Ajay's Montana Bananas is brand of beef jerky based out of Alta Sierra, CA. It was launched back in 1979 by a singer and songwriter named Ajay Avery.
The business launched with the "Cowboy Dry" variety, which today Ajay markets as "Original Peppered". He said he came up with the name Montana Bananas only because the recipe for Cowboy Dry came from a Montana butcher shop, and that "banana" rhymes with Montana. He says as a songwriter he tends to think of stuff like that.
Today, Montana Bananas comprises of six total varieties. Three of them are described as "slab-style thin cut", which are sold in 5oz packages, and others are "traditional thicker cut", sold in 4oz packages. This particular "Sweet Teriyaki" I'm reviewing here is the former.
Beef, sugar, water, soy sauce solids, salt, natural spices and flavoring, hydrolyzed soy protein, monosodium glutamate, garlic powder, guar gum, polysorbate 80, caramel color powder, sodium nitrite.
The flavors I taste from the surface of these pieces starts with a moderate level sweetness with a slight smoky aroma. In that sweetness, there's a moderate amount of saltiness, and a touch of garlic. In the chewing, I don't think I pick up anything beyond the surface flavor.
As for being a "sweet teriyaki" variety, it definitely is sweet, and there's enough saltiness in this, and a weaker soy sauce flavor, and they seem to combine together into something resembling teriyaki, much more than other mass-market teriyaki jerkies. If I were to snack through this without much thought, I'd get the sense that it had a good teriyaki taste and be satisfied. But if I were to suck out the flavors and analyze carefully, it's clear that it's missing the tangy and pungent contrasts normally provided by the sake and ginger. I'm not even sure there's any sake and ginger in this.
As for natural meat flavors, I can't seem to find any. I ate several pieces, and thought carefully in finding the meat flavors, but I never found any. In fact, the chewing flavor of this jerky seems to be the same as the surface flavors. Or, perhaps this jerky has no chewing flavor, and the surface flavors carry over into the chewing.
The surface of these pieces develop a slimy film after a few seconds in my mouth. Perhaps the thickening agents like the guar gum, or maybe the polysorbate 80 is what causes this. But it seems to have a flavor of its own, somewhat chemical-like. It's not overpowering, maybe just light in intensity, but certainly noticeable on the surface. Eventually it wears off half-way into the chewing.
Overall, what I taste in this jerky is primarily the saltiness. It's largely the flavor that persists through most of the chewing. It's perhaps moderate in intensity. But the sweetness is more dominant from the point of putting a piece into my mouth, to about the first few chews. That's when the saltiness starts taking over. That slimy chemical-like taste is also there at the very beginning.
These appear to be thin slices of whole meat, in small to medium sized pieces.
It's largely a dry jerky. If bent with the grain it cracks pretty easily, but if bent against the grain, I'm able to bend it all the way without cracking. Still, it's pretty easy to tear apart with my fingers, while the chewing is moderately easy.
The chewing texture has a slight gummy quality, and a little bit mushy, which I think results from the slimy film I described in the "Taste" section above. I don't really get any kind of steak-like texture out of this. I do get something meaty, and fibrous, but it's more close to that of a "fruit roll up" than it is to steak.
Despite the slick shiny surface on these pieces, no residue picks up on my fingers, and I don't find any fragments falling off as I tear this jerky apart.
And for the most part, it seem pretty lean as well. I don't find any amounts of fat, tendon, or gristle.
Ajay's Montana Bananas has a suggested retail price of $7.00 per five ounce package for this Sweet Teriyaki variety. That works out to a price of $1.40 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.
For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $1.40 per ounce price, it presents a good value. I'm getting a moderate amount of snackability. I find it easy to eat, and it seems to have a good enough taste to keep me satisfied for most snacking purposes. I think the $1.40 price per ounce is low enough that I can get some value from it. If it were priced around $1.75 per ounce, I wouldn't get enough bang for that buck.
As a teriyaki variety, also at the $1.40 per ounce price, it seems to be a good value. It's really the price that warrants your consideration. It seems to satisfy the teriyaki taste buds more so than the other mass-market teriyaki jerky brands. If you're to snack on this without putting much appreciation into it, you'll get a pretty good teriyaki experience. But if you were to compare this to true teriyaki, I think you'll discover what's missing in it. As long as the price doesn't go any higher, I think it's a better teriyaki flavor at a price that's comparable to most of the mass-market jerkies.
I'm giving this an average rating.
This "Sweet Teriyaki" from Ajay's Montana Bananas seems to offers a better teriyaki snacking flavor than the other mass-market jerky brands, and that would be enough to make it better than average.
But it's not necessarily a true teriyaki flavor. It seems to miss the tangy and pungent qualities that come from such ingredients as sake (or mirin wine), and ginger. You wouldn't buy this teriyaki jerky for the sake enjoying teriyaki jerky, but it seems to be great if you just wanted to chew away while doing something else.
And while it's easy to eat in terms of tearing apart and chewing, the chewing texture itself seems far enough removed from something steak-like, that I don't quite get the sense of eating meat. It actually does feel something like meat, but not enough like meat to satisfy the carnivore in me.
And then there's still that chemical-like taste coming out of the slimy film.
All of that seems to drag it's rating back down to average. But still, if all you want is a teriyaki jerky that gives out a good teriyaki flavor for general jerky snacking, I think it's a good product. And considering it's priced similarly to the crapiyaki you get from the mass-market brands, it's a good deal.
For a good beer paring, I'd recommending something light, like a cream ale.
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