Dollary Duesdays: Shrimp Tempura

It’s Dollary Duesday time, and that can only mean one thing: Heading back to the only store where lead paint isn’t just a condiment, it’s a way of life. But not everything in the Dollar General food bin is a rough conglomeration of compost, wood chips, and concentrated botulism sweetened with aspartame, and occasionally the Dollar Store comes out with something that’s not just safe to eat, but downright tasty.

Take for example the Bon Vivant Kitchens Shrimp Tempuras, brought to us by the culinary minds at Bon Vivant. Bon Vivant is a kitchen store that sells appliances, kitchenware, and actually offers cooking classes to the youth and adults. So they know how to make a good shrimp tempura, flash freeze it, and put it on sale for a buck. Maybe they can teach Chef’s Request how to not gutter oil to make their food.

The Shameless Consumer meant to review this product a good two years or so ago, and found it to be a rather tasty slurry of meat. I picked up a box of the shrimp on my rounds grabbing another set of review items that will never be published and found that Bon Vivant has actually changed the recipe since then. It still contains mostly shrimp.

Bon Vivant’s shrimp tempura is not a shrimp that has been tempura’d and fried, I don’t think anyone would expect such out of a dollar store product. You get six “shrimps” in a pack, each approximately the size of an adult thumb. The meat inside is a combination of shrimp, squid, fish, and other seafood edibles encased in a tasty, crispy, exterior of what appears to be knockoff Rice Krispies.

It also has no microwave instructions, so you know this product is the real deal. Protip: You should never microwave seafood. Ever. Just don’t. It’s actually a crime in the geneva conventions, you can trust me enough to not look it up yourself.

The best comparison I can give to the texture of the meat is fake crab, which makes sense since the two ingredient lists are virtually identical, except this one has fake crab. In fact, as I chowed down on the six shrimps, it dawned upon me that the filling meat is almost identical to imitation crab meat, with a little more fishy/squidy flavor. If you peel apart the shrimps, it has that same layered sort of texture.

And I should note that I’m not giving this a higher score on the grounds that it’s a decent item in a sea of sickness and Chinese poison masquerading as the food section of the Dollar General, this is a quality product that stands on its own. If Bon Vivant had sold larger packs in the regular grocery store, I’d buy them. I make it a habit to pick up a few boxes of these whenever I happen to be there.

That being said, I would never eat shrimp tempura on its own when the opportunity to pair it with a nice cocktail sauce arises. I recommend of course that you purchase a cocktail sauce with horseradish because it’s delicious.

Nutrition-wise, Bon Vivant’s shrimp are high in fat (25%, 35% saturated), have a decent amount of sodium (14%), and if you poke around deep enough you might find some iron and calcium. Otherwise this isn’t bad for a fried food.

Verdict: 4.5/5 – My only complaint is that these shrimps have a habit of unevenly cooking.


Dollary Dursdays: $1 Chopped Beef Steak Review

(Editor’s Note: Today’s review contains graphic imagery to a degree that Shameless Consumer management has decided to step in and offer this warning: Those with weak stomachs should get over it. Thank you.)

This week on Dollary Dursdays, we dive back into the shallow end of the pool known as the Dollar Tree frozen food section, break our necks on the linoleum flooring, and gently float back up to the surface holding the $1 chopped beef steak. I know what you’re thinking: A $1 chopped beef steak? That sounds economical and delicious!

Hold all comments until the end of the review, folks, I need to get this written down before the renal failure kicks in and I go fully comatose.

The $1 Chopped Beef Steak comes to us from Chef’s Requested Foods Inc, a processing company whose slogan roughly translates to English as, “now legally recognized as food in 1 country.” It’s made a name for itself digging through the dumpster outside of the Mongolian Buffet restaurants for uneaten leftovers and converting said foodstuffs into steak-like product. The “Chef’s Requested” in “Chefs Requested Food” is presumably short for “the Chef’s Requested we throw this tainted meat out for the customer’s own safety.”

Chef’s Requested has a substantial line of dollar store meat-like products and, considering the deluge of one star reviews on their Facebook page talking about grisly meat and a large portion of the steaks being injected with water, it doesn’t get much better from here folks. The Shameless Consumer Research Council was able to go back through their history and find that at some point between 2012 and 2014, Chef’s Requested changed its supplier, opting to drop its normal steak manufacturer and instead partnering with the dog food company to reduce costs, but further rejected their plans since dog food beef is a bit too high quality for their products.

In terms of this “steak,” I have to say I’m impressed by its ability to smell both like its been preserved in formaldehyde while also smelling like its been left on someone’s shelf for the past week at room temperature. After cooking, the steak managed to take on the smell of lightly brined roadkill, hot and fresh in the afternoon sunlight and just waiting to be basted with Jack Link’s Tennessee Whiskey barbecue sauce and washed down with a refreshing can of Schwepps.

So Chef’s Requested’s beef steak might smell like a dumpster fire outside of a porta-john recycling plant, but how does it taste? Imagine using a dirty sponge to wipe down a cast iron skillet that had just been used to cook a cheeseburger, throwing the sponge back on the skillet for a few minutes, and then eating the sponge. You’ve just imagined a more satisfying and nutritional experience.

