Monday, March 9, 2009

Ajay's Montana Bananas - Original Sweet Teriyaki

Ajay's Montana Bananas Last month I did a review of "Ajay's Montana Banana's - Sweet Teriyaki". But today's review is of their "Original Sweet Teriyaki". This one uses a thicker cut of meat. Ajay's has two lines of jerky, one that uses this traditional thicker cut, and the other uses a slab-style thin cut. The traditional thicker cut all use the word, "Original" in their variety names.

Without having yet tasted this Original Sweet Teriyaki variety, it's my understanding it uses the same teriyaki recipe as the one I reviewed earlier. It's just different meat.

Ajay's Montana Bananas is a brand that's mostly sold through the BevMo! chain of liquor stores, a chain found throughout California and Arizona. It's also sold through several tool trucks like Matco and Snap-On. Otherwise, you can buy it directly from Ajay's website, except you'll have to buy 13 packages at a time. Hopefully, this review will help you decide.

Ingredients

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.

Taste

The first thing I taste off the surface of these pieces is a good deal of sweetness, and a bit of smoky flavor. There's also a slimy coating on the surface that's immediately noticed, similar to the Sweet Teriyaki I reviewed before. With some sucking, I can taste a bit of saltiness.

As I start chewing, the first flavor that comes out is a stronger saltiness that quickly changes into a soy sauce flavor. I can also pick up a slight meat flavor. Further into the chewing, the soy sauce flavor seems to wear off while the saltiness carries on.

The teriyaki flavor in this Original Sweet Variety does indeed taste the same as the Sweet Teriyaki variety. It doesn't have the pungent and tangy quality of true teriyaki, but it does seem to create a more teriyaki-like taste than most mass-market brands. The teriyaki flavor is largely represented by the moderate sweetness and soy sauce flavor. The sweetness seems to wear off half-way into the chewing, while the soy sauce is noticed throughout the chewing. At the tail end of chewing this, all I taste is soy sauce, and not teriyaki.

The natural meat flavors are light to non-existent. Where I seem to taste them the most are in the pieces with fat. But I think that's more of a "beefy" flavor than a meat flavor. The pieces with a rough surface tend to provide more meat flavor than those with a smooth surface.

The salt intensity seems moderate, though it tastes like it's higher. I think the sweetness helps mitigate it. Towards the latter part of chewing, the saltiness takes on a stronger intensity.

After eating several pieces, there's a garlic flavor noticeable in the background as an aftertaste.

Overall, what you'll get from this jerky is that initial sweetness and slight smoky flavor off the surface. As you start chewing and sucking out flavor, the soy sauce becomes the strongest flavor and remains that way until just before swallowing. At that point, the soy sauce becomes just a salty flavor. You'll get some faint natural meat flavors throughout, and a slightly stronger "beefy" flavor from those pieces with more fat.

Meat Consistency

These appear to be slices of whole meat, sliced to a medium thickness, and in small to medium sized pieces. While the package says "Traditional Thicker Cut", it's not really thick at all. It's certainly is thicker than their Slab-Style Thin Cut, but more like medium thickness compared to other brands.

This seems to be a dry jerky, but appears to be moist due to the shiny sweet coating. That coating tends to give it a bit more flexibility, however it still cracks apart easily with some bending. Tearing a piece apart is easy, and the chewing is easy, though somewhat chewy.

The chewing texture starts out with a stiff gummy texture, likely due to the sticky sweet glaze and that strange sliminess on the surface. It takes only 15-20 seconds until it chews down into something meat-like, but it never really takes on a steak-like feel. When chewed down, it feels more mushy than anything else, but there's still a fibrous meat-like quality.

My fingers pick up a light stickiness handling these pieces, but not enough that they need licking and wiping before touching my keyboard. Tearing these piece also results in some fragments of meat dropping.

I do find chunks of fat on some pieces, and other pieces have very small streaks when I look closely enough. I didn't find any tendon or gristle, and no chewy sinews in the meat.




Snack Value

Ajay's Montana Bananas has a suggested retail price of $7.00 per four ounce package for each of their Original jerky varieties. That works out to a price of $1.75 per ounce, putting this into the average price range.

For general jerky snacking purposes, at the $1.75 price per ounce, it seems to present a decent value. I'm getting a good deal of snackability for its strong overall flavor, a good flavor, and easy eating. The sweetness seems to please my sweet tooth, while the smokiness and light meat flavors are enough to tantalize the meat snacker in me.

As a teriyaki variety, at the same $1.75 price per ounce, it's a fair value. It's a better teriyaki flavor than the mass-market brands, though not quite a true teriyaki flavor. It's really just the sugar and soy sauce I get out of this, and in certain points along the eating this, I taste only one and not the other. Note that the Sweet Teriyaki variety I reviewed before has a $1.40 price per ounce, and presents a better value for this reason.

Rating

I'm giving this an average rating.

This Original Sweet Teriyaki variety from Ajay's Montana Bananas gives you a better teriyaki flavor than the mass-market brands, but still not providing a true teriyaki flavor. It has good flavor intensity with its sweetness, soy sauce, and saltiness, but comes up short with a strong natural meat flavor.

Overall, it provides a good deal of snackability and for that matter will please most jerky snackers, particularly for doing something else like watching a movie, sharing with a friend over a couple of beers, or keeping on your desk at work. It's easy to eat, provides plenty of flavor, and isn't too messy.

Even though the teriyaki flavor is better than the mass-market brands, this jerky still doesn't strike me as something above average overall. I'm not picking up much natural meat flavor, and the chewing texture is on the gummy and mushy side. But if your jerky buying habits are to visit a grocery store and find something next to the candy aisle, then it wouldn't hurt to stop at a nearby BevMo! store and grab a package of Ajay's.

A good beer to pair up with this is light tasting blonde ale or kolsch.

Rating: Average

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