Cheap Eats at Bloglander

[ Currently Eating: Baked Pasta A La Yums ]

Hibachi House Teriyaki Chicken

Wow. I have to admit that its a great time to be a pseudo product review blogger if you really know what you’re doing (but I don’t, so the point is super-moot), because you can get scads of free things in the mail. In the past couple months, I’ve had to turn down several offers, just because there’s no way I could keep up with it – especially with my revised limited posting schedule of one measly review every one or two weeks. I guess I could just write super short reviews (which is what the majority of blogs do), but I’m just not into that. Yet.

But man, is it hard to turn down free food! Especially because this is the Cheap Eats blog where Free Is King. Well, I just couldn’t turn down the new Hibachi House fire-grilled style frozen meals. And I’m glad I didn’t, because they went all out with the package. See below.

Hibachi House Big Bag Of Stuff

This arrived on the doorstep… there were seven meals in all packed into this duffel bag along with dry ice. I’ll probably combine them into 2 or 3 reviews, because although they were all different varieties, they can be grouped together into similar types. It’s basically grilled chicken with rice, shrimp with rice, chicken fried rice or shrimp fried rice. The sauces are really what change.

So what’s the whole idea behind these Hibachi House meals? Well, first let me back up and say that just 2 days after I received the offer to review them, I was watching TV and saw some new Healthy Choice Frozen Dinners in a commercial. They were called “Cafe Steamers“. Pretty weird because the idea seems similar to the fire-grilled food in a steam pouch that is what Hibachi is all about. I guess the competition is so fierce or something in the frozen food biz that everyone’s chomping at the bit to get market share on these fads. The Cafe Steamers even had a similar “strangely shaped” box like Hibachi’s – see below.

Hibachi House Teriyaki Chicken

Since the chicken, rice and sauce packets are in pouches, there’s no need to make it this weird trapezoidal shape – other than as a marketing thingy. I guess it’s supposed to be a hibachi stove? One other (nerdy designers) thing we noticed about the graphics on the box is that they did some multi layer processing where the pieces of chicken and shrimp are masked out and a highly reflective coating is placed only on them to make it stand out. Yup, nothing escapes our well-trained eyes!

Hibachi House Teriyaki Chicken

Hm.. my shoulder is fading fast so we’re going to have to speed things up. Lucky, I took so many pictures. Above is how the inside package appears. The main dish is mixed together in the steam pack, while there is a separate package for the sauce. Basic instructions are to make a slit in the main dish pack and microwave it for 6 minutes. Meanwhile defrost the sauce package in hot water. Then you can either mix the sauce in or use it as a dipping sauce.

Hibachi House Teriyaki Chicken

I was pretty pleasantly surprised in nearly every aspect of this meal. A veteran of Frozen Meals Gone Wrong, I’ve learned to always lower your expectations. First, I gotta say that I had previously thought these were single serving meals. This is definitely not a meal for one – more like a meal for 2. If it’s part of a larger meal, I would even say 3-4.

This was actually a “Japanese Sticky Rice” meal – and I was all ready to tear them a new one (I think I know what sticky rice should taste like after eating it for 35 years). But, it was actually decent – it tasted no better or worse than sticky rice you get at most Japanese eateries. It wasn’t as good as home cooked, of course, but it wasn’t bad. The steam pouch probably helps quite a bit. Also, the rice is precooked so it’s perfectly done when it comes out.

Hibachi House Teriyaki Chicken

The grilled chicken itself was very impressive. It’s chicken breast, and as such it’s definitely been brined (in a mix of sugar, salt and some other herbs) to keep it from drying out. The taste was good, and it wasn’t overly salty which was nice. But the pieces were so nicely grilled and were cut extra large – I’ve never seen them like that in any frozen meal. I noticed that for all of their “chicken” type meals it pretty much tasted identical – same brining technique. Once again, it’s just the sauce that changes.

Ah, yes – the sauce. I started out using it as a dipping sauce, but later did mix some of it in for the photos. And when I say “some”, I mean about 1/64 of the sauce packet. This is probably the low point of the meal for me… I don’t know what it is with America and our love of sugary things. This particular sauce was “Spicy Teriyaki” and has probably been the best out of the bunch (for the Orange Chicken, I just tossed the whole packet since it was like eating marmalade). However, if you love sweet things, you’ll love the sauce.

