After my husband played Metal Gear Solid 3 he asked “How does it taste?” about just about everything for a few months afterward. So yep, this is all about PF Chang’s frozen dinners and “How does it taste?”
Well, let’s start with the basics. All these dinners are pretty pricey. I’ve gotten them from Kroger and Harris Teeter and they were $9.99 at both grocery stores. I’ve read online that they come as cheap as $7.50 but that’s still a bit steep. I can get the Trader Joe’s “Trader Ming’s” orange chicken for about $5 a bag, and I make 4 servings out of the Trader Joe’s, because the sauce packets are separate you can make up only a half-bag if you want. The PF Chang’s bags have the sauce in cubes all mixed in with the veggies and meat so it would be very hard to separate it out.
The dinners are pretty easy to make, and fairly quick. Most of them have the base instructions of just throw in a pan (I use a wok) at medium-high heat for 12 minutes, cover and stir occasionally. They don’t come with any rice, so sometimes I start up some steamed rice before starting the entree. They’re supposed to be 2 servings but with rice it could easily be split up into 3 or 4.
This one turned out pretty good, and fairly close to the restaurant’s orange chicken. It’s hard not to compare this one to Trader Joe’s since we do eat that one quite often. It certainly doesn’t have the crispiness that Trader Joe’s has, but it’s still good. The PF Chang’s might be nice every now and then especially because it’s got some veggies in there that Trader Joe’s doesn’t have in theirs, but I think we’ll stick with Trader Joe’s most of the time. I think the carrots and water chestnuts turned out well, but I’m not hot on edamame. At 450 calories per serving (not including any rice you might add) it’s also one of the heavier entrees they offer.
Beef with Broccoli
This one wasn’t quite as good as the orange chicken. The broccoli came out soft and overcooked, probably because of being frozen. I don’t think broccoli reheats very well after freezing. The meat also seemed extremely fatty. I had a bit of bone fragment in mine as well. Again the meal was extremely filling, especially when you add the rice. I don’t think I’ll buy this one again, since I make a pretty good beef and broccoli anyway.
General Chang’s Chicken
My favorite so far. You probably don’t need steamed rice with this one, since it’s 410 calories per serving with just the meat/veggies/sauce, and completely filling anyway. This is P.F. Chang’s version of General Tso’s chicken. The sauce in it was spicy for a frozen Chinese dinner. I think the sauce was the best part of it. There was broccoli in it, again not as crisp and fresh as I would like, and red peppers, which my husband hates (but I love). But the sauce and the chicken were just great. I would get this one again, though not often, because it still is quite expensive for a frozen meal.
Sweet and Sour Chicken
My husband’s favorite. Again at 410 calories per serving, I thought it would be filling already, so I didn’t make any steamed rice with it. But my husband said he would have preferred some rice with this one, to help soak up all the sauce. I ate all the bell pepper bits in the bag, since he doesn’t like them. Again it doesn’t have the crispiness that chicken made separate from the sauce would have, but it’s still good. It’s my second best behind the General Chang’s chicken. I made it again 2 weeks later, this time with rice, and I still like it.
Shanghai Style Beef
I liked this one a lot better than the beef with broccoli. I’m sure they probably use the same kind of beef in both, but at least this one didn’t have any bone pieces in it. Still pretty fatty though. The sauce in this one is great though, almost as good as the General’s chicken. It comes with some string beans, red peppers and onions. The string beans may have gotten overcooked (I do always follow the directions) because they weren’t very crisp at all. They kind of squeaked when I ate them. I always like red peppers but the texture is never the same after they’re frozen. And I think the onions in this were better than in others, though they should be the same. It’s really the sauce that makes this one great though. This one is one of the leaner ones at only 320 calories per serving, and I think we’ll be getting this one again in the future.
Ginger Chicken and Broccoli
The ginger chicken and broccoli cooks up similar to the rest, covered on medium high for 10 minutes and then uncovered for 3 minutes. I had never tried this one in the restaurant so I can’t compare how the frozen tastes to it. But I didn’t like this one much. The sauce isn’t spicy at all. The broccoli, as with the rest, always gets pretty mushy and bland. The chicken is pretty much the same as the rest, but without a good sauce it’s really not worth it. This one is a bit lighter than some, at 320 calories per serving. But since we had a guest over I split it up between 3, and added some rice. As usual I ate the red peppers from my husband’s dish.
