Wendyl Wants to Know: A fast meal with real food, not chemicals
Naked Panda Green Chicken Curry with Noodles $2.99 for 200g
I had no choice but to analyse this as it leapt off the shelf and into our shopping trolley with the aid of my 13-year-old daughter. This packaging appeals to kids and teens alike and according to my daughter "everyone loves them". A quick glance told me that there wasn't too much to worry about and so it came home with us and was pronounced delicious by my daughter when she ate it. Frustratingly, this is one of those products that has a website but tells you nothing much about what is in it. The product is made in Thailand and sold by Wisehold 11 Ltd in Nelson. Its main shareholder is Sealord.
Cooked noodles [durum wheat (59 per cent), water, soy lecithin] These are noodles made of wheat as you would use in your own cooking. There is water listed I presume because they are cooked and therefore have absorbed water and the soy lecithin will be in here to hold the noodles together. It is a yellow-brownish fatty substance which occurs in animal and plant tissues, in this case soya beans.
Coconut milk [coconut extract 90 per cent, water, emulsifier (435)] Coconut extract basically means a liquid taken from coconut flesh. Water will be in here to thin it a little and the emulsifier 435 is polysorbate 60 which some people aren't very happy about. In this it helps keep the oils in the coconut milk and the water mixed together. But there have been numerous studies about this ingredient, some of them showing cancerous tumour growth on rats and mice. This is more often used in cosmetics and there is further testing being done but there are no restrictions on it being used in our food.
Chicken (10 per cent) There were about four bite-sized pieces of chicken when I opened this pouch.
Sugar This does taste quite sweet and you'll get 9.5g if sugar per serving size of 200g which is just over two teaspoons.
Green bean I found a tiny bit of bean about 2cm long so not a lot of veges in here really despite the product image on the packet which had at least four beans in it.
Soybean oil This is a common cooking oil used in many processed foods.
Garlic The minute you open this pack you can smell the spices and garlic which is reassuring. Nice to see garlic here rather than a powdered version.
Shallot These are a version of onions favoured in French cooking. These along with the garlic, spices and herbs below would have been ground up to form a curry paste for the noodles.
Chilli You can taste the chilli but this product isn't too spicy.
Salt This is quite high in salt with 1010mg of sodium per serving which equates to about 2.5g of salt. Spices Not sure what these are but likely to be curry spices such as coriander and cumin.
Lemongrass This is commonly used in Thai cooking and looks like grass which has had its root chopped up and tastes strongly of lemon.
Basil Another ingredient in Thai cooking, this is a strong tasting herb popular in most cuisines.
Shrimp paste This is made from fermented ground shrimp, sun dried and then cut into fist-sized rectangular blocks. A little goes a long way in terms of flavour.
Kaffir lime leaf These are leaves from the kaffir lime tree, which are also popular in Southeast Asian cooking and an important flavour for some green curries.
Thickener (1422) This is acetylated di-starch adipate which is a starch - likely to be corn, wheat or soy treated with acids to produce a starch which can cope with lots of stirring and high temperatures. It will be in here to keep the mixture thick.
Mineral salts (sodium bicarbonate, 339) Baking soda and sodium phosphate, most likely here as preservatives.
As a meal on the run, this is a lot better than instant noodles, which are basically noodles swimming in a soup of chemicals. This product has more real ingredients listed on its label and it's refreshing to see things like basil, garlic, lemongrass and kaffir lime in here and no artificial colours or flavours. I'm not that happy about polysorbate 60, which does have a carcinogen question mark over it, and at $2.99 it's nowhere near as cheap as other convenience noodle products. But I'd rather serve this to my kids than takeaways or instant noodles because they are tasting and consuming real flavours and food rather than chemical substitutes.
Highlights * Has 21 ingredients, most of which are natural, real food. * Has polysorbate 60, which is known to cause cancer in animals and is mostly used in cosmetic products. * Fat levels are okay at 10 per cent but sugar and salt are a little high.