I was recently contacted by Saffron Road to review their halal, all natural, gluten-free frozen Indian entrees. At first, I was amused by the idea of frozen Indian food. Growing up, my mom (my primary Indian cooking teacher) highly stressed the importance of fresh ingredients playing a crucial role in the savory flavors that define Indian cuisine. I quickly visited Saffron Road's website and noticed that the company boasted of authentic taste and exotic flavors. Their confidence in their products made me curious to try them. As a specialist in Indian cooking, I took up the responsibility to review their products without a second thought.

I was sent four Saffron Road entrees – Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Biryani, Lamb Saag, and Lamb Vindaloo. I'd like to clarify for the sake of full disclosure that these products were sent to me free of charge for review purposes. I was not paid anything to write this review nor was MM. Rest assured, I will be thorough in my review and if I have any criticism then I will gently mention it below.

About the company

Saffron Road, a pioneer in natural and organic food movement, is a praiseworthy brand for its pasture-raised and 100% vegetarian-fed livestock. They cater to the needs of health conscious consumers. Adnan Durrani, CEO of American Halal (parent company of Saffron Road), said in a recent press release, “We had this intuitive vision over a year ago – that with Saffron Road we could build a Halal brand based on ethical consumerism, which embodied the timeless values of the natural food movement our team had embraced over the last two decades: antibiotic-free, hormone-free, sustainably-farmed, and Certified Humane®. …”

Their website mentions, “To ensure the sanctity of our Halal preparation, Saffron Road's products are fully certified by IFANCA, which is the largest Halal certification agency in the world. We are also proud that our chicken is Certified Humane® by Humane Farm Animal Care. All of our meat is sourced from small farm operations that treat the animal humanely and never use antibiotics and growth hormones. Even our Basmati rice is selectively hand picked from farmers who share our sustainable “tayeeb” values.”

The company should be given accolades for bringing halal food options into the mainstream market for Muslim consumers. America's Whole Foods Market chain, which specializes in natural and organic foods, started selling Saffron Road's frozen entrees because they believed that the halal label, properly applied, fits the company's ethos. “Our launch of Saffron Road continues (our) leadership in product innovation and in satisfying and delighting our customers,” says Errol Schweizer, the chain's national grocery buyer.

Not only that, the company recently proudly announced that they had been awarded Gluten-Free certification, meeting yet another important consumer requirement.

My Entrée Review

When I received the products, I could not help but admire the beautiful and attractive packaging of the entrée boxes. I could only hope that the entrée inside would impress me just as much, if not more as the outside packaging.

As I started popping these entrees one by one into my microwave (they can also be oven-cooked), my house filled with the warm aroma generally experienced in Indian restaurants. This made me eager to taste them even more!

I am sure many of you will agree with me that a common complaint with frozen meat dishes is that the meat is usually chewy, rubbery and seems uncooked even after it has been cooked for the prescribed time. One of the first things I noticed, as I sat down to eat the chicken biryani and chicken tikka masala, was that the meat was extremely juicy and tender. The curry was ample in quantity and held perfect consistency to be eaten with rice. The overall taste was rich and reminded me of homemade food. The raisins and cashews in chicken biryani were a sheer treat.

I must confess that I have no taste buds for lamb meat so I asked for my husband's help in reviewingthe lamb saag and lamb vindaloo. As expected, he graciously agreed. For both lamb entrees, he commented positively on the authenticity of the taste and the tenderness of the meat. In case of lamb saag, the curry was well liked by him because of its thicker consistency (which is expected). Lamb vindaloo curry had a similar consistency to chicken tikka masala but just as in the previous entrée, the amount of curry was generous and the amount of rice was just perfect to go with the meat pieces.

Overall Specs

Moving onto some critical points about the overall specs of these entrees. There are a couple of factors that rely on individual preference and can be both, positive or negative.

