Food Review: Saffron Road Beef Bulgogi microwave meal
Saffron Road recently released a line of microwave hansik (Korean food) recreating classic dishes such as 비빔밥 bibimbap and 불고기 bulgogi. After reviewing sample meals of 고추장 gochujang-slathered chicken and bibimbap with beef, we examined Saffron Road’s Beef Bulgogi.
What is 불고기 bulgogi?
Bulgogi is known as being a savory, garlicky, slightly sweet meat dish. By comparison, the bulgogi marinade in the Saffron Road meal was soy sauce-forward. It was a bit sweet, but it seemed to lack the savoriness endowed by judicious use of sesame oil, even though sesame oil was on the list of ingredients. The beef was well-cooked and tender, without being dry and overcooked, which is difficult to accomplish in a meal subjected to a microwave oven.
One small quibble: The phrase “beef bulgogi” is somewhat redundant, because bulgogi is generally understood as being beef. If the dish is served with any other meat, it’s called 닭불고기 dakbulgogi (grilled chicken) — not to be confused with 닭갈비 dakgalbi (spicy grilled chicken “ribs”) and 불닭 buldak (fire chicken) — or 돼지불고기 dwejibulgogi (grilled pork).
“Saffron Road’s new Korean-style products are American cuisine at its best — each dish forges together diverse international flavors, spices and sauces from different corners of the globe to make something truly memorable and uniquely American.” —Jack Acree, executive vice president of Saffron Road, in a press release issued on March 4, 2014.
Inclusion of brown rice in this dish seems to be an homage to health-oriented American cuisine and the clientele of Whole Foods Market, where distribution rolled out initially. In South Korea, brown rice traditionally has been considered animal feed, but that is changing. In the U.S., Chinese fast-food chain Panda Express has been experimenting with offering brown rice, and some Indian restaurants are starting to offering it too.
The brown rice in Saffron Road’s Beef Bulgogi was mixed with mushrooms, onions, yellow pepper, bok choy, soybean sprouts and scallions. I normally don’t like brown rice. But mixed with enough veggies and sauce, I can eat it and tell myself it’s good for me.
There are more veggies mixed in this bulgogi than you will find in a Korean restaurant. I like to think it’s a small compensation for the fact that the meal doesn’t come with 3-6 banchan plates, but I had to include a side of kimchi and a small micro green salad with my meal.
I believe these meals have lived up to Saffron Road’s vision: They are respectfully inspired by Korean cuisine but are made for the American market. They taste good and introduce people with gluten sensitivities, celiac disease and people who otherwise avoid Korean food because of dietary restrictions to Korean food.
The suggested retail price is $5.99, and Saffron Road’s Korean frozen dishes can be found at Whole Foods stores across the U.S. I haven’t found them on sale via Amazon.com or other grocers at the time of publishing.
Disclosure: Financial compensation was not received for this post. Saffron Road sent samples for review. Opinions expressed here are my own — and/or my dear husband’s.