Posted in Product Reviews

Testing the ‘Beyond Meat Burger’

Beyond Meat™ Burgers have been a bit of a phenomenon for quite a few months now, although the California based company that produces them released their first burger patty back in 2015. The reason, I think, that these, and similar products, are really only now filtering in to the public consciousness is that so many of the major fast food chains are offering meatless ‘burgers’ as part of their regular menus. I still have not tried a restaurant plant-based burger yet, but I came across the package you see above while shopping for other things and I decided to see what the fuss is about…

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Maesri Curry Pastes

Maesri™ is a company in Thailand that produces a decent range of food products, including a series of traditional Thai curry pastes, three of which you see pictured above. In addition to the Panang, Green, and Yellow Curry pastes, they also do a Red Curry, and, Masaman, Prik Khing, Kaeng Kua, and Kaeng Par versions as well. I actually tried the Red Curry Paste quite a few years ago and, though I do not remember a great deal about it, I do recall that it was good. In any event, I have had the above three cans in my store cupboard for a while now and I decided that, instead of just using them when the mood to have a Thai curry come upon me, I would experiment with them one after the other so that I could compare and contrast the taste, and also see how they perform using different cookery techniques …

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Product Review: Hungarian Garlic in a Tube

hungarian garlic in a tube 1

There are several very good specialty food shops in Ottawa’s Byward Market, two of which specialize heavily in eastern European food products. While shopping in one of these during my most recent visit to the capital, I came across this garlic paste in a tube from Hungary. I was actually there to purchase tomato puree in a tube (which I found), but I saw this as well and grabbed some to bring home with me…

I am not entirely sure how the ‘Fokhagymakrem’ translates but it is pretty clear that the tube contains a garlic puree. The back of the tube uses the English words ‘Garlic Sauce’ but the ingredient list just indicates garlic, salt, oil, and some preservatives, so this is not a prepared ‘sauce’ in the usual sense of the word… that is to say, with other flavorings being added.

Anyway, when you open the tube, the pungent aroma of garlic is very apparent. When tasted by itself, it does having something of the sharp, sulfurous pungency of freshly minced garlic, but it also has a sweet, slightly cooked taste of roasted garlic at the same time. The other thing, which is immediately apparent, is that there is a LOT of salt added. This may be necessary for preservation purposes but it will really impact how the paste can be used and cooks must be alive to adjusting for the saltiness anywhere that it is added.

I actually like this, saltiness aside, as much as many jarred garlic purees. Jarred products will, of course, oxidize over time and I would say that buying it in the tube will allow you to keep it longer. It doesn’t appear that Amazon Canada carries it, but you can purchase it through Amazon in the US. Mind you, at $13.00 American, it will end up running you about 5 times what I paid for it in Ottawa…

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Product Review: Tube Mustards

Tube Mustards 1

While I was shopping in Ottawa on my last visit, I went to find some of the Tomato Puree that comes in a tube as we cannot get it up here in the frozen North. I found some (a couple of different brands, actually), but I also picked up the tubes of mustard you see pictured above.

I remember having these in the house when I was a kid. Indeed, even one of the brands was familiar, and, though I really didn’t have any pressing mustard ‘needs’, as it were, I decided to grab all the sorts I saw with a view to doing a bit of comparing and contrasting… Continue reading “Product Review: Tube Mustards”

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Walker's Wasabi Ginger Crisps

Wasabi Chips

A while ago, I was following a spirited exchange on one of the internet forums I follow in which Americans and Britons were hotly debating the merits of their respective gustatory traditions. One thing that came up many times, and which even got grudging agreement by the Americans, was that Britain has a far greater range of interesting of potato chip flavors than elsewhere. From my childhood days, way back in the mists of time, I really only recall ‘Salt and Vinegar’ chips (or ‘crisps’ as they are known in Britain) but things seem to have blossomed considerably since then…

Now, we can’t buy any English potato crisps where I live, but the package you see above was sent to a friend of mine by family living down in (I believe) Toronto. I knew it was an English Brand immediately (it says ‘crisps’ on the front of the package, after all) and the Walker’s™  brand name was even faintly familiar to me. I had a look online and was surprised to see some of the flavors they carry: They do a ‘Prawn Cocktail’, which sounds like it could be good; one in ‘Worcestershire Sauce’ flavor, which sounds interesting, at least; and then there is also one (and I swear this is true), which is flavored as ‘Brussels Sprout’. I’ll not comment on the last save to say that I probably won’t die unfulfilled if I never get to try them…