The entrees come with a convenient spice meter on the front of the box. In my humble opinion, lamb vindaloo, which was labeled as spicy, was not very spicy. As someone who is accustomed to eating Indian food all her life knows that large amounts of spices are appreciated in our traditional food. However, I am not very fond of a lot of spice. Especially when I am not being able to feel my tongue at the end of the meal,  so I really enjoyed the spice level in these entrees. It is also beneficial in accommodating many others who are not used to high spice levels and allows them to enjoy traditional tasting Indian food without feeling a burn.

The other factor is the quantity of the product. For an average person, the amount that comes in the box is perfect as a moderate sized meal. For myself, it was more than enough and served as a filling meal. However, in my husband's case, he felt that the quantity is perfect for lunch but not for dinner since he prefers to eat a bigger meal at the end of the day. As I mentioned earlier, this is personal preference and has no co-relation with the taste and the quality of the product.

The last spec to be discussed is the price of these products. The price of each entrée is about $5, which when compared to restaurant prices for similar cuisine is highly comparable considering it saves you time and travel expenses.

Concluding Remarks

As an Indian cuisine cooking classes teacher and a loyal Indian food lover, I was overall very satisfied with these entrees and will definitely be going to our nearby Whole Foods Market to pick up a few for my family.

I believe, the biggest advantage of these products will be experienced by Indian (or those who like Indian food in general) bachelor men and women who are away from mom's homemade food, college students, working wives, busy moms, and anyone else who wants a quick authentic Indian meal. Finding traditional Indian food has never been easier and is bound to make life convenient for many Indian cuisine lovers!

I commend Saffron Road for creating flavor-filled Indian food in convenient packaging and bringing healthy, organic, halal food options for Muslims to mainstream grocery stores. I look forward to the introduction of other innovative food products from this company.

Update from Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer

Salaam ala kum . I am the founder, Chief Halal Officer, and CEO of Saffron Road/American Halal Co,Inc.

We truly appreciate Kanika's review—it was very objective and many of the comments have been constructive. But given the comment regarding machine slaughter by commenter “ Halal“ on March 28th, I just wanted to make sure to clear the air on a couple of things so that any fellow Muslim brothers or sisters are given the correct facts about Saffron Road's products and halal sourcing.

First of all, while IFANCA is indeed our certifier, all of the chicken and lamb used in our products are 100% Zabihah halal or hand-slaughtered by a Muslim , reciting the tasmiya and allahu akbar. We make sure to only allow hand slaughtered meat in our products to guarantee the Zabihah halal authenticity. We are also one of the only halal brands that make sure no stunning is allowed with any of our poultry. Our mission is to restore the sacredness of food. It's about our whole spiritual connectedness – with our creator, with our mother earth, with all living creatures Allah put on earth, alhumdulillah. While we do only 100% zabihah hand slaughter, for us at Saffron Road it is not just about how the animal was slaughtered, which most commercial Halal production and especially kosher factories focus on. Rather, for us tayeeb is a set of ethical Halal values that are core to our business, our products, our spiritual traditions. For example, we only use livestock that is 100% vegetarian fed. We do not allow any antibiotics or growth hormones to be given to any of our livestock. Most significantly, we are currently the ONLY Halal certified or kosher chicken product in the world that qualifies as “Certified Humane®” by Humane Farm Animal Care. We source from smaller, local, or grass-fed farms – so we are very dedicated to using sustainable, just farming practices. We believe that the food we eat should come from animals that are raised and harvested in a mindful manner throughout the entire lifecycle, as the Prophet (PBUH) always advocated. Because Saffron Road's products are sold nationally at Whole Foods Markets, the largest natural & organic food retailer in the world, there are numerous checks and balances which Whole Foods Markets also requires to insure Saffron Roads higher halal standards as this is an additional layer of accountability our halal products go through.
Furthermore, Mufti Abdullah Nana and Halal Advocates of America embraces Saffron Road foods due to our authentic practices listed above. So, my Muslim brothers and sisters, please rest assured that our halal practices are genuine , verified, transparent, and adhere to very, very high halal and zabihah standards as well as holistic tayeeb values.