I also noticed a pretty strong raw rice wine odor to the sauces, though the soy sauce flavor of this one makes the sugary taste more palatable. I guess it IS supposed to be sweet because it’s teriyaki sauce, but I just didn’t see any reason to mix it right into the rice. In their favor, the sauce is always a separate package (even on the Fried Rice meals) instead of already mixed in. So you’re free to put as much as you want on the meal – which for me was ideally zero.

Overall, the quality of the frozen meal was very impressive. Ahh… just the one final hurdle to a 8/10 or 9/10 score – the price. I actually didn’t find out the MSRP, though word is that it ranges around $4-6. If this fed only one person at this price, I’d score it really low – but as a side dish for 4 people, with the ease of cooking in the microwave and high quality ingredients I’m inclined to give it a little higher score. Depending where you live (and if you can get it on sale), you might score it even higher – for me, I can just go to like a billion Hawaiian BBQ places nearby and score Teriyaki Chicken plate lunches that are much better.

Price: Free (MSRP: Unknown, $4-6)
Found At: Sent in for review
Cheap Eats Score: 7/10

20 Responses to “Hibachi House Teriyaki Chicken”

PLEASE DO NOT SUBMIT YOUR COMMENT MULTIPLE TIMES!!!!!!!! (All comments are moderated. So if you don't see your comment appear right away, don't resubmit it multiple times.)
  1. nicole Says:

    I really liked the Sesame Chicken one – my husband and I had it for dinner a few times, but I got really turned off the last time we had it because the chicken was all fatty and tasted funny. Now I’m hesitant to buy it again. :(

  2. Natalie Says:

    Ok, this is kinda off topic, but what kind of camera do you use? Your photos always look so great. I’m curious b/c I’m notorious for having terrible digital photos…..

    (love the site, btw.) :)

  3. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    nicole – I’ve had 3 of the chicken ones so far and they were all pretty excellent. The chicken was better than any frozen dinner I’ve had, maybe it was an isolated incident? I didn’t try the Sesame Chicken one yet though.

    natalie – You are too kind… I’m not a very good photographer so I need to rely on a little auto-correction in photoshop. I use a Sony Cybershot DSC-W50, for food closeups i turn on the “macro” (the little flower thingy). In photoshop, it’s usually some combination auto-contrast / auto-color / auto-levels, correction in color-balance, then a bit of unsharp mask for detail. I tend to oversharpen things though. If you can, try take photos in natural light, and try take it on a consistent background b/c after awhile you start to understand what you need to do to make it look better.

  4. jim Says:

    i don’t know if this product is available in my area or not but because of your review i will look for it. thanks!

  5. Yvo Says:

    So… how does one become a food product review blogger? :)
    This looks alright, except I wd just make the whole thing from scratch myself. Thanks tho- good for in a pinch.

  6. Natalie Says:

    Thanks for the photo tips. I bet you never thought you’d be giving out photo advice on a food blog, huh? :)

  7. Hallie Miles Says:

    I’ve been following your site for a while now, but this is the first time I’ve been inclined to comment on a posting.

    The packaging says it weighs 1.5 lbs. How much of that would you say is rice? From the pictures it seems that it constitutes the bulk of the product. I would have a real problem spending $4.00 to $6.00 for what looks to be mostly rice, as I can buy that really cheaply, and it only takes 25 minutes or so to make from scratch. It looks to me to be about ten cents worth, so why pay that kind of money for it? If the product came as just the meat/veg/sauce part I could see it, but as far as I’m concerned, this is definitely NOT Cheap Eats.

    By the way, I do enjoy reading your blog – always something interesting here!

  8. Cheap Eats Editor Says:

    jim – their site said it’s at places like albertson’s and costco, so it’s probably available nationwide.

    yvo – this question keeps coming up. =) There is no secret tip, no fast, easy way. Write a semi interesting or original food blog with longer posts for a few years without thought of being famous or getting noticed – you build it (and you are lucky), they will come calling.

    natalie – surprisingly, i’ve asked other food bloggers for photo tips too!

    hallie – I agree with you – and if it’s $6, I wouldn’t ever get it. At $4 I’d definitely think about it. However, if you’re talking making rice from scratch, then you’ll have to put that against every single frozen meal/dinner that uses rice. Of course it’ll be cheaper – Actually, there was a LOT of chicken – comparing it to other frozen dinners it completely kicks their asses. I do make sticky rice quite a bit myself. However, this rice is cooked plus the chicken is grilled and it’s all packed together in a 6 min. pkg. So it’s a bit different.

