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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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup

Well, friends, today is the one year anniversary of the inception of this blog. Thank you all for reading, for joining our blog, liking us on facebook, and following us on twitter. We do appreciate your support. Also, stay tuned for our next great reader contest winner announcement!

Perhaps it's fate that we should be reviewing this Vietnamese style pho (pronounced "fuh," like you were going to say a dirty word, but then quickly and wisely changed your mind) on our birthday. In Vietnam, it's traditional to eat a bowl of beef pho on your birthday.

Actually, no, I just made that up. According to this site, in fact, there are no actual birthday traditions in Vietnam, but rather, all birthdays are celebrated on New Year's Day. So...this is sort of an inappropriate dish to review on our birthday. Oh well. Such is life. Did you know, however, that we share our birthday with James Cameron, Madonna, Angela Bassett, Kathie Lee Gifford, Frank Gifford, and Eydie Gorme (whom my mother-in-law worked for some years ago) just to name a few? It's true.

OK, enough intro. On with the food review. For starters, based on TJ's track record, I was fully expecting there to be a lack of beef in this dish. They have a tendency to skimp on the meat in dishes like this one. But I've gotta say, that was NOT the case here. Now I'm certainly not saying there was too much beef, but I was pleasantly surprised that the soup had plenty of meat bits that lasted until the end. Although, that being said, I must unfortunately point out that another basic ingredient was in short supply: the noodles! Not sure how that happened really, but I ran out of noodles way before beef. And, the noodles seemed really tough to me. I followed the instructions, but it felt like I should have allowed the noodles to soak in hot water for another five minutes or so.

The broth was light and slightly savory, like a good pho broth should be. I've only had restaurant pho twice, and both times, I am told, I had it from average-at-best pho restaurants, but I must remind you that Russ and I are self-proclaimed foodie-hacks, not true licensed foodies. And I'm willing to bet that many of you have eaten even less pho than I have...so please bear with me. The veggies were fine: chopped up into little pieces and evenly distributed throughout the soup. Like the beef and broth, I had no major complaints about the vegetable bits.

The overall effect is a nice, delicate Asian meat and vegetable soup. The biggest let-down by far was the lack of noodles, and their slightly-stiff texture. I'd try this product again, but I'd heat the dish an extra minute and allow it to sit for an extra five. I'll give it three and a half stars. Sonia agrees.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

21 comments:

  1. I actually just picked this up yesterday before reading your review. Phew! BTW, you also share your birthday with this WGATJ fan!

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  2. I tried this today and thought it was really disappointing! I'm a huge pho fan and have had it countless times over the years. The broth didn't have enough flavor, the noodles were lacking, and the veggies were a bad mix (who puts bell peppers in pho?). Unfortunately, I didn't think it was worth $2.99. Maybe I'm just too used to the ones at restaurants, lol. I could've paid $3-$4 more and gotten the real thing. Trader Joe's can be unpredictable. :)

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  3. I love Pho!!!' Being a teacher we never have time to leave school to grab lunch. Therefore we have to bring lunch! The Trader Joes Pho hits the spot! This type of meal is great for on the go or wanting something quick!!!!! It's comes with great flavor and the right serving size!!! During the winter months this soup is great! If your looking for traditional Pho....by all means to a restaurant!!!!! Like all foods that are packaged if never exactly the same.....but this product comes close! Great job Trader Joes for this product!!!!

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  4. I am by no means a pho expert in fact before trying the Trader Joe's Beef Pho I was a pho virgin. I have to say I really enjoyed it. I guess my ignorance on what is traditional is a good thing because I liked the red pepper, and the meat was tender as were the noodles. I will buy again and again and this also prompts me to try some restaurant pho.

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  5. I LOVE this pho! I must admit that I add Sriracha, soy sauce and salt to mine, but when I do the flavor is fantastic and just like the pho I eat at the Vietnamese restaurant across the street!

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  6. gah! my sister married a vietnamese dude so maybe i have been spoiled, but this was awful!! random veggies, thick, poor quality meat. not enough noodles and the broth was close- but not close enough. never again!!

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  7. oh wow, here I thought I came up with something special by talking about trader joe's foods on my blog (though I've only done it once so far), to find total dedication to the subject! Though my opinion is completely different from having really good pho. It is just missing so much flavor. Give the stovetop directions a try, my noodles were perfect, and everything easily pops out of the bowl into a saucepan.

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  8. I just tried it today.. The flavors are subtle, and I had to add some extra salt to boost it up a little. Mine felt like it came with an extra serving of onions. I don't think I'll be getting it again :(

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  9. I live in Hanoi and have to say it does not look much like Pho from the picture. The noodles seem right but that's about it.

