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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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Tamalitos

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know how I feel about lunch, particularly at work: a necessary evil. I'm just not a fan. Part of it is, if there's any general selection of anything that Trader Joe's fails to impress me with, it's decent lunch options, in at least the price range I'm willing to pay (about $2 for an entree). Yeah, I'm cheap, but got a kid on the way, and my Subaru just crapped out after a rough 18 years of life (I knew I shouldn't have said anything about its cupholders a couple weeks ago), so, I'm justified. At least to myself. Anyways, there are some options, like this, that, and that other thing, but it's the same, week after week after week. I need something new, dangit, and it's an added bonus if it's something that will make my fastfood-baggin' coworkers look at me funny. I cannot tell you how shocked I was to see this package discarded in the trash at work the other day, and not by me, so there's hope for them yet.

I guess that's why I picked up the Mini Chicken Tamalitos last week. They're a little pricier than I would have usually liked at $3.99, but I figured I could make two lunches from them, so it works. I know what you're thinking: "Hmm, frozen microwavable tamales. Yeah right." Well, if the bigger version works according to our resident tamale expert, I had hope for these pequeño pieces, too.

A little water in the bottom of some Tupperware, a damp paper towel over, a little plastic wrap and a couple minutes in the microwave are what you need for these. The result is a steamy hot little tamale to unhusk for your dining pleasure. These work. No, seriously. Take a look at the picture I took of one I intentionally sliced in half: soft warm corn masa wrap, a respectable amount of decent white meat chicken, and lots of glowing red spices that actually have a little kick to them. Si, delicioso. Each tamale is about two or three bites, so four or five of them is plenty for lunch, especially if you have some of your favorite sidekick pretzels. I've had fresh homemade tamales in Mexico, and while these TJ creations certainly can't hold a candle to them, they're respectable enough in their own way for both taste and texture. I really don't have much of an issue with them.

There is, of course, one goofy thing about them. In Spanish, if you put an -ito or -ita on the end of the word, the word then means "little ___." That's why "burrito" means "little donkey" and "Judge Ito" means "little judge." Likewise, "tamalito" equates to "little tamale." Not a problem, except there's also the word "mini" in the product name, which either makes the name redundant ("mini chicken little tamales"), or there's the implication that Trader Joe's has cultivated and harvested an entire race of micro-chickens for the sole purpose of creating these tamales and just maybe these tacos. I wouldn't put it beyond them, but man, that's a lot of unnecessary effort.

Anyways, as with most of my lunch escapades, it's just me grading these. Sandy's a little adverse to most tamales anyways as the texture of the masa dough usually gets to her, so I'm not sure she'd be a willing participant this time around anyways. Anyways, like I said, I really like these, perhaps a little more than I really should. Probably some of it has to do with when a random coworker asked me if you eat the husks, too. My only semi-valid complaint is, although they remain mostly intact, each teeny tamale I scarfed down had some of the stuff stick to the corn husk. Even though I used them for lunch, think of any time or situation where you could use a handful of tasty little tamales, and yeah, they'll work. Other than the sticking issue, I find myself swaying between a four and a four and a half for them, so let's just say a little of Column A and a little of Column B.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Tamalitos: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

3 comments:

  1. Oh man, that looks so good!

    Sorry to hear about your Subu. I have an 08 forester and I loooove her. A friend of mine had a 1999 legacy manual tranny and that car had over 450,000 miles on it. No lies. I saw it with my own two eyes. I'm a firm believer that Subarus will last a long ass time if you take care of 'em. Not to say you didn't take care of your car but shit happens too.

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    1. Eh, all good. Clutch blew out and didn't feel like dealing with that along with some other nickel-and-dime issues...found someone willing to fix it up on Craiglist and got a pretty reasonable price for it. All in all, may be the best car I've ever owned.

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  2. Two of my kids adore these! (we parents also like them; oldest child won't try them) If I know the youngest isn't going to eat what we've got planned for dinner, he can have a few tamalitos instead. (Some of us also like their green chile cheese tamales, fwiw.)

    Funny tamale story: a few years back, the youngest was willing to eat chunks of the masa from the green chile ones. No filling, just the masa. One day, when he knew I was going shopping, he told me to "get some of those things with the dirt on them." Dirt? What?? Some more questions finally made us realize he meant *moss* instead of *dirt*, or rather, *masa*. Tamales. And yes, we still kid him about it occasionally :^)

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