Jazak Allah Khair,

Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer and CEO

American Halal Co/Saffron Road Foods

52 Responses

  1. Billa

    JazakAllah Khair for the review Sr.Kanika, Im more than tempted to try this out!

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      • Kanika Aggarwal

        @Halal: Thankyou for your comments. I understand where you are coming from. This is a big area of ijtihad and even the scholars themselves are divided on this issue. Allah knows best.

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      • Thai

        @Halal There is a good note at the bottom of this string from the CEO of Saffron Road explaining their Halal principles.

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      • Kanika Aggarwal

        jazzak Allah khair, I have updated the post with the information provided by Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer and CEO of American Halal Co/Saffron Road Foods.

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      • Salam

        As far as I know, Saffron Roads get the lamb from New Zealand which requires stunning by law. All Dhabihah slaughter in New Zealand are stunned, and they claim them as halal.

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    • Andrew

      This isn’t really a reply, but I can’t find a place to make a comment. While the flavor of the chicken tikki masala was good, there were six nugget size pieces of chicken in it, and the rice was crunchy. This is more of a snack than a meal (and an expensive snack at that). I would not recommend this product.

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    • iMuslim

      Agreed, masha’Allah. :) I have heard about the product, and think it is being sold in the UK too, but not tried it myself. I eat home-cooked Indian food most days, alhamdulillah, so I don’t buy from outside unless it’s something we don’t make at home, like dosa or paneer.

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  2. Obid

    Do they have a UK website/address? (I’d be quite interested in trying the free sample).

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  3. Mezba

    Seen many of these in Toronto in the main stream markets and thankfully the big grocery stores even have a halal section. It’s a boon to be able to have quick desi food without the preparation time, as well as quick parathas on weekends. I wonder how people managed to eat good food before refrigeration!

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  4. Mehdi Sheikh

    I’m surprised that Chicken Tikka Masala is there on the list.

    Its not an authentic Indian food. It was invented in England by some Sylheti Hotel owner and it took off like wild fire to becoming England most popular food item.

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  5. Ahmed

    I am sharing the mail I sent to info@saffronroadfood.com on February 21, 2011. The review was based on what I bought from a shop. I am not sure whether there was or is a difference between what is sold and what is sent for review, and I do not mean to imply the same. I must say that I was surprised to read this review. I did not receive a reply.

    My first taste of Saffron Road product

    Hello,

    As a Muslim I ensure that I get Halal frozen food for that unpredictable moment where we don’t have time to cook and have to make do with frozen items. It was with great pleasure that I saw the Saffron Road Ad in zabihah.com. I searched for places to purchase and found a place in Hoboken, close to Jersey City NJ, where I live and work. The product was not in a visible place (at the bottom shelf) and I had to ask help from the folks in the shop to find it.

    I bought the Chicken Biriyani, Lamb Vindaloo, and the Lamb Saag. I microwaved the Chicken Biriyani in office, closely following the instructions, and was waiting in anticipation… unfortunately I was disappointed. The rice turned out to be less than firm and broke down under the mildest of pressures. I thought the Chicken was a touch bland as well. Not a very good first impression I’m afraid.

    The Lamb Saag was mildly flavorful, with the rice being, as with the Biriyani, fragile to the touch of a fork.

    If Saffron Road is to build up on a faithful following, I seriously think that it should revamp its recipe. As a professional who buys frozen Halal food, I would advise the Chef to check out some of the other Halal Frozen Food Products such as Banana Leaf (which is also a new Brand), which gives a flavorful experience.

