Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Trader Ming's Szechuan Style Spicy Beef & Broccoli

When we lived in Hollyweird, California, there was this little hole-in-the-wall joint people referred to as "Dollar Chinese," because back in the day, you could get any entree for $1. Then they changed the name and management like 8 times in 5 years, and prices gradually rose above the $1 mark, and recently they went above $2 per item I think...but you could always get obscenely cheap Chinese food there. For a while it was "Hong Kong Express" and then it was "Shanghai Surprise" or something (Surprise! There's cat-meat in your eggroll!) and finally "Great Wall Express."

When it comes to cheap Chinese food, for some reason orange chicken is the only dish that people can routinely get right. The orange chicken at Dollar Chinese was indeed palatable. However, if you chose anything else, it was generally understood you were taking your life into your own hands. The next-safest entree was considered to be broccoli-beef. At Dollar Chinese, for me anyway, it was a little too daring...I only tried it once and learned my lesson fast.

At a place like Panda Express, they can make a decent broccoli-beef, but I still think their orange chicken will beat it every time.

All that to say, I haven't had many broccoli-beef dishes in my day, and the ones I have had probably weren't the greatest representations of the dish, but I must say that Trader Joe's Beef & Broccoli is most definitely the best I have had so far. The sauce was amazing, spicy, and tangy. (Sonia actually thought the sauce was a bit too tangy). There were plenty of big, healthy pieces of broccoli, and overall, I was pleased with the beef. There were just a few pieces that were way too big. These huge, monstrous beef chunks wound up slightly unevenly cooked. But I'm probably nit-picking again. In general, the beef was crispy and well-done. I don't recall the other broccoli-beef dishes I've tried containing breaded beef, but TJ's brand was covered in a sort of thin batter not unlike the coating on the orange-chicken. I liked it, though.

We served it with Trader Joe's Brown Rice, which is always good, by the way. Sonia gives the dish a 4.5 out of 5. I give it 4.5 out of 5, as well. Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

17 comments:

  1. I personally love broccoli beef & have had both the pleasure & misfortune to eat it in several restaurants, so I look forward to trying the TJ's incarnation. In the past I would've steered away from their "chinese" options. I wouldn't have thought this type of food lends itself well to the frozen entree treatment, but after trying & adoring their orange chicken, I've been converted... ;)

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  2. Yeah, totally. I was skeptical at first, too, but this stuff is actually good...

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  3. Looks yummy. Don't know how it can beat the orange chicken, though. Added to the grocery list.

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  4. Sandy and I were planning to have this for dinner tonight even before this review came out (Nathan just *had* to beat us to it ...). We wouldn't rank it quite as high, but still, it's pretty good!

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  5. I tried it today then was SHOCKED when I saw how much sugar was in it (54 grams per serving!!!!) Ouch.

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  6. Hmm, maybe that's why we liked it so much ....

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  7. Well Nathan,... not so much. I agree it's spicy, but there is way too much sweet and vinegar for any szechuan I've ever had. The beef was crispy, but even with only 3 minutes in the microwave, the broccoli, which I didn't think there was enough of, or maybe the broccoli pieces were too small, was mushy. Won't buy this one again. I've had some good Trader Joe's frozen entrees, but this deifinetely wasn't one of them.

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  8. agree with Robin -- the beef also had so much fat in places that I couldn't stand to eat it.

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  9. Had this for dinner tonight and spicy is right! My mouth is still on fire and my lips are burning. I'm not a wimp when it comes to spicy food either. BUT it is really good! I threw in some onion with the beef when it was almost done and we added some broccoli and carrots. Yum.

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  10. I love your blog. I literally just laughed at the cat meat comment for a good three to four minutes.

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  11. I was just in tears laughing at the cat meat comment. I happen to love TJs beef and broccoli. It's always in my freezer.

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  12. Disgustingly sweet. More sugar per serving than ice cream!

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  13. Seriously??? I love TJ's. I bought this based on your blog, however, the sugar was overpowering. 52 grams of sugar!!! Yuck!!! My lips are forever puckered.

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  14. just bought this today, cant wait to try it, thanks!

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  15. Have you had it recently? I tried it out and didn't like it at all. The beef was really fatty, stringy and had a very unpleasant taste. I didn't like the sauce either but I think that is really down to individual taste.

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