The Pouch Principle

No matter what the actual dish in question is, prepared, shelf-stable meals are often labeled  across the board as unhealthy, or even worse, unpalatable. To cast such a wide net across this vast category of edibles only does a disservice to the eater, putting scores of undiscovered flavors firmly out of reach. Sure, fresh is indisputably best whenever possible, but between busy schedules, budgetary constraints, and unreliable kitchens, this alternative becomes a prime option. Especially for the traveler with little more than a microwave at best, such handy shortcut meals are an absolute godsend.

One company producing pouches of higher quality than most is Tasty Bite, a staple in the vegan and vegetarian marketplace for almost a decade. Offering East Asian delights across countless country borders, it’s an easy introduction to the unique palate of spices that perfumes these unique cuisines, without needing to hunt down a restaurant willing to go without their ghee. Although there’s typically a package or two stashed away in my pantry in case of emergencies, I had no idea that Tasty Bite made more than just entrees until they landed on my doorstep. Now delving into the world of sides, there are scores of flavorful starchy options to pair with your punjab, if you so wish.

One of my favorites has always been the Channa Masala, a mildly spiced chickpea stew found on any Indian menu that’s worth reading through. This particular rendition bears incredibly tender, creamy chickpeas in a lightly tangy tomato sauce. More flavorful than hot, the pepper is played down while the sweeter, warmer spices perfume the dish. Whole spices lend occasional pops of flavor; toasted cumin or coriander seeds add concentrated bursts of flavor into different bites, keeping the eating experience exciting.

Plated on a bed of Thai Lime Rice, I was taken aback by just how delicious those unassuming grains were. A focal point in its own right, the rice leads with a strong punch of lemongrass, enhanced by the richness of coconut milk. Granted, the texture fell a bit more on the side of mushy than I would prefer, but for a dish that’s merely nuked for a minute and ready to go, you can’t beat that complex flavor.

Punjab Eggplant, another common stable of Indian cooking, tortures me to no end. Though I long to dig in with abandon, eggplant does still make my throat burn, so I passed the torch over to my mom for this taste test. She noted that the spice level was high enough to make her nose run, although there was still a notable sweetness about the sauce. The greatest failing here was the largely homogenous, pulpy texture, perhaps something that could be remedied with a pairing of crunchy crackers or flatbread instead of rice.

Of course, I just had to go the more traditional route and add Ginger Lentil Rice into the mix. Though this rice has the same soft qualities as before, the lentils poses a pleasantly surprising firm bite. Dyed a brilliant yellow thanks to the turmeric-imbued curry powder, aromatic ginger essence does take the lead, just as promised. Much more interesting than your average “bean and rice” side dish, I would venture to say that it could even be considered a full meal in itself, thanks to the effortless combination of nutritious proteins and starches.

Previous unbeknownst to me, Tasty Bite has also begun serving up Asian noodles in their iconic pouches. Sampling the Kung Pao Asian Noodles with high hopes, I’m sad to report that the noodles themselves proved predictably overcooked, well past the stage of aldente. Painted in a tangy, punchy sauce, toothsome peanuts and water chestnuts do introduce a bit more character to the combination, if not quite the structure I so craved. Balancing sweetness, saltiness, and spiciness, it’s nothing too complicated or challenging; easy comfort food for the harried eater. However, I can’t say I would readily venture into the realm of noodle pouches again in the near future. There’s still a way for the technology to go to prevent the texture downfalls inherent in the pasta.

Sharing a world of flavors that will satisfy hunger pangs in a minute flat, it doesn’t get any easier than a quick meal whipped up courtesy of Tasty Bite. Just fire up the microwave and dig in.

10 thoughts on “The Pouch Principle

  1. The first time I went to study yoga in India (maybe 6-7 years ago?) I was so surprised to see how popular these pouches are over there too! There was an entire aisle of different dishes! I tried lots of them, and they were great for nights when I was getting home late from class and wanted something easy and satisfying. Also, it was easy to read the ingredients and make sure I was picking vegan options!

  2. Yeah pouches get such a bad rap! I was just given this pouch of red quinoa and sprouted brown rice. Nothing wrong with that! I love the fun kinds of foods you find in other countries. Like Amey said, the Indian food pouches are stellar. And my favorite thing from my first trip to Israel was the little bags of chocolate milk you could buy at any gas station. Haha that sounds really gross but it was the best.

  3. I was surprised by their collection too. most of the indian dishes taste quite a bit similar. I need to try the grains and noodles.

  4. I need to try the rice pouches as I’ve only had the eggplant and the chana masala- which is amazing! I often have a few of these boxes tucked away in the pantry for days when I don’t get to the store or don’t feel like cooking. I think they have great flavor and enough spice!

  5. It’s always good to hear of handy stuff like this that tastes good for when you’re stuck with nothing in the fridge and stomach rumbling! I’ll give the noodles a miss, but I love channa masala so I’m heartened it even tastes good in pouch form!

  6. I love Tasty Bite, they are one of the only packaged Indian foods I’ll buy. I love your pictures!

  7. Glad to read your review on Tasty Bite :) they’re definitely handy in case of emergencies! And same here, Channa Masala is one of my favorites, especially the Thai Lime Rice ;) I love that little takeout box, brilliant way to photograph the noodles in it!

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