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?"

Search This Blog

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trader Joe's Chicken-Less Mandarin Orange Morsels

Look it up on here if ya want: Trader Joe's has a pretty good rep with us for fake meat products. Soy chorizo? Veggie sausage? Beefless ground beef? Meatless corn dogs? All winners with us. Another winner with us is the inaugural member of the WGaTJ pantheon: Trader Ming's Mandarin Orange Chicken. Nathan and Sonia gave it a 9.5 way back in the day, and Sandy and I would give it at least that many in Golden Spoonage. Not everyone feels that way, though. Just read the comments there...I won't repeat them here because some of them's are naughty words...but yeah, there's a couple complaints about the quality of chicken for those. My take is, if it's not unhealthy/bad for you type stuff, and you can overcompensate by making it extra tasty with some great flavoring, well, why not? Use what's usable. Not every clucker ought there is destined for Chick-Fila glory, for goodness sake, and sincerely doubt those or any other Trader Joe's product was made from whatever it is in the picture of pinkish glop that McNuggets are made out of (that's been mostly disproven, anyways). Anyways, let's do an experiment here...combine one of Trader Joe's strengths in fake meat technology, and replace the component most often criticized in one of their otherwise universally successful dishes, and what do you get? Trader Joe's Chicken-Less Mandarin Orange Morsels, of course. Sandy and I saw it, and we were immediately intrigued enough to purchase it ($2.99, I think) and make it that night for dinner.

Making it is easy - it's the same process as the regular ol' chicken-full mandarin orange morsels. Dump the frozen bits out of the bag onto a cookie sheet and slide into the oven until they're done, then stir them up in a bowl with the orange sauce to get each piece coated. Serve over rice (at least that's what we do). Tastewise, I have absolutely no issue with the pollo dementira part - it's some combination of quinoa and grains and what not made up who-know-how into a fine tasting chunk of what would pass off as decent chicken - not the best, certainly, but really good. In fact, I'd say I wouldn't have thought it'd be fake unless I saw the bag. The problem I have is with the sauce - it's not nearly as good as what comes with the real mandarin chicken. It's thinner, runnier, and not nearly as strong flavored. I'm not sure what the difference is (maybe the vegan recipe lacks a key component) but it just doesn't work as well. What's left is this thin, vaguely sweet, watered-down orange soda-y type taste. Like other sauces that lack something, I was pretty tempted to try and add something to what TJ's had provided but...

...there was another issue. On the chicken-less orange morsel bag, it clearly says that there's two servings, approximately ten pieces each. That says to me that anything less than 18 fake chicken chunks would be a ripoff and any more than 21 would be a bonus. In our bag, there were only 15. That's unacceptable, even though all were fairly sized. That left us with the classic problem of "too much for one, too little for two" that some other TJ products suffer from. I also find it kinda disheartening that TJ's habit of meat skimping is making it's way towards the meat substitute product line, too. Anyways, I felt like I didn't have enough to really experiment with, so between that and being hobbled by tendonitis, I just stayed put.

Sandy loved it though, but not as much as the regular one, mostly because of the sauce-y lack factor. "The sauce kinda sucks for this one," she said. I agree. It does suck. So does the paucity of chickenless nuggets in the bag. Throw a few more in, and fix the sauce, and there's another pantheon contender out there. As is, Sandy gave it a four and I decided to go a tad low with a 2.5. To me, for having two major problems, it can't rank any higher than "not bad" no matter how good the rest of the dish is.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chicken-Less Mandarin Orange Morsels: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

17 comments:

  1. I made these last night for dinner and was slightly disappointed with the runny consistency of the sauce. It definitely wish it was thicker. For my family of 5 I cooked up 3 bags of the 'chicken' and tossed it with a bunch of sauteed broccoli, some pineapple chunks and only 2 packets of sauce. All served over brown rice, it was a hit in our house!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, I see you have a nice blog.
    Submit it for "Blogomania : The Bloggers' Paradise" and win cash prizes along with a chance to get published.

    Enter the Bloggers' Paradise at www.blogomania.cognizance.org.in

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope they get these at my Trader Joe's. I have not seen them yet.

    ReplyDelete
  4. these are in my freezer now. since my husband's a vegetarian, i think they're going to change our lives!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just had a sample of this at TJs and I thought it was outstanding, maybe even better than the real orange chicken! But when I compared the packages I saw it has a lot more calories and fat than the real thing. That seems weird. I say quitet tasty, though.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Pretty crazy. Sonia and I just had these, and they were going to be one of my next reviews...but you beat me to it. Funny thing is, I was going to give them a 2.5, too, and Sonia was thinking 3.5 or 4...So we'll go ahead and confirm that 6.5 score you gave them!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I let the chicken cook in the sauce for the last couple of minutes and that REALLY thickened it up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I second cooking them in the sauce at the end (as Gardein suggests for its version). Just made them tonight and they were just as good to me as Gardein. Definitely agree about the lack of pieces though. 16 in mine.

      Thanks for the blog! We just got a Trader Joe's here in Rochester, NY and it's great to have some idea of what might be good without trying everything first!

      Delete
    2. I know it's been a while... just tried these last night for the first time. Fried them up in the pan and they didn't get crispy at all, but then I dumped the sauce in to finish them and it was nice and thick. Flavor was decent, think I will try them again but heat in oven and just finish in pan with sauce. I eat meat, but get skeeved out by questionable quality, so these meatless bits are perfect for me =)

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love this product, I bought two bags. I let one bag thaw, to soften the nuggets, and then I cut them up into smaller pieces, and nearly doubled the portions. I was able to serve 4 over a bed of brown rice. It was yummy!I wish they would Jar the sauce though. I'd buy just the sauce to pour over my own tofu nugget creations.

    ReplyDelete
  10. These are good but not as good as the crispy chickenless nuggets. They definitely need the sauce though as they tend to be a bit hard.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  12. i cooked in a steam pressure cooking wok... in a TBS of coconut oil and added minced garlic...medium high heat for a minute covered and then added sauce packet and turned heat down to low and flipped the nuggets a couple of times and simmered till sauce was thick.. 3-4 min?? i top with red and yellow peppers and spinach at end...its our easy fav once /week served over trader joes harvest grain blend or brown rice ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I really enjoyed these. It was a quick dinner, delicious, and something different. I just put them in a pan with chopped broccoli and olive oil. I let them cook till just about done then I added the sauce and let it cook another minute or so. I served it over brown rice. It doesn't look like a lot of food, but I found the 'chicken' to be filling. I got two servings.

    ReplyDelete