Vesta has been making ready meals for many years now, and one of their most popular is the Chow Mein. Now unfortunately I have found these harder and harder to come by lately, as they used to be available from most major supermarkets and from local convenience stores as well. These days they will require a little more hunting for, but my local Morrisons store has them in stock. The price of these can also vary quite substantially, with them costing anywhere in the region of £2-£4, so they are especially good value if on special offer. The packaging states that they are meals for 2 people; however, I don't believe this for an instant. In my humble opinion, these meals are a perfect size for one person to eat on their own. If they were shared between 2 people, then I would imagine that you would have to eat something with it.
The product comes in a standard cuboid box, coloured in black, yellow, red and white on the back. It's a very distinctive box that adds to the appeal of the meal. Also on the front is a delicious looking preview of what the meal will eventually look like. On the reverse on the package is a fair bit of information that will either be of interest or not. They contain the cooking instructions, contact details, ingredients and also a brief history about Chinese dragons. I'm not 100% sure what the significance of this really is, but it does make an interesting read I suppose. Nutritional information is also included on the reverse and for all of you who are interested in such details; here is a list per pack.
Energy :- 585kcal
Protein :- 27.2g
Carbohydrates :- 99.4g
of which sugars :- 22.6g
Fat :- 8.6g
of which saturates :- 2.4g
Fibre :- 14.2g
Sodium :- 3.1g
As you can see these meals include a fair bit of everything, making them perhaps not the healthiest option on the market, but certainly eaten now and again can be included in a good balanced diet. The main issue from a dietary point of view is the large amount of salt in the meal, so people who have been urged to follow a lower sodium diet should probably steer clear of these to be honest.
Once the packet is opened you are faced with a packet of soft noodles, a packet containing the chow mein itself, a packet of crispy noodles (my personal favourite) and also a sachet of soy sauce. Cooking instructions are provided and it is reasonably simple to prepare. The chow mein and the soft noodles are placed along with 525ml of hot water into a microwavable bowl, and cooked on full power for 10 minutes. Also it can be placed into a saucepan and cooked for approximately 20 minutes, but I must confess that I have never tried this particular method, and I would imagine it to be slightly messier than the microwave option. In the mean time, you have to prepare the crispy noodles too and placing the noodles into a deep fat fryer or chip basket does this. Alternatively for people like me who don't have this fancy cooking paraphernalia, you can cook them in the good old frying pan in a bit of oil or fat. They don't take long and puff up into crisp like snacks to be served either on top of the chow mein or separately. Finally add the soy sauce to taste over the top and you are ready to begin the eating process.
The texture of the actual soft noodles and chow mein is really as you would expect. The noodles are very soft, and easy to eat, and the slightly rougher texture of the vegetable and meat mix provides a good contrast. The crispy noodles are basically like crisps, with that crunchy texture and the melt in your mouth sort of effect. The uncooked product has very little scent, however the finished product smells wonderful, oriental and appetising all in one, just begging you to tuck in.
Now onto the taste of it and its exactly as a chow mein should be. The meat and vegetables in the soy sauce taste just superb, as if you were there in a Chinese restaurant, and the crispy noodles are a wonderful accompaniment, and I would buy these separately for a general snack if I could. I should qualify these statements by saying that of course, being a ready meal, its nowhere near as good as one you have prepared yourself from scratch, but for a quick tasty and filling meal, I think that the Vesta Chow Mein is definitely a good bet.
Summing up Vesta's Chow Mein is easy. Buy it! That's really all there is to say. From the ease of cooking to the wonderful experience of eating, this product is exactly what convenience food should be. Congratulations must go to Vesta for producing such a good bit of grub.
Thanks for reading and this review also appears on Ciao under my same username.
ok my dad used to cook this and its lovely first off brown off a pound of mince in a frying pan then discard the fat then add about a pint of water then add the sauce mix then 2 or 3 oxo's leave for a min or two then add the bigger bag of noodles and serve when the noodles are nice and soft i'm not sure how my dad found out about this but its so nice to eat
In the 1960's and then the 1970's, my parents and I used to buy the Vesta meals for both taking to the caravan in Lincolnshire and then as I got older I would have them as a quick dinner whilst at home during the school dinnertimes.They were tasty and had chunks of reasonably sized bits of beef in them. No mention of Soya in those days.Some 30 odd yrs later, I noticed some for sale in ASDA and thought it would be good to try one again.
My comments to H.L Foods Ltd and Premier Grocery Products Ltd are: that the standard and quality of the food has gone way way down hill, resulting in a bland tasteless mush, with Soya 'PARTICLES' masquerading as beef. The package says 5% chopped and shaped beef. Beef (4.5%). So of the 5% beef in the box only 4.5% of that amount is beef. (That's how I read it anyway.)
