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The Big Ready Meal review compendium

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With my recent international travel, I have come to depend heavily on "ready meals" or MTR packets as most folks colloquially refer to them. Here is a list of recent products I have tried. This could be of use to some travelers somewhere, or at least for me on a future trip:

  • Aashirvaad:
  1. Palak Paneer: Avoid. The paneer is yummy, soft and flavorful, but that's about it. The palak is plain watery (with oil shimmering), worthy only to drink. The taste is okay though.
  2. Pindi Chana: Recommended. Rather mild spices but quite flavorful. The gravy is nice and thick like it is supposed to be. The problem is the thick layer of oil floating on top. Ignore it and its a must-have.
  3. Navratan Korma: Keep it Back. Yes, keep it back. If you've already bought it - trash it. It is the first seriously bad, tasteless, small cubes in listless gravy meal I had in a while. Go to bed hungry but don't eat this. It is B.A.D!
  • Gits:
    1. Rajma Masala: Competently priced (69 INR), authentic flavor but a tad rich curry (with a bit of red color due to the oil)- I never finish most curries since its too sinful! The only issue was that it could've been softer - the melt-in-the-mouth stuff that most Punjabi mothers would make. But as a RTE meal, this is good enough. HIGHLY recommended. I loved adding some spices to make it more flavorful. Had it thrice till date - the plate's been licked clean each time!
    2. Paneer Makhani: Thick sinful curry (three spoonfuls of oil!) that was yummy and paired with melt-in-the-mouth paneer. Eat the paneer (not too many pieces!) and dump the curry. Yummy all the same, esp for those who're not too health conscious.
    3. Palak Paneer: First impressions, looks to have a good consistency and almost smells good. There is only a hint of extra oil in the corners, but not much in tasting at all. The only slight grouse is that my mum makes palak a bit more "cooked" - but besides that, it was great. Add in a bit of spice and you are setup for a nice good sleep on a full tummy. Plate-licking-clean-good recommended :)
  • Haldiram:
    1. Kadhi pakoda with jeera rice: The rice was quite sad - not the typical soft long grain basmati rice. It was a fair bit under done. But the packaging was good - you can eat using the provided box - they even gave a spoon and a tissue!! The highlight was the really awesome kadhi and succulent pakodas. Just right in flavor and texture - the kadhi had a bit more oil than I would've liked but still finger licking good. Recommended just for the awesome kadhi.
  • Kohinoor-India on Platter:
    1. Paneer Butter Masala: I picked up this piece which was abit old (Jul 2012 packed, used in Apr 2013). But BOY - is it tasty. Finger licking yummy, flavorful and just the right aroma. The kind of food that you just lick the plate clean even at midnight. HIGHLY recommended.
    2. Matar Paneer: Not recommended. From a slight rubbery paneer and a bit overdone peas (not the soft fresh taste). The gravy was okay though. Avoid.
    3. Palak Paneer: The first palak paneer I've seen which has a chunky thick gravy (like you'd make at home, not watery). The paneer is the same melt in the mouth variety. The gravy overall is just a tad rich, but nothing too heavy, and not overly spicy either. Like.
    4. Dal Makhni: Yummy! It is good, but a bit overdone. Think of it like a good punjabi restaurant daal- nice but just a bit over the top that it makes you feel guilty. So good enough for all the FIT people. The others can skip it :)
    5. Kashmiri Rajma with Rice: Its o-kay. The rice is long grain, though the packaging makes it a bit harder than freshly made rice I suppose. The rajma curry is a bit watery, kinda runny if you like. Little oil though. The taste was good, but the rajma was a bit towards under-done. The size of the rajma makes me wonder if it was truly the soft succulent but smaller sized Kashmiri Rajma. I don't think this is Kashmiri Rajma! But anyways, its okay for one try. For a punjabi, this is one of those dishes you will eat and constantly remind yourself of the crap you have to eat because of your travels! Neutral :)
    6. Rajma Masala: Passable. The rajma is just a tad under cooked for my taste and the gravy is a bit watery. The masala is fine, but it leaves you with a bit of a so-so experience. Avoid.
    7. Chana masala: Nicely cooked but too much floating oil (two tablespoons!). The masala was missing zing - I'm struggling to pinpoint what went wrong, the gravy was rich, the chana had the right size and texture but the flavor wasnt 100% there. Falls into the o-kay category. Once in a while really.
  • Kitchens of India:
    1. Dal Bukhara: Highly recommended. Absolutely yummy makhni daal, with just the right amount of butter (there is no additional floating butter / ghee) in it. Tastes as good as if made at home. I've had more than 6 packets of this - and I can have many many more, cleaning the bowl dry every time. It is GOOOD!
