Brace yourselves for a completely unfair fight. Trader Ming's [Mildly Sweet & Spicy] Beef & Broccoli vs La Casa de Samdrew's Beef and Broccoli. It's a beef & broccoli showdown. Throw down if you prefer.
Backstory: During the few times A has accompanied me to TJ's, I have half-jokingly suggested that we pick up the beef & broccoli. Almost every time, he has said something along the lines of "OMO NO NEVER." And if y'all have seen any of my previous posts, y'all know that Trader Ming has a lackluster track record around here. Beef & broccoli is only his favorite comfort food of all time, and to have it completely desecrated by Trader Ming would be almost unforgivable. I suggested a beef & broccoli battle - Trader Ming's versus his version of his mother's signature beef & broccoli. She is better known on this blog as the Boss Chef. That's a capital B and capital C because she's the boss. I assembled the frozen aisle Trader Ming's while A made his mother's signature beef & broccoli. Or at least his derivative of the real deal, because we are definitely not on Boss Chef's level yet.
This I found shocking - Trader Ming is made in Mexico???
That's a long ingredient list y'all.
I used the skillet method.
Hmm. Doesn't look like beef.
Trader Ming's version resembles standard "Chinese" takeout fare. Doesn't look half bad. I definitely wasn't expecting this to be anywhere near moderately good, but it turned out okay. Maybe even better than okay. It's completely incomparable to real beef & broccoli, but as a American-Chinese takeout substitute? It's not bad at all. If takeout sweet and sour chicken had a baby with takeout beef & broccoli, this would be it.
Here's the breakdown:
- Sauce - I used the entire sauce packet. It was still over-sauced, but I appreciated that the sauce wasn't thick and gloopy. A was not a fan of the sour whereas I liked the tang. I normally don't like sweet and savory, but I suppose the sweetness here really was mild. Apparently, they've reduced the amount of sugar from previous versions, which works for me. It's a tad spicier than "mildly spicy" but definitely nowhere near Szechuan levels. A little peppery too, which reminded me a little of black pepper steak.
- Meat - I was not expecting a "crispy" meat. There's so much breading, you can't really tell what kind of meat it is, which means you don't have very much of it. Boo. But since it is crispy and fried, it tastes good.
- Broccoli - Really not much to say here, except that they gave you the equivalent of one small crown. Also, it wasn't nearly as crunchy as the broccoli we normally eat in beef & broccoli.
- Prep - pretty low maintenance. Typical of TJ's frozen food.
- Price - Three servings for $6.99. Not terrible.
A's version of "real" beef & broccoli. Real beef and plenty of it. Broccoli blanched and stir-fried to crunchy perfection. And that sauce. Beef & broccoli sauce on white rice is A's stranded-on-a-desert-island food.
I keep emphasizing real and not real. Of course in our house, we think that real is better, especially A who grew up in the house of the Boss Chef! But think of it like instagram filters - they make things look more hipster and pretty but you have to be cognizant of what is real and what is not. That doesn't mean you can't appreciate a heavily filtered, bling-ed out photo; it's just very different from reality.
Overall, this dish reminds me of this video of Chinese people trying Panda Express. Surprisingly edible but you might find it disgusting if you only go for hardcore, authentic Chinese food, which is generally where we stand. But let me emphasize also - if takeout is your thing, this wasn't bad at all. In fact, A says he would eat it again. I give it my stamp of torn sympathy. Not awesome enough for a repurchase but decent enough for future consumption. Give 'em some love if you love takeout!
TL;DR: Trader Ming's Mildly Sweet & Spicy Beef & Broccoli. Definitely not authentic but a pretty decent combo of everything you like about Chinese takeout. Rice not included. 5.5 out of 10.