    I understand that Saffron Road may have certain restrictions due to its wider spectrum of target customers. However, the fundamental tastes have to be sound, before you can even consider reducing flavor dimensions such as level of spicy-ness etc… Another factor that I did consider is that perhaps the packaging did not allow for the flavor to be preserved. I cannot vouch for that fact, but if it is so, then there is a lot of work that you would have to put in that area. But I doubt that this is the issue, since the packaging seemed the same as other packaged Frozen Food which I have consumed.

    Anyway, this is my honest feedback, and I hope this will help you make Saffron Road a stronger Brand, as making Halal Food mainstream will help a lot of Muslims in the US.

    May Allah Bless All of you.

    Wassalaam

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    • Kanika Aggarwal

      jazzak Allah khair for this brother Ahmed. I hope Saffron Road reps reply back to you shortly and take your advice to heart inshaAllah!

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    • Ahmed

      After posting this comment, my initial email was responded to by CEO Adnan Durrani. He seemed genuinely regretful about not being prompt in their response, due to recent Technical Upgrades. Fair enough.

      Br. Adnan then went on to explain about their first lot and that there may have been issues in the packaging and how the High Quality of food handled under the strength of the Microwave energy. He wanted to know the Lot information in the packaging, but alas, I had none of them, since it was some time ago. They wanted to send me some samples from the newest Lot for me to check-out.

      In the meantime I went to the place I bought the stuff earlier hoping to give more information on the Lot Number. While buying the some stuff, the guy in the store asked me if I wanted to try the new shipment. So I bought one of the old Lot and two of the new Lot. My response to the CEO of SaffronRoad is given below.

      TL;DR; First lot had problems. Tried the new Lot and it was good.

      Brother Adnan,

      Assalamu Alaikum warahmathullaahi wabarakaathuhu

      Alhamdulillah, SaffronRoad has redeemed itself. Well, at least from my taste buds. Mabrook!

      I went back to the store I went the first time in the hope of getting the package information of the old lot. There was one (Lamb Vindaloo) from the old lot. Again I had to ask one of the guys there to help me, as I was not able to find it. As a bonus, he said that he had got a new shipment, and I said that I’d like to have some from the new shipment.

      So I bought the Lamb Vindaloo (from the old lot) and the Chicken Biriyani, and Chicken Tikka from the new lot. He opened the big box right in front of me. Once I got home, my wife and I consumed the Chicken Biriyani and the Chicken Tikka. The Chicken Biriyani was flavorful, and the Rice Kernels were firm, up to our expectation.

      The Chicken Tikka was good, but I thought it could have a bit more flavor. The Rice Kernels again stood up to the pressure of my fork.

      So from my point of view, SaffronRoad is a reflection of the Indian / Pakistani flavors we expect.

      I have attached images which I captured for your reference.

      So, now you don’t have to send me those samples after all!

      Jzk for you personal involvement in this. I am sure that with your leadership and concern for customer care, SaffronRoad will make it big. Do let us know if we can help you in anyway.

      Salaams,

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  6. Ameera Khan

    Wow, you’re a pretty good food critic Kanika! Masha’Allah! Tell me, is there something you haven’t dabbled in yet? :) Baraikillah! :D

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    • Kanika Aggarwal

      thankyou Ameera! glad you liked it =) lol there’s lots still that I wanna dooo….where do I start! may Allah give us all barakah in our time, ameen! <3

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  7. Me

    Indian food is the most amazing food I’ve come across but honestly speaking the most unhealthy food in the world, so it’s not worth it, maybe if you eat it once a month :).

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    • MuslimIndianandnowMuslimAmerican

      I’m sorry. It is good food, but the problem is we tend to overeat is because it’s so tasty and get sick.

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    • Atif

      It depends on what you define “healthy” as, and the dishes that you eat. If you’re going for a low-fat diet, there’s plenty of grilled items and vegetable dishes. If you’re going for a low-carb diet, I’ll admit that’s a little harder because most Indian dishes come with bread or rice, but it’s still doable.
      Also remember that the food usually served in restaurants are known for being “special-occasion” dishes; no one eats Biryani and Nihari everyday (hopefully). This is different from everyday “home-food” which has the potential to be healthier.

