Making restaurant-quality dehydrated food items is extremely tricky. There are limits to the styles of meals you can dehydrate, primarily when it arrives to excess fat content. Sucking all of the water out of proteins does horrible matters to texture. Seasoning a dehydrated meals pouch so that it is perfectly salted and acidified following it is been reconstituted? You’re far more likely to get a allow for the John Muir Trail.
In the latest years, the sheer variety of makes and range of cuisines on offer you for hungry backpackers has grown exponentially. No for a longer time need to we choose amongst oversalted stroganoff and gummy mac n’ cheese. Continue to, even the ideal models wrestle to pull off a reconstituted food now and then, and the simple guidelines of dehydration and freeze-drying seem to be to have their limitations, no subject how fantastic the substances are. That was, until eventually Stowaway Gourmand arrived along in 2020.
The tiny-scale Tillamook, Oregon-centered enterprise has fully modified our knowledge of what is attainable in a backpacking meal, with dishes like Lamb Bourguignon and Bison Beer Black Bean Chili. The best way we can describe the variation: The flavor of prompt espresso vs freshly-ground pour-above. (Thinking if we have done our investigate? Look at out our Pouch Wars column, the place Backpacker categorically flavor-checks and ranks dehydrated backpacking foodstuff).
One particular of the most spectacular factors about Stowaway’s pouches is how properly they keep texture, in particular when it comes to proteins. Shrimp stays plump and juicy. Hen stays loaded and fatty. Salmon—which manufacturers almost by no means use in dehydrated foods simply because of its cost and texture—is miraculously tender.
Forty-8-yr-previous operator Dan West is restricted-lipped about his freeze-drying process, other than to say that just about every aspect is proprietary: “There’s a history of freeze-drying that is optimized all-around substantial industrial functions, but they are lacking a whole lot in conditions of the work it takes to make something satisfying. We are questioning and tough every way that we possibly can within the constraints of science to make better freeze-dried food stuff.”
The selection of cuisines that Stowaway dabbles in is considerable: France, Italy, Mexico, India, Thailand, Russia, and Japan are all accounted for, with more authenticity than can be mentioned of most other makes. West, who expended a quarter of his grownup daily life living in Asia, dove deep into the food cultures and culinary secrets and techniques of the metropolitan areas he lived and worked in. Miso Salmon Okayu, a salmon and tofu-filled Japanese rice porridge that functions perfectly for just about each and every meal, is simmered with daikon, miso, fresh new ginger, kombu, and bonito flakes. A Thai curry lists the unabridged essentials—lemongrass, shallot, Thai chiles, shrimp paste, galangal, and Makrut lime leaf—among its components.
Component of Stowaway’s accomplishment is owed to its willingness to experience by means of hrs of kitchen experiments with atypical ingredients. “Boar is a full nightmare to work with,” West claims. “We acquire a aspect of boar bacon and almost have to acquire it fully apart to make it appropriate for the clients. You have to grow to be an engineer, there’s just no other way to do it.”
What ever Stowaway is executing in their reinvented freeze-dried laboratory, it is doing work. We’ve hardly ever tried out a backpacking pasta with as a lot richness, texture, and umami as the brand’s La Pasta Nostra, a wealthy stew of tomato, anchovy, mushrooms, and Italian cheeses. Nor have we had a Southwest stew as belly-warming, intricate, and well balanced as Stowaway’s chicken and hominy Las Pollos Hermanas. When you’d instead try to eat a dehydrated pouch food than feast on a freshly-grilled burger for the duration of a resupply run, you know anything is distinct.
What about that rate tag? At all around $16 a pop, Stowaway’s pouches are a dollar or two a lot more than comparable boutique pouch meal brands like Gastro Gnome, Fernweh Food items Co., and Farm to Summit. If your typical is a $10 Mountain Household food, there is definitely sticker shock, in particular if you are gearing up for a for a longer time excursion. And if style isn’t a main component for you, but rather caloric value and protein amounts, then Stowaway in all probability isn’t truly worth the splurge. (Although the manufacturer does tend to have stable numbers for each, with 500-700 energy and 25-49 grams of protein per pouch).
But if you, like us, have normally felt that dehydrated food stuff malaise should not ruin a backpacking vacation in the 21st century, then Stowaway is well worth a try. And, with a substantial bar like the a single this brand is placing, we hope other backpacking food firms will rise to satisfy the challenge.