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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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trader Joe's True Thai Vegetable Pad Thai

So sue us, we didn't review any beer for St. Patrick's Day. How terribly un-festive of us. The title of the previous post did contain the word "green" twice. And anyway, we'd have to travel into another state for a Trader Joe's that sells beer. Just go back and read this post. It's Mexican beer, so what? They're a Catholic country that has green on their flag, too.

Anyway, let's get down to business shall we? Today we'll be talking about fine vegetarian Thai cuisine...oh, and this Trader Joe's Vegetable Pad Thai, too.

In L.A., there's an amazing restaurant at Orlando and Beverly called Vegan Glory. Everything they serve is, as the name would indicate, free of animal products of any kind. They serve mostly Thai-themed food...and honestly, this is not only the BEST vegan or vegetarian food I've ever had anywhere, but it's one of my favorite restaurants period. I'm certainly not a vegan, but anyone I've ever known that's open-minded enough to try it instantly becomes a fan, regardless of how much meat-lust lingers in their stomach. If you ever decide to stop in, I recommend the pineapple fried rice with soy chicken nuggets. Put a little hot sauce on it, and WOW...meatless Thai food that'll blow your mind for a totally reasonable price--not to mention good, friendly service from people whom I think are actually from Thailand. (Most of them speak good English, though.)

Now, if Trader Joe's can make a killer meatless corn dog, you would expect them to make a killer meatless pad thai. I mean, that is, given TJ's generally good track record with Asian style food products, as well as their wide array of tasty vegetarian and vegan foods, one would think that a Thai entree as basic as Pad Thai would be an easy one to knock out of the ballpark. Lots of Thai foods are vegetarian or vegan anyway. Meat seems more intrinsically necessary for the success of a corn dog than that of Pad Thai.

However, I've gotta say - and maybe it's just because I was spoiled by Vegan Glory - this Pad Thai misses the mark. The noodles are too chewy - almost rubbery. The sprouts are stringy, and the little chunks of tofu, which were actually my favorite part, were too far and few between. Even though their texture was nice and their flavor wasn't awful, I found myself pining for real chicken pieces. I would say I was craving better quality tofu thingies, but there was something about these little guys that made me NOT want anything vegetarian. Because they were so unlike real meat, they reminded me of why I like meat in the first place. A good veggie Thai dish shouldn't leave you wanting real meat. Again, they aren't bad in and of themselves, but they're not nearly as good as real chicken. And I've had plenty of vegetarian dishes that completely quell any meat cravings - including a good many Trader Joe's products.

The sauce on the dish is certainly palatable. No complaints there, except that there could be a little more of it.

Sonia kind of surprised me with a higher-than-expected rating. She gave it a 3.5. I'm going to have to be the bad guy on this one and give it a 2.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.


  1. So glad you tried this first as I had been thinking of trying it. Sounds like maybe not worth the bother.

  2. Yeah, Monica, if you ask me, I'd say it's a pass. But I have been wrong once or twice in my life...

  3. Ah, Vegan Glory - yes definitely the best vegan cuisine I've ever had, and you're right on the money with recommending the pineapple fried rice. Yum!

    I've never been one who's much for Pad Thai - but send some Pad See-Ew my way any day. Shame this was such a bummer...

  4. Hey Ariel! Thanks for the comment. Yeah, pad see-ew is good, too, but I usually try the pad thai first at any new restaurant. Not sure if TJ's makes a pad see-ew...we'll keep on the lookout for it.

  5. It makes me sad that Trader Joe's wasn't able to make a good vegetarian pad thai. I truly believe that pad thai does not need chicken to be delicious, since the best rendition I've ever had was at my school cafeteria in Thailand-- and it was 100% vegetarian. So clearly there was something off here.

  6. Found your blog this morning after I tried making TJ's Pad See Ew last night and wondered if anyone else had tried it and found it as horrifying as I did. Certainly put the "Ew" in Pad See Ew! I'd be interested to hear your review of it. I'll be steering clear of the Pad Thai based on your review, and look forward to reading more. I live in Denver where our TJ just opened last month so I have lots to explore!

    1. I came here for the same reason! I tried the Pad See Ew last night and it was one of the worst things I've ever picked up from TJ's (and I've eaten their sushi...). My fiance, who's normally a garbage disposal, at one bite and noped out of it, and I barely managed a bite myself. The texture was just so gross that I couldn't go on. We ended up tossing the whole thing (I hate to waste food and money like that, but oh well) and making something else.

      I'd be curious to see what Nathan and Sonia think, but I also wouldn't wish this dish on anyone.

  7. Thanks for the info, Heidi! Put the "ew" in Pad See Ew. LOL. Enjoy that TJs. This video brought Denver's recent lack of a TJs to my attention. You Denverites are funny.

  8. The Pad See-ew was truly disguisting, and I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to frozen entrees. The noodles were gummy, the veggies were chewy and inedible (I had to spit them out) and the tofu was watery. The Pad Thai entree is actually alright as far as a frozen entree goes, but best to get the real thing in a real Thai restaurant.

  9. oh noes i just bought the pad sew ew and it's sitting in my freezer -- i bought it before discovering this blog -- coz i really liked their pad thai. though they should have used peanuts instead of cashews. i added a scrambled egg seasoned with fish sauce, and added lime juice to the whole dish. usually ate this with shredded green mango back home, but it's not available here.