Look Before You Eat – Pei Wei

I heard a while back that Pei Wei was now serving cauliflower rice and I’ve been interested in trying it. They also have a cauliflower fried rice, which sounded great! I’ve made cauliflower fried rice before, so it sounded like a best of both world type restaurant item. I figured it would be high and fat, but still low carb. I knew some of Pei Wei’s entrees were sweet, but I thought if I chose wisely and got something spicy, I could still be successful. Notsomuch….

I had the Thai Dynamite with Steak and a side of cauliflower fried rice. Based upon their nutritional information (below), that totals 1190 calories, 71g of fat, 86g of carbohydrate (58g being sugar), 49g of protein, and 4770mg sodium. Wow…

Here are the details on the meal (from Pei Wei Nutrition, updated January 2019):

Thai Dynamite Regular: 310 calories, 15g fat, 37g carbs (30g sugar), 5g protein, 1830mg sodium

Grass Fed Steak: 410 calories, 29g fat, 8g carbs (0g sugar), 29g protein, 510mg sodium

Cauliflower Fried Rice: 470 calories, 27g fat, 41g carbs (28g sugar), 15g protein, 2430mg sodium

The Thai Dynamite was one of three “lower” sugar entrees. The other two being the Korean Spicy (25g) and the Mongolian (29g). Just for comparison, the Pei Wei Original has 87g of sugar in it before adding meat or rice!

Pei Wei has embarked on a great campaign to be transparent in their ingredients and appear to be committed to health. You can read more about that on their website, The Wei Forward. To summarize a few key points from this page, they feel food should “begin with simple, fresh ingredients that are minimally processed and free of artificial color and preservatives”.

In line with their “ingredient transparency,” they posted the ingredients for the cauliflower fried rice (the Thai Dynamite and Steak are not yet posted): Fresh Cauliflower, Fresh White Meat Chicken, Egg, Kung Pao Sauce [Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Sugar, Corn Starch), Mushroom Flavored Soy Sauce (Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Salt, Sugar, Corn Starch) Molasses, Natural Mushroom Flavor), Water, Chicken Broth (Water, Chicken meat with Natural Juices, Salt, Organic Cane Sugar, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Chicken Fat, Onion Powder, Turmeric, Natural Flavor, Spice Extractives), Sugar, Distilled Vinegar, Molasses, Sake Wine, (Water, Sugar, Salt, Oyster Extractives [Oyster, Water, Salt], Corn Starch)], Carrots, Red Bell Pepper, Scallions, Mung Bean Sprouts, Soybean Oil, Corn Starch, White Pepper, Kosher Salt.

If you look at the ingredients to understand where all the sugar in the cauliflower fried rice is coming from, it’s in the soy sauce that is in both the Kung Pao Sauce and the Mushroom Flavored Soy Sauce, it’s directly in the Mushroom Flavored Soy Sauce as molasses, it’s in the chicken broth, it’s added directly as sugar and molasses, and it’s in the sake wine. Is that much sugar (28g per serving) really needed to make the cauliflower fried rice edible?

It’s interesting… when you compare the cauliflower fried rice to the regular fried rice, both white and brown, there is more sugar on the cauliflower fried rice (28g compared to 25g for the white and 17g for the brown). I don’t get it.

Had I looked before I ate, I would have made my decisions from the nutritional information. Actually, to be honest with you, the nutritional information would have kept me away entirely because that’s way too much sugar…

However, looking at the nutritional information, this is what I propose to be the healthiest bowl (sticking with regular size, although small is definitely “less”), would total 500 calories, 26g of fat, 43g of carbohydrate (30g being sugar), 32g of protein, and 1230mg sodium:

Korean Spicy Regular: 270 calories, 16g fat, 31g carbs (25g sugar), 3g protein, 830mg sodium

Steamed Shrimp: 110 calories, 2g fat, 1g carbs (0g sugar), 24g protein, 330mg sodium

Cauliflower Rice: 120 calories, 8g fat, 11g carbs (5g sugar), 5g protein, 70mg sodium

So, Pei Wei, I applaud your transparency and your desire to make food that’s minimally processed and made from “real” food, but I implore you to take it one step further and look for ways to reduce the sugar in your sauces.

One thought on “Look Before You Eat – Pei Wei

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