If companies do not want adverse comments posted regarding inferior food compared to the original, then KEEP to the ORIGINAL RECIPE and don't try to charge more for less, as normal. I am going to try as many varieties as possible now to see just how bad they have all become. I'll keep you posted of the results.
Now as a kid of the 70s i used to love the Vesta Chow Mein as a special treat when my mum was too busy to make a proper meal - ah the irony. Anyway as i grew up and not giving them much consideration i probably thought they stopped making them so i was pleasantly surprised when i spotted them in my local Asda, along with others in the the same range including the paella and beef curry. (Have to admit i was never really keen on the other varieties it was only the Chow Mein that I liked).
I immediately put one into my shopping trolley for a trip down memory lane and a bit of nostalgia. The packaging hasn't changed at all from what i remember. While the Vesta Chow Mein has never been anything remotely like a proper Chinese Chow Mein it does have its own charms and is a bit of a guilty pleasure, a comfort food.
The pack describes the Chow Mein as soft noodles with chopped and shaped beef, vegetables, soya mince, crispy noodles and soy sauce. It comes in a black box with a picture of the chow mein and some chinese characters on it with the dragon stamp saying generous portion, it is supposed to be for one person, i thought that it used to be for 2 but my memory may be failing me on this. Inside there are 4 packs one with the chow mein mix, one with the soft noodles, one with the crispy noodles and the last with soy sauce.
To cook it should take around 25 mintues in total you are advised to put the contents of the chow mein packet into a saucepan then add 525mls of cold water and bring to the boil stirring continuously. (I have to admit i didn't stir continuously but every no and again and it didn't seem to adversely affect the finished product). After it has come to the boil let it simmer for 5 minutes then add the contents of the soft noodles pack to the same pot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. You can also to the chow mein in the microwave but i prefer doing it on the hob.
The crispy noodles must be done at the same time but they don't take so long. Place the crispy noodles in a chip basket and place into a chip pan containing hot fat or cooking oil. The crispy noodles puff up and turn golden and only take a few seconds to do, so you need to keep your eye on them when making them.
Now the taste test - does it taste as good as i remember it? The answer in short is yes. It is probably not the best quality cuisine but as guilty pleasures go it is pretty darn good. The soft noodles and chow mein mix is very moist and the falvour has been soaked into the noodles, you can't really taste the beef too much but the vegetable taste is enjoyable, the crispy noodles are a relevation lovely and golden crisp tasty bites and when you eat the two things together it is quite tasty.
Priced at £1.55 in Asda this is a cheap guilty pleasure and one that i will be purchasing again for a rainy day when i need some comfort food. As I said previously it is not high cuisine but is a little reminder of childhood and quite tasty to boot.
I just dont know why I love Vesta Chow Mein so much as it bears little or no resemblance to real Chow mein either home made or from the takeaway but ever since I was about ten years old I have been smitten.
Lets go back just a few ..ahem.. years to the 1970s where Mum and I are doing the daily round of the local Finefair and I spot something exciting and exotic on the shelf. Mums is skeptical: it looks too complicated and foreign for her liking. I push the issue and by teatime I am seated at the table waiting for my first taste of the orient.
First I love the sauce: Despite having to reconstitute by simmering in water for a few minutes the taste is rich and full of nice vegetables. The soft noodles are slightly chewy but filling and the meat is soya based satisfaction to a tee. The best bit of all are the crispy noodles which magically puff up to big golden twirls and crackle when you add the soy sauce. Yum!!
As comfort-cum-retro nosh nothing beats this. Its not fast food as it takes about twenty minutes or so to cook but its well worth the effort. Thanks Mum!
I know it's not good to admit this but I LOVE these Chow Meins that Vesta make! It's a guilty secret and I can't believe I'm telling so many people because even some of my mates don't know I eat these! lol
It's a dried meal that you have to boil in water for as long as it takes for the food to absorb all the water. There is a packet of chow mein mix, a packet of soft noodles, a bag of crispy noodles and a sachet of soy sauce. You cook the chow mein and noodles together in one saucepan and then deep fry the crispy noodles, the poxy amount of soy sauce you get in a sachet is a waste of time so chuck that straight in the bin and give it a good splash out of the bottle!
When it's cooked it doesn't look that good, there are loads of soft noodles but they're loads thicker than the noodles you get in a chow main and are just ribbons of pasta really. The chow mein sauce is yummy, it's got a delish meaty flavour but has also got a nice oriental flavour. The flavour of it is mega synthetic but in a good way if you know what I mean.
