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A Round The World Trip of Supermarket Party Food: Part 1 – Tesco

November 13, 2010

Every year, the reason I know Christmas is approaching is because supermarkets start marketing their chilled party food selections, and by this I don’t mean cocktail sausages, doritos and dip, and sausage rolls. I mean the good stuff, like bitesize Chinese/Indian selections, fancy potato wedges, mini-quiches, and the like. Every year, I get very excited about the arrival of these goodies. In previous years, I have been known to compose a week’s menus based on the finger-food fare I have purchased from various supermarkets, especially during my Undergrad days. This year, however, I thought I might try something a bit different. I absolutely adore party food, and as a connoisseur of such a delight, I feel it my duty to the world to sample the offerings of as many supermarkets as I have access to. And so here it begins, with supermarket number one, chosen to go first for no particular reason other than convenient proximity: Tesco.

From Tesco, we purchased “spicy” potato wedges, chicken wonton parcels with sweet chilli dip, sticky barbecue chicken wings and duck mini spring rolls with hoisin sauce dip. Yum. There were some other things on the shelf that looked quite tasty, so I might have to do a “Tesco: Round 2” at some point. To make everything super easy, this year Tesco are advertising on the front of their packaging that all their party food cooks at 190 degrees. This is quite helpful to hosts/hostesses, as I know from experience what a pain it can be having to rejig the oven to accomodate different cooking temperatures. It’s a shame really that Tesco couldn’t work out how to make all their food take the same amount of time to cook. The wedges went in first, taking 18-20 minutes to cook, followed by the wonton parcels and spring rolls, which went in together as they each take 10-12 minutes. The wings went in the microwave for ease, even though I’m quite aware that it’s sort of cheating. Fortunately, because we’d had the foresight to accomodate for the different cooking times, everything was ready simultaneously and came out, piping hot. It’s always nice to know that the estimated cooking times the packaging provides you with are spot on.

Now onto the good bit: the tasting! I didn’t try the sweet chilli dip as I’m not a massive fan of spicy things (they don’t settle terribly well in my oh-so-delicate stomach), although I’m told it was passable, but the hoisin that accompanied the spring rolls was acceptable. Not amazing, but acceptable. I always find that mass-produced, non-authentic sauces are a bit on the vinegary side and have an interesting aftertaste, so while I dipped my duck occasionally, I didn’t go overboard on this.

Which leads me neatly onto the spring rolls. For me, they were the best part of this selection. I love duck, and I love spring rolls, so for me this was a win. Without the hoisin sauce, the spring rolls were unfortunately a little bland, but still tastier than anything else on my plate, and the hoisin sauce, on which I have already expressed my opinion, really set them off and they were delicious. It was just a shame the sauce wasn’t better otherwise they would have been to die for.

The wontons, I think, could have benefited from the sauce. I dipped a couple in the hoisin but chicken and hoisin don’t really go (and the hoisin wasn’t amazing anyway). It almost makes me wish I’d tried the sweet chilli dip. On their own, the wonton parcels didn’t taste especially chickeny, or much like any of the vegetables that accompanied the chicken in the parcel. They just had that sort of generic supermarket Chinese taste to them and didn’t exactly leave my taste buds tingling.

The other chicken dish didn’t fare much better, unfortunately. While the wings were definitely sticky (I think I still have the sauce all round my face and on my hands), they weren’t especially barbecuey. I should have known this from the off that the wings wouldn’t be up to scratch because when they came out the packet, they were completely the wrong colour. Barbecue sauce is normally a rich, chocolate sauce shade of brown, but these were barely even orange, let alone brown. And they didn’t taste much like barbecue. In fact, I’m not really sure what they tasted of, apart from chicken. Perhaps Tesco would be better branding these as sticky mystery-sauce wings. The chicken was nice though; it was moist, and there was more of it on the wings than I normally expect there to be.

Overall, Tesco did better than I expected they would with their party food. After all, as a brand, they aren’t exactly renowned for their gourmet-quality goods. It’s hard to give a rating due to their being the first on my supermarket tour, so, Tesco, please forgive me if this seems either too harsh or too generous: 7/10. Well done.

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