Ken Hom has sold millions and millions of woks worldwide, he has cookware, cookbooks, tv series, a friendly face and a food range at Tesco. If you were being disingenuous you could say he was out to make a lot of money whatever it takes, but then you see his friendly face and you forgive him.
Chinese food can be gross and greasy at the best of times even when made by real chinese people in real chinese take aways. The idea of it being produced in a factory and portioned into plastic trays to reheat at home is not then the most appealing idea – but if Ken Hom and his friendly face appear on the box then it must be OK right?
I went for some chilli beef, spare ribs and an accompaniment of egg fried rice. The cardboard sleeve covers up the food in the shop so it is not until you get it home and remove the packaging that you get a good glimpse of what you have bought. It all looks absolutely disgusting, sub dog food, reconstituted sludge. The chilli beef look like they have been left under a heat lamp at a BHS buffet (I know I’ve been to a BHS buffet – I’d advise you not to) dry and a subdued brown colour and that is before cooking. The rice looks grey and so unappetising. But worst of all the spare ribs, they look like slurry that has been reformed and glued onto the bones. The only hope is in the vibrant sauce which has a deep colour and is flecked with chilli.
They all cook at 190C but have different cooking times so things just get added as we go along, however in 25 mins everything is ready. Now came the biggest surprise since I started this blog, it all tastes good! I have eaten far worse from takeaways. It doesn’t look any more appetising than it did pre cooking but if you get over that, this is worth a try. The crispy beef is crispy and, whilst it is hard to discern that it is beef rather than a random meaty texture in batter, when dipped in the plum and chilli sauce it is tasty. The sauce is sweet at first with a nice chilli kick and not cloying. The ribs are the real revelation they are real meat after all! They manage to be both chewy and tender with the sweet sauce finishing them off nicely. The rice could do with being hotter than it’s 15 min cooking time lets it get, but it is al dente and tastes fine – nothing outstanding and still grey looking but it exceeds expectation.
The moral of the story don’t judge a book by its cover, trust Ken Hom’s friendly face and save yourself the expense of a take away.
Ken Hom Crispy Chilli Beef and Spare Ribs – at the moment it is 2 for £5 (applies to all dishes in the range)
Ken Hom Egg Fried Rice – £1.35 for 250g
7/10 (probably actually 6/10 but I was so surprised I notched it up)