Panda Express is very popular. As you walk by the food court at the mall, or the less common free standing location, the drool-worthy smell of Orange Chicken consumes every bystanders nostrils and requires every ounce of control to not go in and blow a quick 1,000 calories on a deliciously addictive Panda Bowl. For those of us with some amount of discipline, we saunter on and continue with our regularly scheduled dinner plans, which may or may not be better than that delectable fried meat covered in orange glaze. As a remedy to this solution, the 2017 health conscious frozen renegades at Smart Made have given us an option to somewhat quench that craving with the Orange Sesame Chicken Bowl, which combines grilled white meat chicken with broccoli, snap peas and roasted red bell peppers over quinoa lightly tossed in an orange sesame sauce.
The aroma is all soy sauce and sesame, with no big citrus smell to be found. Eating it, however, is a different story, as the distinct flavor of orange zest weaves in and out of bites, pleasantly accenting the broccoli, snap peas, and red peppers that make up a good part of the dish. The whole profile is generally mild and not really spicy but the salt level seems just right, as its neither super salty or bland. It’s pretty much nothing at all like a trip to the Panda, but that’s not something the company promises and just a mental connection I made, as the nutritional tradeoff is solid.
More good news – the chicken is pretty damn tasty. Its got a bit of that microwave firmness that wouldn’t happen if you cooked it yourself fresh but it isn’t offensive and definitely tastes and feels like real deal, albeit slightly dry, chicken breast. The quinoa holds up well to the microwave – with a little bit of crunch to backup a mostly squishy, saucy base for the bowl. Everything is more pleasant and fresher tasting than what you would expect from a frozen dinner and the flavors come off complex without being confusing.
Another solid release from Smart Made that packs 21 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber into a container that a six year old could nuke to perfection. It’s not going to win any culinary awards against quality restaurant or home cooked meals, but it will definitely get the job done in a pinch and be more satisfying than most things you can find in the frozen aisle.
Quick Nutrition: 240 cals – 4.5g fat – 35mg cholesterol – 530mg sodium – 30g carbs – 5g fiber – 10g sugar – 21g protein