Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Parker Lee Spicy Hot Beef Noodle Bowl

Walking through the frozen food aisle of my local grocery store once filled me with indescribable horror. I just knew that I would end up getting something absolutely stomach churning, and try it just for a few moments of entertainment for complete strangers. So, I decided to do something to me. I decided to just pass by the aisle. I was going to take a week off.

Spicy hot beef noodle!
Spicy hot beef noodle!

But then, on my way to the check-out aisle...I saw it. It was a bowl of frozen food. Parker Lee's Spicy Hot Beef Noodle Bowl to be exact. It promised to be spicy and hot and include both beef and noodle. Also it was fun to scream it out at the top of my lungs like a Japanese game show host.

Spicy hot beef noodle!

Spicy hot beef noodle!

Spicy hot beef noodle!

Holy shit that's a lot of fat and salt!
Holy shit that's a lot of fat and salt!

Ignoring the bewildered stares from my fellow shoppers, I took the bowl of frozen noodley goodness to the cashier and went home to begin preparation of this most blessed of frozen dinners. Well, actually I didn't know if this would be good or not. It just looked good. I mean, the cover shows big pieces of braised beef sitting on a pillow of wheat noodles, with leafy greens and small rings of chili peppers sprinkled on top like spicy little sprinkles on top of a big bowl of ice cream.

Hell, the carton even promised beef stock...I'm not sure why, but it did.

Instead of the normal microwave / oven directions, this one includes microwave and steamer instructions. I don't have a specialty steamer, and I don't like the extra 4 minutes of cooking time, so I'm going to stick with the good old nuke-box. Just before I forget, check out the rules (and the reason why I'm not going to steam this):

  • Rule #1:
    I must follow cooking procedures exactly as they're shown on the container. I will not deviate from those instructions in any way, and I must prepare food in the fastest manner presented to me.
  • Rule #2:
    I must consume everything that comes with the meal. No hiding of disgusting parts will be tolerated. (In the unlikely event of bones or other inedibles, allowances will be made).
  • Rule #3:
    To make sure my palate is completely free of obstructions, I may only be allowed either water or alcohol. Alcohol does not include fancy-pants fruity girly drinks.
  • Rule #4:
    All food will be graded by smell, taste and mouthfeel, with less offensive qualities receiving higher marks. At the end, each part is receives an average score. The full meal is graded by the average score of each component. Appearance of the food is not graded because, let's face it, they all look pretty bad.
You thought I was making that up eh?
You thought I was making that up eh?

Now, this bowl has one of the most elaborate set of instructions for preparing the meal I've ever seen in a long time. Hell, I'm surprised that it doesn't ask me to go out, raise a cow from birth, feed it by hand for a couple of years before slaughtering it, butchering it and carving up the brisket to place on top. Here however are the instructions verbatim from the packaging:

  1. Without thawing
  2. Take off cardboard sleeve
  3. Pull open film about 3cm
  4. Microwave on high for 6 minutes (ovens vary)
  5. Remove film (hot, be careful)
  6. Add 3/4 cut of boiling water
  7. Stir well and serve

Gotta make sure.  I'm pretty sure it'll explode if it's off by a millimeter.
Gotta make sure. I'm pretty sure it'll explode if it's off by a millimeter.

See what I mean? It's really detailed. I decided that I'd follow the instructions as much as possible and got out my trusty ruler to measure a 3cm opening in the film before throwing it in the microwave. At the same time, I put the kettle on to boil some water. I think this is the first time I've cooked one of these meals before cooking it again.

One little stir and all the beef, noodles, cabbage and broth were all mixed together and looking quite yummy.

Spicy Hot Beef Noodle Bowl
Kind of looks like brain surgery.
Kind of looks like brain surgery.

And here it is, the moment of truth. I leaned in close to the bowl and took a big sniff. At first, it was very bland with a slight hint of nutmeg. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Spicy bricks made of compressed habanero peppers dusted down with pepper spray. It's not good smelling. In fact, I think it's pretty bad, but it gets the point across. This is promising heat. Heat I like. Heat is good and makes the pain go away. Bring it on.

Then, I took a few bites, and decided that I'd have to talk about all the components separately.

The noodles are wheat-based, and not fancy. They're tasteless, but then again, they're noodles. That's why we cover noodles with stuff, to give them some taste. Unlike most of the noodles I've come across, these are neither hard nor sticky. They're cooked al dente, and they're pretty good.

The beef is ok. It's cut from the brisket, and has been cooked in the Chinese style, over low heat until it has become tender. The only difference is that it's lacking spice. I mean, for something that smelled fantastically spicy, these little slabs of meat have all the flavor of a styrofoam sandwich. Even worse, the meat still has huge chunks of quivering and shimmering fat clinging to it. Not a pretty sight, and not a great bite to take.

The cabbage is sliced thin, like the skin of an onion. And what kind of cabbage do you ask? Why it's napa cabbage!

If you get this reference, commence hanging your head in shame.
If you get this reference, commence hanging your head in shame.

Despite feeling like reconstituted food in my mouth, and having it stick to the roof of my mouth, the flavor of the cabbage can be described as 'bland'. Holy crap, for something that boldly placed the word 'spicy', it's sure not working out. My tea-drinking, sweater-knitting grandma puts spicier stuff on her toast at breakfast.

Finally, we come to the broth. Surprise, surprise, it's flat and flavorless. There's little flavor here....there's not even salt. Fuck, I would stab somebody with a broken beer bottle just for a little dash of MSG to break the monotony. Besides that, it's thin and smooth. Let me rephrase that. It's not smooth, it's fucking greasy. I'm not sure if it's all the fat from the beef or if it was hidden in the bottom of the bowl on purpose, but there's a lot of fat in there, forming small islands on the surface.

The Totals:

Smell: 5.0/10
Taste: 3.0/10
Mouthfeel: 3.0/10
Total Score: (3.6/10)

There are certain places you don't expect food advertised as spicy to actually be spicy: fast-food restaurants, cafeterias, airplanes. There is an expectation though that when you buy something advertised as spicy in the grocery store, it actually has some degree of spice to it. Even a little flavor would be welcome.

Bottom line is this: Bring your own chillies just in case.

Did you like this article? Then try:

Bookmark and Share