What you've got to remember is that this is dried food and even though it's called CHOW MEIN it's not going to taste anything like one you'd buy from the Chinese..... unless your Chinese is crap!!! It's still got a delish flavour though and there's somthing mega addictive about this meal.
The crispy noodles don't actually need to be properly deep fried, if you put half an inch of fat into a frying pan you can do the noodles in batches and just turn them every few seconds when they start sizzling. They soak a good bit of fat up but have got a yummy moorish taste that goes sooooooo nice with the chow mein sauce.
The only thing I don't like in the meal are the peas and that's because they don't taste enough like real peas and are still a bit hard when they're cooked. There aren't many in there though so they're dead easy to pick out.
This box is supposed to do 2 people but I eat one to myself. Even if I was in a sharing mood I couldn't make this feed 2 so it's a bit stupid unless you're going to serve something with it. The only thing with eating the whole meal is that you deffo won't need the whole bag of crispy noodles because they're mega filling, if you wrap the bag back up though you can cook them another time.
Recommended..... on the quiet!!!
Vesta dried meals have been around for many years and they don't seem to have changed very much. Thirty years ago Vesta Meals were considered the ultimate in fast food treats. So, when I saw them on sale for £1.75 in my local shop I decided to buy one. I had no idea that they were still available. My mouth was watering at the thought of this delicious meal.
The red, yellow, black and white coloured cardboard box with its picture of your meal, contains a packet of noodles, a packet of crispy noodles, the chow mein itself and some soya sauce.
The cooking instruction are clear and simple enough to follow, but it is a bit of a fiddle. It says on the box that this meal feeds two. I am not a very big eater but I couldn't see this stretching to feed two people.
There are 565 calories in the combined dry ingredients but you have to add the calories in the oil to that and the soya sauce. The 8.6 grms fat and 3.1grms salt is a lot for such a small meal. These are certainly not the most healthy addition to the diet.
First of all the soft noodles and chow mein are covered in water (full instructions on the box) and cooked in the microwave and this takes around ten minutes. (This is a change in the product of course, but it used to be prepared in a pan but that is now optional if you don't have a microwave.)
The crispy noodles are prepared in a deep fryer, or if you prefer, they are just as good cooked in an ordinary frying pan with a little oil. The ribbons puff up as they cook.
The rest is simple. Place noodles, chow mein and crispy noodles on a plate and sprinkle over the soya sauce.
The smell is good and it made me feel hungry but the colour was a bit off putting as it is bright orange. I was a bit concerned about all this colouring. There really isn't much of it once you get it cooked.
Taste wise it was fine. It is spicy and you can taste tomatoes and soya sauce. The soft noodles have little taste but the crispy noodles are tasty, if a bit salty and slightly greasy.
The texture of this meal is not very good. The soft noodles are watery, droopy and just plain soggy when cooked according to the instructions and the chow mein is a bit coarser in texture but the pieces of reformed beef have certainly not got the texture of meat and they are rather like lumps of tenderised foam rubber. The sauce is salty and a little bit spilled on a white t-shirt was quite difficult to remove.
I ate around two thirds of this and threw the rest away. It was quite disappointing. Perhaps that was because I expected it to taste as good as it had done all those years ago and it just didn't live up to it. Tastes change!
This product is not really worth the effort. It is fiddly to make and in my opinion, a frozen Chinese meal would be quicker, tastier, and much netter value.
Vesta Chow Mein is a dry ingredient version of the Chinese Chow Mein that you have to cook yourself.
The pack comes with soft and crispy noodles, chopped and shaped beef, mixed vegetables and soya sauce.
It is easy to make. The dried meet and sauce goes into a saucepan with some water, cook until it simmers. The noodles can be added about 5 minutes from the end of the cooking times and the crispy noodles fried in vegetable oil. Once cooked it is easy to chuck it all onto a plate and serve with the soya sauce on top. It is also possible to cook the Chow Mein in a microwave.
The Chow Mein comes in a little black box and shows a picture of the meal on the front. The box contains 161g of dry ingredients and once prepared serves two (although the box states that it serves 1)
The Chow Mein contains:
I first came across this meal a few years ago and was surprised at how simple it is to cook. The first time I ate it I found it far too filling and now I share it with my girlfriend although it says suitable for one.
The meal is tasty enough and although not the healthiest meal around is certainly not unhealthy. It is a good meal for any time of the day.
Vesta meals are great if you do not mind predried meals, that you need to reconstitute with the cooking process.
I have to say I do like them and have done so for many years, I often buy them when I need a quick snack and like the Chow mein version quite a bit.