    But in general, you’re preaching to the choir! =) One of the most interesting things about people writing in to comment is they say something similar – like, “I could make this 10 times cheaper from scratch.” My response is – that’s awesome, now go do it! I think me talking about the price of food (whether cheap or not, I’ll cover expensive food too) and commenters arguing back gets them thinking about how they’re wasting money buying this frozen and processed stuff. I might be wrong (and often am), but if I got someone to think about it, then that’s great! =)

  9. Hallie Miles Says:

    Yup, not just rice, either – most prepared dishes with pasta are in the same boat. But I don’t buy much in the way of prepared entrees, because I am *really* cheap :) I understand about paying for convenience, but it just kills me to spend that kind of money for something I could make at a fraction of the cost. It helps, too, that I like to cook and do a pretty good job at it.

  10. Josh Says:

    I have been reading your blog for almost a year now but this is the first time I have felt inclined to post a comment. Upon reading your review, I was interested in trying this out. When I was at Wal-Mart this past weekend, I saw the General Tso’s Chicken in the freezer case. It was priced at $4.58, which I considered a little high, but decided by the sheer weight of the box to be a decent venture.

    When I prepared this, my wife stood next to me (must have been a sight to see two people staring at a microwave like it was about to perform some death-defying feat) and kept saying that it was going to taste bad and I would be angry. Well, that was not the case. Most Chinese take-out restaurants have a sweeter sauce for their General Tso’s than I care for, but this one kept the sweet/spicy ratio pretty even. The sticky rice was good, but I would have preferred fried rice instead for this particular meal. All in all I was most impressed and have already gone back and purchased 3 more. Thanks for the review…you turned me onto something I would have never bothered trying before.

  11. JD (Julia) Says:

    First: I love your site!

    Next: Thanks for the review. I’ve been going thru a “frozen dinner” craze lately (not too healthy but oh, so easy!) and this is a new one on me. I did try the Healthy Choice General Tso’s Chicken Steamer, and that was pretty good. I’ll probably look for these on my next shopping trip.

    Also: If you have a minute, can you tell me (us) how you make sticky rice, or point me to a place on your site that would have that info? I’d love to make my own, too, especially if it’s so much better than restaurant or store-bought.

    And finally: I agree with Natalie: your photos make the cheapest of food look delectable!

  12. DPK Says:

    That looks really tasty. I’m going to have to check out the local mart for some of those.

  13. Crystal Says:

    I have tried just the sesame chicken one of these, the package really made me notice it, and the picture looked great. I found the taste of the sauce to be a little too sweet for my taste, so I added soy sauce, chili oil, and crushed red pepper. The rice was nice and fluffy, the chicken was all right too me, but kinda chewy. My husband loved it and ate the rest of it.

  14. Mike Says:

    Have you ever done a review on curry wurst? Good cheap eats.

  15. Melissa Says:

    I LOVE the Sesame Chicken and it hasn’t been at my local grocery lately, so I was Googling it because I’ve GOT to have it as does my entire family of five, when I came across your blog. Thanks for letting me know alternate places to find it. Again, I LOVE it as does my whole family!

  16. Rachel Says:

    I’ve actually had this before, and I paid $5.97 for it at Wal mart. The variety that I had was General Tso’s Chicken, which I’m a huge fan of at about a billion random Chinese Buffets. My husband didn’t care for it, although he did admit that the chicken was much better than your standard frozen food. I thought it was pretty good, and I’ll have it again. I think that as a meal, it’s about 2 servings, I had the one for dinner, and then had it again at lunch the next day, and it was filling enough for me.

  17. tricia vega Says:

    Where can I find these dinners. I was buying them at super Walmarts but can no longer find them.

  18. Lori Says:

    I love hibachi house products and I tell anyone who will listen how great they are!! These do not taste like frozen meals but like you just went and got them from the resteraunt. I am having a hard time finding them since I moved to Atlanta if you can believe that. How did you get the free meals??

  19. Lydia Says:

    Can I find your product at my local grocer? I love this stuff and so does my family!!! I used to find it at HY-VEE and they don’t carry it any more.

  20. Wilma Williams Says:

    I love the Hibachi meals! However, I haven’t been able to find them for at least two or three months. I have looked at Target, Reasor’s, Wal-Mart, and Food Pyramid. WHERE can I find them in Tulsa, OK?



Recommended Reads