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, December 6, 2011

Trader Joe's Spicy Shrimp Bao

I'm not particularly proud of it, but I'm a carbivore. I'm definitely into anything with breading...chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, fried shrimp, anything parmigiana, and pretty much any kind of Asian dumpling. I would have said just "any kind of Asian dumpling," but after many years of happily gorging myself on many different kinds of high-carb delicacies, I've finally found a dumpling I don't like.
To be fair, I must admit we made them the fast way. The box said microwaving was acceptable, but there were alternate instructions for those patient folks who could wait an extra 15 minutes to eat their food. That version involved cooking them on the stovetop with water—not oil, but water.

These dumplings were dry, lacked flavor, and had very little shrimp in them. In fact, the vast majority of the matter in each pastry was the bland, white, bread-like shell. Though they were small, it was entirely possible to take a bite of them and get only fluffy white nothingness.

I'm usually such a fan of carbs that getting a mouthful of nothing but bread wouldn't bother me, but in this case, the dough was so plain and seemingly stale, that I found it not only unpleasant, but nearly inedible. Even a greater amount of the inside-filling couldn't have redeemed these little wannabe hors d'oeuvres completely, as the main substance in the center was a vague greenish mush, with only slightly more taste than the mass of bleached breadiness surrounding it.

My expectations had been pretty high, since other Trader Joe's Asian dumpling-esque items like this and this were pretty darn successful if you ask me. We ate the shrimp dumplings with soy sauce, but I don't think there's a condiment in existence that could bring these suckers back from the brink of nastiness.

I was surprised that Sonia gave them a 3. She was disappointed with the lack of veggies and shrimp in the middle, but didn't seem as disgusted by the dough as I was. I'm going with a 2 since, in all fairness, they might have been much better had we made them on the stovetop. Otherwise, as we ate them, I might have been tempted to give them a 1. I should totally just stick to traditional holiday fare during the month of December.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

10 comments:

  1. Guess TJ's can't beat chinatown food. lol

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  2. I so agree, I am not a fan of these either. Happy Holidays, Susan Cooper

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  3. Our TJ's had these out for sampling last week and I couldn't agree with you more - it was a lot of white doughy substance and not enough actual substanance. Overall I thought they were disgusting. Disappointing!!

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  4. u can only have true Asian food from a true Asian restaurant and I don't mean the Benihana's ... Chinatown is the place to go for true Chasu Bao and its not doughy either.

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  5. These are so much better steamed on the stove top. Dough was fluffy and the flavors from the filling got infused while steaming. I didn’t read the directions on microwave reheating, but if it didn’t’ say to cove the buns with wet paper towel,... it’d come out all kinds of nasty. Those white steamed buns need moisture when heating to prevent the buns from drying up.

    From your description, I expected there to be tons more bun but bun to filling ratio was pretty standard. It’s still average, but not terrible.

    With these steamed buns, and it’s a bun not a dumpling (a bun can be a dumpling, but a dumpling can’t be a bun...), are made with thicker, fluffier dough compared to the gluten-y rolled-thin dough of the dumpling/shumais.

    I hate microwaving any type of buns/dumplings, skins always come out dry ruin the experience.

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  6. My husband and I just ate these little spawns of satan and were totally grossed out and disappointed. So we googled them and wanted to see if other people thought they were horrible as well, and I am pleased that other people agree. haha

    Your comment of ...."We ate the shrimp dumplings with soy sauce, but I don't think there's a condiment in existence that could bring these suckers back from the brink of nastiness."....is 100% true, as my husband doused them in sriracha and mustard and they still were basically inedible.

    His exact quote that pretty much summed it up was, "These have a interesting flavor, very pukeish."

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  7. I had these steamed and thought they were really quite good. I could taste the shrimp and the spicy. If the dough is too bland for you, a sweet soy dip might do it but I actually found these quite good!

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  8. I'm with the other readers who were patient and steamed these - they were delicious out of the steamer basket, and I think the steam infused the bun with some of the spiciness and flavor.

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  9. Agree with previous reviews about steam! Try again, you will love it!

    As a Chinese, I would give it 8/10. It tastes right, just a little bit too sweet for me.

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  10. I'm going with everyone else on these and agreeing that they are quite tasty when steamed. I steamed mine to soft, fluffy, sweet, spicy perfection. I have full intentions of buying these babies again and again...

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