Anyway, I was a bit skeptical about the ‘Wasabi Ginger’ flavor but it turned out to be pretty good. Some other wasabi flavored snacks I have tried (Wasabi Nori, and Wasabi Peas) have been a bit heavy-handed with the wasabi and the result is… well, unsubtle, to say the least. Here, both the ginger and the wasabi are very light additions. Indeed, the ginger is so subtle that you probably would miss it if not watching for it … it only appears as a slightly sweet hint of the root when you first bit into a crisp, and fades as the wasabi taste rises. Even here, though, the wasabi is just an enhancement of the potato crisp flavor, and not a mouth searing mask for every other taste. It really was well done, in my opinion…

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Aurora Brand Giardiniera

Aurora Giardiniera 1

Giardiniera is an Italian mixed pickle that I have been long been meaning to try making for myself, but which, alas, remains one of the many projects still on my to-do-someday list. The version you see here is a product of the United States made available in Canada by Aurora Importing and Distributing. This company lists quite a wide range of products on their Website, and I have often purchased their Anchovy Paste in a tube.

The basic Giardiniera consists of a melange of cut vegetables that are first brined and then pickled in a seasoned oil and vinegar mix. Sometimes the vegetables are cut quite large and the result is consumed as ‘bite-size’ pickles, and in other cases, as here, the pieces are quite fine and the product is more of a relish used as a condiment on things like sandwiches, or burgers, and so forth.

Olive tends to the olive oil of choice but, here, soybean oil is used. The mix contains sweet peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery and gherkins (which is a pretty common sort of blend), but hot peppers are included in many versions. The ingredients merely list ‘spices’ for the seasoning, but it does add (a bit ominously) ‘MAY CONTAIN: Mustard’.

This particular product is very well brined and the first impression of is a definite, but not unpleasant saltiness. The vinegar is used fairly lightly, and the original taste of the vegetables is still ‘somewhat’ apparent, but what I found curious is that there is actually a rather sharp bite here that suggests hot peppers were used, if only sparingly. Perhaps this is the mustard they warned as about…

Anyway, I quite liked this and, after the initial taste test, I used it as a jazzy condiment on a vegetarian pizza, and also on a series of sandwiches. The one sort of ‘failing’ here is that the colors are a bit muted and not as vibrant as would more likely be the case in a homemade, short pickle version. In less than two weeks from the date of writing this, I shall be in Ottawa and may well try a different brand or two from one of the excellent Italian food shops there…. I will report 😊

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House Brand Ma-Po Tofu Sauce

Ma-Po Tofu Sauce Mix 1

I picked this little item up on a whim while shopping for other stuff. I don’t use pre-packaged sauce mixes all that frequently, nor do I use tofu often, but I have been curious about the classic Sichuan dish,  Mapo Doufu (spelled ‘Mabo Tofu’ here), and I thought this might be an interesting way to experience it for the first time. The package states that you need to add nothing except ground meat and tofu, and so I used nothing else myself except for just a little scallion… Continue reading “House Brand Ma-Po Tofu Sauce”

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Watson Brand Vacuum-packed Cooked Duck Wing

Vacuum-packed Cooked Duck Wing 1

I actually picked this product up on a whim while shopping for some other items at Kowloon Market, my favorite Asian grocery store in Ottawa. These vacuum-packed duck wings area product of China and intended to be used pretty much ‘as is’ rather than requiring any preparation. The picture on the front of the pack, which shows the plain wings sprinkled with a little green onion and sesame seeds, describes this as being a ‘serving suggestion’. Anyway, I was intrigued by this product, which appears to require no refrigeration, and I brought some home with me.

Anyway … when you open the main package, there are 5 of the individually vacuum-sealed wings inside. I am not sure how the wings are cooked (the package is silent on the issue), but I think they may be slow baked after being marinated. When you open one of the wings, the dominant aroma is of star anise, and I was expecting to not like the wings as I am not keen on the flavor. I tasted one, before reading the ingredients and I found, to my pleasant surprise, that the dominant taste seemed to be fennel. This proved to be correctly identified as the ingredient list reads (for flavorings):

Chili, soy, salt, sugar, aniseed, pepper, Sichuan pepper, fennel, liquorice, kaempferiae (Galanga), cinnamon, cardamom, clove, bay leaf, and ginger.

In truth, I think some of the additions may be… well, theoretical, as I couldn’t identify much beyond the fennel (which, luckily, I like a lot). The chili, which is listed first, and should thus be a major ingredient, is nowhere apparent, and the product is not remotely hot at all… Continue reading “Watson Brand Vacuum-packed Cooked Duck Wing”