There are other versions of the Vesta meal as follows:-
All equally nice and flavoursome.
The Chow mein which we are talking about today is made from dried vegetables and beef and soy products with soft noodles and crispy noodles.
To cook you need water a pan and a frying pan with oil in to cook the crispy noodles.
First prepare the water in saucepan to boiling point and then add first sachet which contains meat and veg mixture, cook for around ten minutes then add soft noodles and cook until the water evaporates. While waiting for this to cook you can get oil hot in frying pan and cook quickly the crispy noodles. These are done in a matter of minutes very quickly.
The whole meal takes 20 minutes on stove top or ten minutes in microwave so it depends how long you want to wait for your meal. I do prefer this cooked on the conventional cooker although I have cooked it in the microwave too. I mainly prefer the cooker top because you can smell the thing cooking and it does give you an appertite for the dish when it is finished. Smelling slightly spicy and rich I use the soy sauce provided as instructed on the pack but some may find this a little too salty.
I think it adds to the flavour.
It is a high salt product and I feel this is to do with the dried vegetables of course I may be wrong.
The packs available today are usually for one person which is adequate but I have been known to buy the two person packs and eat the lot myself.
I found them quite addictive and although they may not be quite the right thing to be eating these days I am sorry but much more tasty that a pot noodle.
I do not however think they resemble in any shape or form the real deal as chow mein from the chinese is totally different.
But it is a passable meal when you are stumped for something a bit different.
Last weekend I wanted to have a vesta meal that I had remembered having many years ago. The meal was their chow mein and the thing I remembered most about it was the crispy noodles which puffed and spiralled when you put them in oil.
At first I was a bit disheartened because I was in sainsburys and couldnt find any vesta meals at all, I asked for some assistance and was told that they dont sell them anymore! So I went onto Tesco price check to have a look and see if anyone sells them and found yes indeed it is sold in all the major supermarkets apart from Sainsburys.
Off I went to Tesco and sure enough found them there and they cost 1.30. and found they also sold a beef curry, I didnt get that though but decided to get two boxes of the chow mein. One box serves one person.
The box was exactly how I remembered it. A square cardboard box with a black background. Vesta is written in white with a red background on the top left corner, underneath it says "chow mein" in a i presume chinese looking black font on a yellow square. Around those titles is a liee green frame of chinese design with a little dragon in the four corners. There is also a hexangonal green shape with a chinese palace on it saying "Shanghai, China" which I guess is where the meal comes from. The rest of the front of the box is a picture of the finished meal on a black plate. It looks very tasty. You can see plenty of soft golden noodles which look like tagliatelle pasta with minced beef and what appears to be a scattering of peas and chopped pepper pieces. The crispy noodles are piled on top and look like curly quavers crisps but thinner.
I just noticed on the top of the box there is a picture of a briefcase handle which is a bit odd. Anyway, on the back are the ingredients, cooking instructions and nutritional information. To stand out from the back backround these are written on a yellow background. Also there are a few lines talking about chinese dragons and saying that they lived on human sacrifices because they didnt have any vesta meals to eat.
It says that the Chow Mein consists of soft noodles with chopped, shaped beef, vegetables, soya mince, crispy noodles and soy sauce. The vegetables are carrots, green beans, red peppers, onions and peas. Now I have to say ive never had proper Chow Mein from a chinese restaurant so I dont know if this is an authenic recipe. Im guessing they probably dont use soya.
So inside the box you will find all the ingredients which are all dried so they have a best before date of July 2010. They are separated into a bag of soft noodles, a bag of sauce mix, a bag of crispy noodles and a sachet of soy sauce. There are no cooking instructions on the bags so you need to keep the box handy.
The sauce mix is contained in a white packet much like a large version of a cupasoup packet, it has green writing on it simple saying vesta sauce mix. Even though the packet is 17cm high the mix only fills 6cm of it! Dont worry though it is plenty enough. The soft and crispy noodles are both in see through bags. The soft noodles are in a bigger bag and there are many more of them. It says the name of the noodles on the bag in back writing. If you look at the noodles you will see that the soft noodles are about half the width of the crispy ones but about the same length (4cm). If you hold the bag of crispy noodles to the light they are also a little transparent and look more yellow which the soft noodles are not and look more brown.
For the soft noodles and sauce you can either microwave them or heat them on the stove. This will take 10 minutes in a microwave or about 25 on the stove.
I decided to do them on the stove which is an electric stove. Firstly you empty the sauce mix into the saucepan. First you put the sauce mix into a saucepan. You need to use 525ml of water and bring to the boil. What I did was measure out that much and boil it in the kettle first so that it wouldnt take hardly any time to boil when put into a saucepan.
