easy…I mean the basics.

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