Shrimp Lo Mein
I should start out by saying I’m not much of a shrimp person. I’ll eat it, but it’s not something I would seek out the way I do with some ribs, or a good steak. But I figured for OCD sake I should probably review all the varieties. The noodles in this one cook up surprisingly well. Most frozen noodles never reheat quite right, but these aren’t bad at all. The veggies featured in this one were bok choy, celery, carrots and mushrooms. I think it could have used less celery, and more bok choy and mushrooms. The shrimp wasn’t really cooked the way I like it. I like my shrimp very well cooked, usually hibachi style so that it’s almost a little burnty on the outside, or breaded and fried. These ones just got boiled up which made them soft and chewy. I thought the sauce was a bit bland, especially compared to some of the better sauces like in the General Chang’s chicken. This one had 360 calories per serving, and I didn’t serve it with rice because it already had noodles in it. This one had a crazy amount of salt in it, I guess to make up for the blandness. We won’t be getting this one again.
Garlic Chicken with Dan Dan Noodles
Nearly a year after the original frozen entrees came out, in August 2011 I found some new selections at my local Kroger. The $9.99 is still a bit pricy for these in my opinion, but I wanted to finish reviewing the rest of them
This entree features large strips of chicken, a mildy spicy garlic sauce, spaghetti (though they call it “Dan Dan Noodles”), bok choy and yellow bell peppers. The directions are quite simple, just toss it all into a pan and cook on medium high for 6 minutes covered, then 6 minutes uncovered. I decided not to make any rice with this, since it already came with noodles. The results were quite meager though, at only 380 calories per serving, this little heap of noodles looked quite pathetic in the bowls. The flavor was quite good though. I was considering adding soy sauce because it was looking pretty bland, but after tasting it, the garlic sauce had a nice flavorful spice to it. I liked the yellow peppers, though they did get a bit soggy after cooking, and the leafy bok choy wasn’t as crisp as it would have been fresh, but I didn’t mind it. I think the sauce is really what carried this dish. I wouldn’t mind having it again.
Grilled Chicken Teriyaki with Lo Mein Noodles
I guess the new PF Chang’s are all about noodles. Maybe too many people complained they didn’t come with rice or anything. The grilled chicken teriyaki comes with “lo mein noodles” but they looked and tasted exactly like the dan noodles to me. This one’s got pineapple chunks, onions, and red bell peppers in it too. It cooked up quickly, in 11 minutes without any additional boiling off of the sauce necessary. The serving size was a little small on this one, only 350 calories per serving and looked even smaller in the dish than the previous meal. My husband hated all the red peppers in it and he was constantly throwing them into my bowl. I liked it well enough, but I thought it was lacking veggies in general. It could have used some water chestnuts and sugar snap peas. The flavor was good, a nice, thick teriyaki sauce, but it wasn’t as good as some of their other sauces. The grilled chicken was a bit different than their normal chicken too, it had an odd texture that seemed like it belonged more in a cold salad. I didn’t like this one as much, and my husband wouldn’t want it again because of the excessive bell peppers.
Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings
They make a variety of appetizers now, including these Chicken and Vegetable dumplings with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and their “signature sauce” packet. Honestly I can’t tell the difference between their signature sauce and regular ol’ soy sauce, so I’m not even sure why they bothered to include it in the package. The directions for cooking these up include skillet, oven and microwave cooking, but not steaming. I usually steam the frozen dumplings I get from Trader Joe’s, and they turn out pretty good that way, so I’m not sure why there’s no steaming directions for the PF Chang’s ones. The skillet method was recommended on the back, so that’s what I did. I followed the directions starting out, with 1 tbsp. vegetable oil, 1/2 cup water in a covered skillet for 8 minutes on medium-high heat. I’m not sure what they meant by “medium-high” so I put it at about medium, thinking perhaps my stovetop might get hotter than most. After 8 minutes went by I took off the cover and started turning them, but most of them were pretty burned on the bottom already. I was supposed to continue turning and cooking them another 3 minutes, but I think I only made it 2 minutes before I decided they were burned enough.
Despite the burning, they were still pretty good dumplings. Better than the pork or vegetable ones they have at Trader Joe’s. But I think the cooking directions definitely need to be modified. I think next time what I’ll do is pan fry them for maybe 4-5 minutes until they get a nice brown bottom, then put them in a steamer for another 5 minutes or so.