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      • Me

        I think most of the dishes are cooked with too much ghee and I’ve seen people that eat biryani, chicken tikka masala almost several times a week. Rice itself is not good for you so eating it several times a week is def. make you fat… And I won’t even mention the desi sweets. Most people don’t eat healthy desi food, they’ll go for biryani or other dishes made with meat that aren’t good for you. Many of my desi friend make desi food every single day because that’s what their husbands want and trust me it’s not veggies that they’re making.

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      • Kanika Aggarwal

        i think what you are talking about is food culture/habit – not the food itself. there are families who overindulge in fatty indian food but that doesnt make all indian food fatty. and cooking in ghee is rarely done now b/c of fat & calorie awareness. most indian dishes are now cooked in regular oils such as canola etc.

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      • Kanika Aggarwal

        jazzak Allah khair and I couldnt agree with you more. regular diet includes a lot of vegetables and lentils that are rich in all sorts of nutrients, especially protein and it is also low-fat

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    • Kanika Aggarwal

      Indian food is the most amazing food I’ve come across but honestly speaking the most unhealthy food in the world, so it’s not worth it, maybe if you eat it once a month .

      sounds like bit of an exaggeration there, hehe. Im in the process of writing a book on healthy Indian cooking which will include cooking tips & healthy ingredients & recipes inshaAllah – so definitely look out for that! :)

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  8. AsimG

    Yes, I would like the free halaal food please.

    I will gladly criticize all of your food if you send me some of that yum-yum.

    bohooth shukria

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  9. Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer

    Salaam ala kum . I am the founder, Chief Halal Officer, and CEO of Saffron Road/American Halal Co,Inc.

    We truly appreciate Kanika’s review—it was very objective and many of the comments have been constructive. But given the comment regarding machine slaughter by commenter “ Halal“ on March 28th, I just wanted to make sure to clear the air on a couple of things so that any fellow Muslim brothers or sisters are given the correct facts about Saffron Road’s products and halal sourcing.

    First of all, while IFANCA is indeed our certifier, all of the chicken and lamb used in our products are 100% Zabihah halal or hand-slaughtered by a Muslim , reciting the tasmiya and allahu akbar. We make sure to only allow hand slaughtered meat in our products to guarantee the Zabihah halal authenticity. We are also one of the only halal brands that make sure no stunning is allowed with any of our poultry. Our mission is to restore the sacredness of food. It’s about our whole spiritual connectedness – with our creator, with our mother earth, with all living creatures Allah put on earth, alhumdulillah. While we do only 100% zabihah hand slaughter, for us at Saffron Road it is not just about how the animal was slaughtered, which most commercial Halal production and especially kosher factories focus on. Rather, for us tayeeb is a set of ethical Halal values that are core to our business, our products, our spiritual traditions. For example, we only use livestock that is 100% vegetarian fed. We do not allow any antibiotics or growth hormones to be given to any of our livestock. Most significantly, we are currently the ONLY Halal certified or kosher chicken product in the world that qualifies as “Certified Humane®” by Humane Farm Animal Care. We source from smaller, local, or grass-fed farms – so we are very dedicated to using sustainable, just farming practices. We believe that the food we eat should come from animals that are raised and harvested in a mindful manner throughout the entire lifecycle, as the Prophet (PBUH) always advocated. Because Saffron Road’s products are sold nationally at Whole Foods Markets, the largest natural & organic food retailer in the world, there are numerous checks and balances which Whole Foods Markets also requires to insure Saffron Roads higher halal standards as this is an additional layer of accountability our halal products go through.
    Furthermore, Mufti Abdullah Nana and Halal Advocates of America embraces Saffron Road foods due to our authentic practices listed above. So, my Muslim brothers and sisters, please rest assured that our halal practices are genuine , verified, transparent, and adhere to very, very high halal and zabihah standards as well as holistic tayeeb values.
    Jazak Allah Khair,
    Adnan Durrani, Chief Halal Officer and CEO

