Indian Buffet Without Leaving the House

Kohinoor Rice & Curry

Kohinoor Rice & Curry

I Paid: $3.95 for a 12.3–ounce meal (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 5 stars

Marketing: 4 stars

America is engaged in a long, strange national odyssey relating to food. On one hand, we've gotten far, far, far too fat. On the other hand, we're collectively getting a lot more sophisticated about what we're willing to eat, not just for celebratory nights out, but at home for lunch or dinner. One of the major rewards we've collectively reaped is that it's getting easier to find legitimately exotic but convenient prepackaged meals like Kohinoor Rice & Curry.

As the name strongly implies, each meal includes a quantity of curry and a quantity of rice, sitting side by side in a two-compartment, microwave-safe plastic tray. Two minutes on high, and both sides of your meal, once stirred, are uniformly and satisfactorily heated up. Beyond that: They're pretty dang good.

Here's a critical disclaimer: I haven't been to India, so I can't claim to understand what real Indian street food tastes like. That said, I've eaten casual Indian food all over Chicago and Boston at places ranging from Westernized chic to first generation, and the nuke-and-eat rice and curry meals by Kohinoor stand up credibly to humble but well-prepared buffet fare. The Pindi Chana Masala with Zeera Rice had a real spice depth to the curry. The rice was pleasantly toothsome, and the chickpeas were tender but not mushy. The Mughlai Kofta Curry with Peas Pulao was equally good—the cheese fritters in the gravy had a fresh, clean flavor, and there was a beautiful level of heat to the curry, a gentle, lingering burn that was a great complement to the other spices in the dish. While these curries are no substitute for passionate home cooking, Kohinoor presents a nice simulation.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.