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    1. I'd say that's because the product bears absolutely no relation to pho in any way. I didn't have high hopes for it going in, but I honestly thought it was disgusting. I knew that the best aspects of pho (the incredibly nuanced broth, the delicacy of thinly-sliced meats just barely cooked in the broth or the roulettish adventure of variety offal, and the fresh herbs and sprouts and lime and sauces to customize it with) could not possibly translate to a frozen supermarket meal... but I guess I thought that it could be at least a reasonably tasty soup of some sort.

      In reality, the broth was maybe one step above dirty dishwater, the noodles were at once mushy and oddly tough, the beef (I got 3 pieces in mine) was thick, tough, and bland, I couldn't discern any of the trademark herbs and spices one would expect from pho except for some cilantro, and where on earth did they come up with the veggie content??? Red bell peppers and sugar snap peas? In pho? They were out of place AND they had all the worst qualities frozen vegetables can suffer from.

      This was honestly the worst thing I've ever bought at TJ's, and probably one of the worse things I've eaten, period.

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    2. I had the same experience. Worst purchase i have had a TJ's in a long time! Terrible product!!

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  10. I picked this up the other day. Unfortunately, it was NOT one of TJ's happy surprises. I've had plenty of pho at restaurants, and this was nothing like it...in fact, "awful" is the word that came to mind.

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  11. I really enjoyed this soup! It's definitely not the "real deal" but is close enough for horseshoes. Noodles were not so hot, but for a quick, tasty lunch - this will do.

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  12. I really didn't like it. Even beyond the fact that it doesn't resemble any decent pho I've ever had, it also left a really gross aftertaste in my mouth. Nothing about it justifies the 2.99 price tag.

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  13. They must have quality control issues with this! Mine had plenty of noodles but only 4 little pieces of beef....and it has no flavor.

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  14. Gack! I agree with many of the posters above. I am an admitted Pho snob and have eaten countless bowls all over the US and abroad. This is a very poor excuse for Pho - flavorless, inappropriate veggies, 2 slices of tough beef. I could go on, but you get the point. I make much better Pho at home with a "crock pot" Pho recipe. Cook it all day, cool and skim the next day and yummo! This was one of the few things from TJ's that I actually threw away. Shame, I had such high hopes...

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  15. As others aptly said -- this is NOT Pho and has little flavor. The ingredients were all quality, but the creator of this dish must have never tried Pho. The broth tastes more Thai than anything (dish water as someone put it -- likely due to the citrus...) All wrong.

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  16. What!? The pho you got from the freezer case ISN'T as good as the fresh pho you got at a Vietnamese restaurant?! And it cost 2.99, insane.

    Temper your expectations people, it's frozen soup.

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  17. I'm enjoying this right now. Not bad, and waaaay better than a bowl of cream of whatever condensed soup. The broth needs a beefier taste, but I add Sriracha and the heat kind of makes up for that. There are too few noodles, though,and I did have to cook an extra minute and a half, then allow the noodles to soften for 4 minutes.

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  18. I loved it, added some Thai chili sauce and made it spicy and yummy��

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  19. Just noticed this item at TJs. I love pho but the weight of the package told me it's just a dried soup base inside, so I wasn't real hopeful. Also knowing how good pho is made, with broth simmering at least overnight, and farm fresh ingredients piled in just before serving I couldn't imagine a frozen product getting anywhere near as good. With expectations low, I will say it is better than my expectations. The broth, as expected, was thin and simple rather than rich and complex, as a good restaurant woud make it. But it was pleasant enough- light and with a background of aromatic herbs (ginger? lemon grass?) and not too salty. It's very common for industrial foods to overdue salt to please the addicted masses. I knew there was no way I was going to get the rare beef one can get in restaurants. And I didn't. As to what *was* in there, it was just OK, Not objectionable. There wasn't very much beef at all, but that could be luck of the draw. Maybe someone else got a bonus amount. Just a guess. The noodles were…. OK. Not bad, not exceptional. I think where they really did well was the vegetables and herbage. NOT exactly what you would get in a restaurant, but again, you just can't do what a resturant does with a frozen convenience food like this. What I will compliment them on is veggies that seemed snappin' fresh. Bright flavors and excellent to the tooth. It seemed like a healthy, bright tasting light meal. Not restaurant pho but not completely out of that flavor territory either. A nice, light, healthy, tasty, convenient microwave meal. Better than most, owing to the abundance of good snappy vegetables and aromatic notes. I'll definitely get it again for quick convenience meals.

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