Everything about this chopped beef steak can be best summarized as “…ish.” The steak is steak…ish, the bacon is bacon…ish, the salt water flavor injection is salt…ish. The quality of the meat is indeterminate as a slurry of mechanically compiled hunks of ground beef. Could be angus cuts, probably more likely to be a combination of low quality lips, butthole, and taint meat. This cut is more water than steak now, twisted and evil.

The $1 chopped beef steak doesn’t so much cook as it does gray, and what comes out of it is a soggy mess. You’ll remember way back in the far distant past of about two paragraphs ago I referred to this dish as a sponge filled with beef water, and as the delightfully animated gif below will show, I wasn’t lying.

You may never be hungry again. I’m so sorry.

As for the bacon, I once said that there is no such thing as bad bacon. I’d like to retract that statement. The bacon presumably was just as pumped full of water as the beef was before being cut and wrapped around the steak. The cut I got on my steak was almost pure white, all fat, and not the flavorful kind of fat either. The watery kind of fat, that makes you cry and lose faith in the powerful god of bacon.

Ultimately, the Chef’s Requested $1 Beef Steak is the kind of food by which your boss would be fully within his moral rights and legal obligations to fire you if you brought a bunch of them to serve at a corporate cookout, with the exception being that you work in an actual torture dungeon. It’s not so much a steak as it is a barely edible conglomeration of meat poorly cobbled together to serve as a vessel for lightly salted grease trap water, except not as tasty.

(Verdict: 0/5) – Chef’s Requested brings dishonor to the family name that is steak.

Dollary Duesdays: Fast Bites BBQ Rib Sandwich

(Editor’s Note: This review is not sponsored by McDonald’s, but it could be. Hit me up, Ron.)

Going into this review, the first ground rule that the Shameless Consumer must throw down is that I love ribs, but I’m not a fan of rib sandwiches. Why? Because I love ribs, and part of the experience of eating a rack of ribs is ripping the meat from the bone like an animal. It’s one of the few times you really get to eat with your hands, like corn on the cob or a nice heavy chowder soup.

Rib sandwiches, meanwhile, very rarely have any actual rib meat in them. They’re like the blondes of the fast food world, you constantly find yourself wondering if they’re natural or not. In the case of the McRib, the meat is actually various parts you wouldn’t think about from the pig, like the heart, stomach, etc. It’s tasty, but it’s not a rib. For Banquet’s rib patties, I assume it’s mostly taint, eyeballs, and tongue drippings that the butcher’s dog chewed up before losing its appetite.

Back in 2005, McDonald’s held a competition where they asked the public to submit their own backstory for the McRib. In reality, this is because McDonald’s doesn’t have the story on file, and they were hoping some smarty pants would point it out in an effort to look smart. Their historian tragically left the company in 2012 after someone ate his last ice cream he’d kept in the freezer for a Friday pick-me-up, you know the Popsicle Sprinklers? They don’t make them anymore, and who the hell does Rich from accounting think he is eating someone else’s ice cream when just last week he’d been whining about people drinking his San Pellegrino, reminding everyone how expensive the prickly pear flavor is. But that’s neither here nor there.

Thankfully Shameless Consumer Industries has built a reputation on stealing corporate secrets and hiding them away in our vault, never to be released unless a review demands it. The real history behind the McRib is pretty boring, dating back to 1956 with the honoring of Marshall Cleyton Ribinski, Barbecue Lord of Wilmington Delaware. Marshall Ribinski’s life was saved responding to an armed robbery at a local diner that he just so happened to be patronizing, when a bullet aimed for his ribs was deflected by a jar of barbecue sauce.

Ribinski disarmed the thief with a well aimed pork rib, cementing his status as Barbecue Lord and from that point on everyone in town called him Marshall McRib.  Since Marshall McRib took on his duties across numerous towns in Delaware, he only showed up for a little while every couple of years, and as such he became something of a legend whenever he did appear in town. Incidentally the Marshall’s arrival seemed to coincide with low pork prices, but that could just be an old wive’s tale.

In August of 1980, the Marshall decided to eat lunch at a local McDonald’s while doing his rounds in Smyrna, Delaware. Confused when the Marshall was greeted by an old friend in line, the cashier mistakenly placed an order for a McRib, which the chef naturally did not know how to cook. The issue was sent up the corporate line to Michael Quinlain himself, who found interest in the idea of a McRib and ordered the McDonald’s McResearch and McDevelopment team to McFigure it out. After briefly fighting over who got to lick the spoon, the team produced a boneless rib sandwich and the rest, as they say, is history. The first McRib was actually served in Smyrna in 1981, although not to Marshall Ribinski as his wife was no longer allowing him to eat high cholesterol foods by that point.