    American Halal Co/Saffron Road Foods

    P.S. Also, to read more about or halal practices and values, please feel free to go to these links:

    http://www.myhalalkitchen.com/2010/10/28/meet-chief-halal-officer-adnan-durrani-and-saffron-road-halal-frozen-entrees

    or:

    http://www.altmuslim.com/a/a/n/4074

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    • Kanika Aggarwal

      walaykumusalaam brother Adnan, jazzak Allah khair for dropping by and providing us with this information. I have updated the post with this information so all of our readers can benefit from it inshaAllah.

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      • Adnan Durrani

        Salaams Sister Kanika. Shukraan for your expedient and just consideration.
        I hope this comment and inshallah your wonderful blog facilitates a vigorous ijithad
        among our ummah. Consumers and American Muslims especially should be demanding more transparency from their halal suppliers and we at Saffron Road applaud such open dialogues. Fee Amanullah

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  10. Linderlinder

    I’ve just brought home my first Saffron Road Frozen entree. I was very excited to try the Lemongrass Basil Chicken, however was not impressed. The price at Whole Foods was really attractive at $2.75 each, however, I might pay more for something a bit more balanced – but to be fair, the box does say 11oz right on it, but I would contest that’s a good portion ice.

    After 4 minutes in the microwave, I pulled it out to take the film off as the instructions suggest. On the protein side, there were three nuggets of chicken about twice the size of a sugar cube. I continued cooking and transferred it to a bowl to eat.

    The white rice had become completely mush, but still had a fluffy texture – just one more like grits or polenta. The green peppers were so bitter that I pulled them out entirely. I was left with the sauce – which was good – and a few strips of onion. I am just glad I didn’t opt to buy one of each flavor that Whole Foods offered. I hope this criticism serves to further improvements in the product as i adore this type of cuisine.

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  11. Ahmed

    I usually don’t write reviews about prepared foods but I almost feel forced to do so after trying out my first packet of Chicken Tikka Masala. Good lord, how could it be such a low quality product! After 4 minutes in microwave It had zero taste, the contents had mixed up into a paste of bad tasting soup. Rice looked more like quinoa and tasted like some textured grain. Chicken?? Where? I am really disappointed! I would like to hope that I picked up a box gone bad due to some undefined reason, but whatever it was I really think the product needs a significant improvement and a rigorous quality check! Please!!

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  12. Halal Advocates

    June 3rd, 2012 – The Halal Advocates of America wish to clarify that although we are on good terms with the management of Saffron Road and wish them all the best, we have not yet officially endorsed the Saffron Road Brand. The Halal Advocates have a set of public halal standards listed on their website which must be met for a product or establishment to be officially endorsed including inspections and access to production facilities. The Halal Advocates currently are unable to verify that Saffron Road meets the halal standards it has listed. If you have any questions or concerns, contact info@halaladvocates.org

    http://halaladvocates.net/site/2012/07/statement-about-saffron-road/

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  13. pravin68

    I have to question the taste buds of the reviewers. I had the Lamb Vindaloo recently and it was worse than the worst airline food I ever had. It had a weird taste. It tasted off. I can handle hot spicy food, but this wasn’t hot. BUt does that mean it is nice and light with a hint of spices? no. It was drowning in some red sauce that tasted like prison food. The smell coming from the microwave was bad too. I will never buy another product from this company again.

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  14. khan

    Its amazing that Saffron Road caters to not only muslims but in general everyone. We are a working parents.There are lot of times we cant cook and I want to ensure that my family is eating healthy, Zabiha, vegetarian fed, Humanely treated and that is when Saffron Road comes in. I think this is itself a huge reason to buy Saffron Road products.Its not greasy and spicy which really healthy sign. I would encourage everyone to buy and support Saffron Road.

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