Mexican Entrees

MOUNTAIN HOUSE Mexican Style Rice & Chicken 5.4 oz, about 3 servings, $7.39

BACKPACKER’S PANTRY Mexican Rice with Beef 6.5 oz, 2 servings, $9.50

Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a different “type” of cuisine. As tastes become more sophisticated, there’s been some effort to make more “ethnic” flavors. In the freeze-dried or dehydrated world, making a dish “Mexican” seems to qualify, at least for now. But at least it’s beyond the way-too-typical chicken and rice.

I do not pretend to know a lot about Mexican cuisine, but I do know that Mexican-American food (Tex-Mex, New-Mex, whatever else is currently in vogue) is not the same thing. I also know that rice and beans and a few spices does not a Mexican dish make. Understandably, it might be hard to work into a dehydrated or freeze-dried mess the beautiful deep-green of a pablano, the brightness of a tomatillo, and the freshness of cilantro. But I wanted to know what some popular brands would do with what they had decided was “Mexican.”

So, on a 20-mile backpacking trip recently I took along Mountain House’s Mexican Style Rice & Chicken and Backpacker’s Pantry Mexican Rice with Beef to share with eleven other hungry hikers and see what they preferred. I modified my usual taste-test process (see my previous reviews on Stroganoff and Chili Mac for my at-home process on taste tests), dispensing with the neatly laid-out plastic cups on a well-organized kitchen table with appropriate sample labels. And let me say it was a little more stressful to hide in my tent cooking up two packages of food to product specifications while my boyfriend continuously lashed out instructions to not drip the Mexican food on our gear (the good news is I avoided making a mess of the sleeping bags; the bad news is that I had to work quite a bit to get the stains out of a mattress pad). I handed my two-spoonful servings of Backpacker’s Pantry in little plastic cups out the door of my tent to my eye-rolling boyfriend to hand out as quickly as possible to my eleven willing taste-testers. By the time that was ready, the Mountain House flavor was ready and I circulated those samples.

 

The Verdict: My tasters ranked this a close score, with six of eleven preferring Backpacker’s Pantry and the remaining five (plus myself) preferring Mountain House.

 

           

 

100 Point Scale:

MOUNTAIN HOSUE Mexican Style Rice & Chicken = 65 (Mediocre)

BACKPACKER’S PANTRY Mexican Rice with Beef = 55 (No Man’s Land)

Those preferring Backpacker’s Pantry liked the fact that it had a “unique flavor” and found the kick in Mountain House too strong. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that no one commented on the fact that one product had chicken and the other one beef. I frankly don’t think anyone noticed. Meat seems to be such an irrelevant contributor to taste in outdoor meals, serving more of a purpose in texture and nutrition.  A missed opportunity, in my opinion, but we’ve got a long way to go to correct that issue and that is a story for another day.

In the author’s opinion, I’m not sure what BP’s Mexican Rice with Beef really has to offer in terms of “Mexican.” Scanning the ingredient list, its sauce (ingredient #2) is a sour cream sauce and there are indeed some “Mexican” ingredients like chili, coriander and tomato. But Mexican fare is known for gusto in flavor (even if I set aside Tex-Mex thoughts here) which is why I think Mountain House with its kidney beans, brown rice and various pepper flavorings, does a much better job. There is also a significantly higher fat content in the Backpacker’s Pantry product, and sodium is off the charts, so to speak. Adding insult to injury is it’s steep price.

 

Mountain House

Backpacker’s Pantry

Calories

220

360

Calories from Fat

50

90

Total Fat (g)

5

10

  Sat Fat

1.5

5

  Trans       Fat

0

0

Cholesterol (mg)

20

40

Sodium (mg)

590

1610

Potassium (mg)

240

Total Carbohydrates (g)

31

56

  Fiber

3

3

  Sugars

2

8

Protein (g)

12

14

Vitamin A (%)

15

25

Vitamin C (%)

10

15

Calcium (%)

4

15

Iron (%)

10

10