We know that McDonald’s supports our boys in blue as the McRib itself is a living reminder of Marshall Ribinski. You may have seen the four stripes on the McRib and thought that they were supposed to represent rib bones. They aren’t, that would be disgusting to simulate bones in a sandwich. Rather, you’ll notice that each McRib always has four points. This is to signify the four times that the Marshall had responded to cases at the McDonald’s in Smyrna. The odd addition of pickles is to honor Delaware, where Vlasic’s manufacturing plant remained in Milsboro until 2012. The onions are in honor of ancient Delaware beliefs that onions and pork could cure inflammation and soreness, effectively qualifying the McRib as a health food. As for the sauce, well sometimes you just have to keep a secret.

And you all thought that the McRib looks this way by luck.

But today we’re talking about the Fast Bites barbecue rib sandwich, not so much the John Lennon of rib sandwiches as it is the Yoko Ono. Its ingredient list is longer than your average Grateful Dead concert and contains 2% or less of the following products: food, but it does have enough acid to satisfy a crowd of disappointed Woodstock hippies. Maybe that’s the problem, the Shameless Consumer didn’t do enough acid before eating the sandwich.

Naturally the rib sandwich looks nothing like it does on the box, much like hooking up with someone you found on Tinder only to realize that the photo was taken five years ago of her twin sister, the one who actually took care of herself.

The sandwich itself is actually rather boring, its barbecue sauce is the same generic stuff that you find in every frozen barbecue meat. It’s tomato based, sweet, and not awful but highly generic. As for the pork patty itself, I’d get a more satisfying grill mark by setting it down on hot pavement and letting it cook for a good hour or so. So I did, the flavor increased tenfold.

Unfortunately the bun was terrible, becoming hard in the microwave and chewy. Ultimately, the Fast Bites Barbecue Rib Sandwich fulfills its role: a cheap $1 rib sandwich for when you’re drunk and out of money, and McDonald’s doesn’t feel like selling the McRib. It isn’t nauseating, like the Dollar Store Steak, but that’s a story for another day.

Verdict: 1/5 – Generic barbecue sauce with generic low quality tasting pork. Not the dollar store steak.

Dollary Duesdays #1: Fast Choice Double Beef Stacker

Dollary Duesdays is an idea that the Shameless Consumer had while held up in the local Dollar Tree waiting for the police outside to give the all clear to leave. Shameless Consumer is something of an expensive project, primarily because most of my reviews don’t actually make it to the public, so we’ve been looking for some cheap ideas to fill in the calendar. Don’t look at me, blame my supervisor. He hasn’t been hired yet.

The Dollar Tree is a veritable playground of sorts, it’s a window into an industry that has been given the green light to legally poison the poor while referring to their products as “food.” So this segment, which is planned for release on Tuesdays, will focus entirely on items that cost one dollar, available at the dollar store!

The Fast Choice Double Beef Stacker was made by an old Shameless Consumer friend, AdvancedPierre. The product is described as:

 Flame broiled beef patties with American cheese on a sesameseed bun.

Yea, sure. One thing I’d like to point out is that this product has a preparation time.

To Thaw: For best results, thaw before heating. Thaw sandwiches in refrigerator overnight. Sandwiches can be stored in refrigerator for up to 14 days.

You want me to thaw my frozen burger? I must apologize to the Shameless Consumer viewers out there (hi mom!), clearly a clerical error was made with this purchase. I was told that I would be reviewing Fast Choice, not Thaw in Fridge Overnight Choice.

What kind of schmuck thaws his dollar store burgers overnight in the fridge? I’m not buying this because I’m planning out my meals, Fast Choice, I have this burger because a hostage situation at the Boost Mobile store next door forced me into the Dollar Tree, and I was hungry and had a dollar in my pocket. The Boost Mobile employee said he was just signing the guy up for a contract, but that didn’t convince the police to not shoot him in the face with a tear gas canister.

One thing that the Shameless Consumer can’t get over is that this sandwich has all of the flavor and texture of a yoga mat. I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to boil a hamburger, but Fast Choice somehow figured out how to recreate the texture and watery flavor. The burger itself isn’t as much juicy as it is pumped with large quantities of water, it’s like biting into a poorly sealed dumpling.

I also couldn’t figure out why the sandwich had a mild taste of rot, which the scientists over in R&D tracked down to the presence of Hydrolyzed Corn Protein in the seasoning. If you don’t know what that is, just read this.

Hydrolyzed corn protein is water soluble, and considered to be safe in food amounts. However it is rarely used in human food consumption because of its strong, fermented taste.

On the plus side, Fast Choice does contain Vitamin A Palminate, meaning this burger can literally prevent night blindness. It also holds the building blocks of life itself, no doubt an unintentional and ironic part of this food’s conception.

AdvancedPierre’s top of the line burgers run for around $2.50, so if you’d like a good summary of how bad this product is, imagine that they created a budget version and didn’t feel like putting their brand on the package. Whereas I commended the higher tier burger for how its bun reacted in the microwave, this one was overly dense and kept its shape by having the consistency of memory foam mattress stuffing.

If this burger had been greasy, it would have been just what the doctor ordered: A sloppy $1 burger with flavorless beef and flavorless cheese.

But it isn’t, it’s watery. I didn’t finish more than half of it.

Verdict: 1/5 – The disappointing child of the AdvancedPierre family. Didn’t microwave properly. Tastes like water.