    2. Hazoori Petha Halwa: Tasty almost authentic but VERY sinful. Highest % calories due to high sugar I guess (396 kcal/g). Other negatives include excess ghee that literally flows. If heated right, it tastes very nice.
    3. Mirch ka Salan: Total letdown. The gravy was okay but a bit too rich. The mirch salan was nothing much to write home about - it was about oodles of gravy with bits of veggies in it. Avoid.
    4. Paneer Darbari: Law of averages again. Nowhere as yummy - a few paneer pieces in thick gravy that is yummy but not the level expected from Kitchens of India.
    5. Mughlai Paneer: Standard thick Kitchens of India gravy (i.e drain the oil right away). The few pieces of paneer in it were tasty, but the gravy is too sinful for most people to eat. Can have again.
  • MTR:
    1. Khadi Pakoda: Mostly Avoid. The taste is very authentic and visually looks appetizing. TILL you notice that the kadi is very thin and the pakoras don't really soak in the kadi. Hence the pakoras don't really become as soft and flavorful as you'd get it at home. I understand that's a limitation because otherwise the pakoras would dissolve in the packet itself. But, overall its not preferred. Rather less oil in it though- for the health-focused folks.
    2. Rajma Masala: Very nice. The very best MTR thus far - very limited oil, lots of flavor, and just the right consistency for the Rajma. I cleaned up the plate! Highly recommended!
    3. Rajma Chawal: So-so. The taste is quite decent, but the texture is again missing. It needed more Rajma. The chawal seemed 'overcooked' thus lacking the aroma and texture of "freshly made puffed basmati" rice. Good enough for a single male, but do not give it to a punjabi mother :)
    4. Masala Rice: Decent masala but little else. I could not really place the flavor, there were limited veggies, and the rice was similar to the rajma chawal. I wouldn't go back to it except for the need to have something "different". Its not really bad but its not something I would reach for instinctively, like the "Dal Bukhara"
    5. Veg Pulao: Decent long rice, some peas but little else. Nothing great in terms of flavor or aroma. Just okay okay rice with a hint of some veggies. I wouldn't go for it again.
    6. Pongal: Standard regulation pongal -nothing out of the world, but the regular decent enough stuff that you can have many times, without really getting bored of it. Of course, its not fresh cooked pongal but comes close enough. Add in a bit of Indian spices and its fun. Probably the only recommended MTR item I have found thus far.
    7. Mix veg curry: Its not bad. Its okay. But its not like outstanding (think a good makhni dal or a typical navratan korma). Its decent melange (and a bit spicy!) of potato, paneer, peas, beans, carrot etc. Its okay for variety but its not something that you find your hands unconsciously opening :)
    8. Paneer Mutter: Threw it halfway: the curry is okay, but the paneer is rubbery/chewy and the peas are also not soft enough. Not recommendable at all.
    9. Pav bhaji: It is quite decent - there is no pav, not much oil either, but the taste is okay. Its quite yummy - except for a strong chilli flavor. The spice overall is good and flavorful, but the chillies are just a bit too strong. I would definitely recommend you to try it and take a call whether you can manage the chillies.
    10. Kesari bhath: 50-50. I am undecided since it has a passable
      taste, but the consistency or texture is more towards paneer than soft
      kesari bhath you would eat at a nice restaurant. Nothing like the
      Hazoori Petha Halwa though - but once or twice chalega.
    11. Bisi
      bele bhath - Brilliant. The best MTR meal ever. Flavorful, lightly
      spiced, aroma and lots of different condiments / spices. Of course not
      100% as good as naivedyam but 80%+ there. Definitely buy it :)
    12. Lemon rice - I recommend it only as a room aroma device. The aroma is brilliant, the rice is crap. Almost hard, not long enough grain (like basmati), very chewy in fact. The aroma is to die for though!
    13. Palak Paneer - Rubbery paneer, Slightly runny, oily gravy. The masala is okay but the palak is undercooked. Straightaway headed to the dustbin. Doesn't even have the awesome aroma of the lemon rice.
    14. Mushroom mutter - You can buy this for sure. Except its a very decently made mushroom mutter in a rajma gravy. Otherwise the gravy is nicely done, not too oily, not too spicy, the mushroom and peas have just the right texture.

    I will continue to update this compendium as I keep traveling and eating more :)

    In terms of a general reference, you can't go wrong with a "kitchens of India" brand product! By the way, they currently include a free recipe CD as well. So double value in all :)

    -- If you are looking at a Jain option, the MTR pongal is the only non-onion option. Almost all yummy items will have high (15%+) percentage of onion in it.

    -- Even if you are going to a SE Asian country, pack your favorite packs from home. Here you have a high chance of finding only Pongal / Dal Tadka in most stores.

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    Story | by Dr. Radut