You then bring this to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes white stiring. At this point it looks like a very watery soup with hard pieces of vegetables and beef/soya pieces swimming around in it.
You then add the soft noodles and bring the mixture back to boiling again and them simmer for 15 minutes. You do not need to keep stirring the mixture all the time but as the water evaporates and rehydrates the ingredients you will need to stir in the last few minutes and every so often to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan. If you have used the correct amount of water there will not be any excess. In fact there shouldnt be any actual "sauce" it should just be the noodles, meat and vegetable pieces, so keep cooking until all the water has gone but it looks moist. As it is cooking the soft noodles do indeed become soft and like pasta and the vegetable pieces become more colourful. There is a really distinct flavour to the meal that I remembered from in the past, it is a meaty, spicey smell but also quite salty. Actually I think salty is the main flavour to this meal.
Now you could just serve this on a plate and eat it by itsself or you can cook the crispy noodles too.
The crispy noodles can be cooked in a chip pan or frying pan. The easiest way is putting them in a chip basket, lowering them into the pan containing hot oil and they would all be done together. Unfortunately I dont have a chip pan!
So i had to use the frying pan method, which is not as easy! Firstly you need to use 115g of oil ( i used olive oil to try and make it healthier) which is 1/4 of an inch in the pan. Then it needs to be heated to a level that will fry the noodle but not instantly burn it. Basically the only way to test this is do a test noodle. I let the oil heat for a few minutes on a medium heat (my dial goes up to six so i put it to three). I put a noodle in and see if it curls.
If the temperature is correct the noodle instantly puffs up and curls around on itsself (they remind me of seahorses) This will take about 5 seconds. They will then be a lovely golden brown colour.Move them around with a spatular to make sure all of the noodle is puffed up or they will be too hard to eat.
As soon as this happens you need to take them out of the pan as they go brown and can burn quickly. Because of all this I only put a few noodles in at a time, about 5 at the most. There are about 40-50 noodles in the pack so it takes a while but this is the best method to ensure they cook and dont burn. I heated the oil and dished out the soft noodles at the same time and then put them on a warmed plate under the stove in the grill section to keep them warm while I did the crispy noodles.
The crispy noodles can be eaten warm or cold and I put them on a separate plate with some kitchen roll underneath to soak up the grease.
I didnt use the soy sauce as it is very salty but you do get a large sachet 11cm long which is half full of the sauce.
I have a large appitite and found the soft noodles and vegetables to be a decent amount to have for a meal, it filled one of my large dinner places. I think I could sum up the taste in one word. SALTY. The noodles are very floppy and slimey, but therefore easy to eat without much chewing. They also had tiny little green pieces of herbs all over them, I couldnt taste them though. Luckily the saltiness doesnt overpower the vegetable pieces and its nice to have them to add a variety of colour to the meal, there are plenty of pieces of peppers, beans and carrots that you can easily see when the meal is on the plate. You can taste the peppers and they still have their raw flavour to them, this is a nice break from the salty taste I think. In fact all the vegetables taste like they were freshly cooked, which is great as dried vegetables can be hard especially peas, but the peas were soft. It is difficult to get any flavour from the beef as it just is salty and I dont think soya pieces have much flavour anyway.
I am glad I didnt put the soy sauce on as it is very salty as it is. I think if you dont like salty food you wouldnt like this meal, it is as simple as that. Now as I said ive never had a real chow mein and this is the only packet chow mein I know of so I dont know how it would compare but I would think maybe not as salty.
You do get a lot of crispy noodles and as they are fried they are very greasy tasting but apart from that taste just like warm crisps I think, very crispy. I burnt a few and then they dont taste nice at all so I had to throw some away. I thought there were a little too many of them too though so I gave them to some others to eat.
Here is the nutritional information -
Per 100g it doesnt seem too bad. There is 137 calories and 4g of fat.
But for the whole serving which is all of the box contains there is..
96.9g carbohydrate (18.1g sugar),
19g fat (4.3g saturated),
2.47g sodium (which is 6.18g salt!)
Hmm so overall it is the salt which is the big problem with this meal. I feel half of it is probably in the soysauce so excluding that will make it much healthier. The majority of the fat is unsaturated and theres a decent amount of protein and a lot of fibre in this meal so its not all bad!
I hope I didnt make out that I didnt enjoy the meal because I did. It is nice for a change. Only occasionally though. There is a lot of saltiness from the beef and noodles and the grease from the crispy noodles.
And I bought another box didnt I so.. I think I will have another meal of it this weekend.
The authentic taste of the Orient.