"This mix is plain, but there's something addictive about it," confessed a panelist. "It's not bland, but it's not overpowering, either. It would be a delicious complement to so many different dishes." Most tasters agreed. "I like the mild flavor; firm, separate grains; and natural color," said one. And unlike the dozen other products sampled in this category, this "lacked the oily overlay that often makes pilafs seem greasy," pointed out a fan.
Heritage Select All Natural Basmati Rice Cranberries and Almonds with Orzo Pasta
“I love the clean, fragrant taste of the basmati rice,” said one tester. “The nuts and fruit are an elegant salty-sweet combination.” Another person was so enthusiastic about the blend that she confessed she would “be proud to pass it off as my own. It cooked up perfectly tender―not gummy. I would definitely give it to company.” Wonderful served piping hot from the pot, this is also an easy dish for a room-temperature buffet or a picnic.
Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice Herb Roasted Chicken
"This mix is more robust than most wild rices," observed a participant, who also loved the little chunks of carrots in the mixture. "It has a very healthy taste because it's nutty and a little dense," agreed a second panelist. For some, the difference in textures was a plus: "I grew up on this kind of side dish," explained one person. "I like the combination of chewy wild rice and tender long-grain rice." But others found it a little too much work to eat.
The hands-down favorite of all the mixes sampled, this product was lavishly praised for its powerful heat and complex seasonings. “Unexpectedly bold,” raved a taster. “It has a great curry flavor that gives you quite a kick at the end.” Agreed another: “It’s rich, a little bit smoky, and spicy. I would serve it with beef or lamb―something saucy.”
A close second in popularity was Thai Kitchen’s Lemongrass and Ginger ($2.70 for 7 ounces), which was gobbled up by testers who lauded its rich aroma and layering of lemongrass and coconut flavors.
Although there were 14 entries in the Spanish- and Mexican-rice category, surprisingly few were deemed worth bringing home. Nueva Cocina’s was the best by far. On the plus side: “You can really taste the tomatoes―and it’s not that weird orangey color like you find at so many Mexican restaurants,” said one fan. “The flecks of pepper and corn make it a rainbow explosion,” added another. “Very festive.” But a few complaints about “the not very spicy, too subtle flavor” kept panelists from endorsing the product unanimously. A good pick for those who like their food on the mild side .
Like the Latin rice category, bean and rice mixes take up a lot of space on supermarket shelves. Testers found almost all of them chalky and oddly beefy tasting. The exception was Casbah's standout combination of long-grain white rice and lentils. "Creamy and substantial," gushed a volunteer about the hearty blend. "Top it with some plain yogurt and you'd have a meal." "Very filling," agreed another of this vegetarian-friendly dish. "There are as many lentils as rice, and the carrots are a yummy addition."