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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Monday, May 7, 2012

Trader Joe's Vegetable Pakoras

Reminiscent of Trader Joe's Heat and Eat Falafel, these happy little balls of Indian food are nearly as unique as their name. I've been to a good number of Indian joints, but I don't believe I've ever heard of pakoras before.

Like falafel, they're made with chick peas, but these also have potatoes, peas, carrots, onions, and some Indian spices rolled up and fried to perfection. To heat, you just pop these frozen puppies in the oven for 15 minutes. They come with a sweet tamarind sauce—which became a topic of hot debate in our household.

This tamarind sauce not only defied our expectations, but apparently defied several universal laws of nature as well. First of all, when something from Trader Joe's is supposed to be sweet, it's a universal law that I'll be the one complaining that it's not sweet enough, and Sonia will say that it's either perfect or maybe even too sweet. Of this sauce, she said the opposite. And I was quite happy with it's sweetness-level—but then, I was expecting sweet as in tangy, spicy, Indian sweet; not sweet as in fresh orange marmalade sweet. Not that Sonia was expecting the latter, but she did somehow seem very disappointed, and said "I wasn't expecting it to be so bitter." Bitter is one of the last words I would use to describe it. She also called it sour. It was tangy, but I certainly wouldn't call it "sour" exactly. It was good if you ask me, and including it in this package definitely impacted my score of this product for the better. Also, strangely enough, Sonia loves everything made with tamarind. Maybe she thought the sauce would be sweet because "tamarind" to her means a flavor of Mexican candy or the Jarritos brand Tamarindo flavored soda. That particular flavor of "refresca" is the only Jarritos I can't stand, and I think the candy is even worse.

As for the pakoras themselves, we were both fans. I personally think the heat and eat falafel is just a tad tastier. I can't put my finger on why exactly—I think the falafel just seems richer and nuttier somehow. The texture of a falafel ball is denser; thicker than these pakora snacks. More filling in a way—but not by much. Although with significantly more ingredients, the taste of these pakora balls is a bit more complex, and perhaps just a little lighter. I felt the sauce complemented their flavor and added a welcomed flair, but Sonia preferred them dry.

Sauceless or not, we both came to the same conclusion. These pakoras are worthy of 4 stars from each of us. Vegans, go nuts. Fans of cheap foreign foods, rejoice. Trader Joe's adventurers, dive in.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.


  1. The difference in the pakoras is that it is made of ground chickpea flour which is very fine. then we add different vegetables or make it with onions only. That could be the reason the falafal is denser.

  2. Are these gluten free too?? wow. I just ate these and I love them.

  3. I just tried these and I can't wait to have them again! Definitely a new favorite of mine. I didn't care for the sauce when I sampled some off my finger, actually did taste a little bitter, but with the pakora it was great!