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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Friday, February 1, 2013

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Palak Paneer and Trader Joe's Malabari Paratha

This whole week I've been crazy sick. My wife and I both got hit with what I'm assuming is H2N4, or "warthog fever" as I've been calling it. It's the latest mutation of the swine flu. I figure if the first strain had something to do with swine, then there was a second mutation that might have been named after potbelly pigs or something, and so on, up through boars and such, until they arrive at this horrific version which will logically be named after warthogs. Furthermore, when Sonia and I cough, it rather sounds like the grunting of a wild warthog. So there you have it: warthog fever.

I've been delirious these past five days from a high temperature and lots of medication. I take this generic NyQuil that makes me hallucinate so heavily that I believe that I've fully recovered overnight and then once it wears off, I realize that I'm still sick as a dog. It's a great scam: one becomes so attached to thinking that one is well, that you go ahead and take some more, even if there's little or no evidence that the medication is actually helping you fight off the flu. Er, but anyway, that's all just to say that if this blog post doesn't particularly make sense, it's probably because that cat got my girdle.

Oftentimes when ill, I like to eat spicy foods when I have enough of an appetite, as I find that the spices help clear my sinuses and charge up my body with a little energy and liveliness. Now, I don't keep track of what or how often I eat very well, unlike Russ who wisely keeps a detailed log of his daily intake, but I feel like I ate very little during this sickness. It's possible that I ate multiple meals during some of my NyQuil blackouts and I simply can't recall, however, I would think there would be evidence in the form of dirty plates and crumbs, etc. But again, I digress. All that to say that I was fairly hungry and ready to eat when we heated up these Indian dishes from TJ's.

Even though Mr. Shelly wasn't a huge fan of his most recent product like this, my last Indian dish from Trader Joe's was yummy, as was, incidentally, my last Indian snack from Archer Farms. However, all good international cuisine streaks must come to an end. And come to an end it did. The appearance of the palak paneer is as unappetizing as anything I've ever seen from Trader Joe's. It's a deep green mush, not unlike freshly juiced wheatgrass, but thicker and slightly darker. There are a few chunks of cheese throughout it, but by and large, it looks like...well, you know—something I've vowed not to talk about on this or any other food blog.

The taste is heavily vegetabley. And the "green" flavor as I shall call it overshadows the taste of the cheese bits. It's sort of bitter, although it's also kind of hard to describe, because it is a unique bitterness, if that makes any sense. There are some Indian spices, which did help clear my head for a moment, but they're not strong enough to make this dish worth trying simply out of love for hot Indian spices. Now, it might be the medication talking, but green sadness always makes the heart get grumpy.

Instead of eating this paneer with naan bread, we ate it with malabari paratha—an Indian food I've never heard of before. They're like little Indian pancakes. I really can't complain about these too much, but it's hard to separate them from the paneer, which I was definitely not a fan of. We cooked the paratha on the stove, and they came out rather oily...but maybe that's because we used too much oil when we pan fried them...? I didn't think we used that much, but who knows. In the state that Sonia and I have been in, it's a wonder we didn't pan fry them in TheraFlu. They're soft, white, and you can tear pieces off to dip in your paneer or whatever you've got. They don't have a whole lot of flavor, but I don't think they're meant to be a stand-alone item. 

Sonia gives 2 stars to the palak paneer. I'll be merciful and give it 2.5. Sonia gives 3.5 stars to the paratha, and I give it 3. It's been a sick, foggy week people, so everybody keep track of the sunshine, because the leprechauns are on the go this year.

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Palak Paneer. 
Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10 stars.

Trader Joe's Malabari Paratha. 
Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 stars.


  1. The palak paneer that they carry in the frozen section is worlds better than the shelf-stable variety reviewed here. Definitely as good as anything I've had from a restaurant - give that one a shot.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. The frozen palak paneer is awesome

  2. Thanks, Steph! Didn't see a frozen variety at our TJ's, but I'll keep an eye out for it. It has to be better than this one lol!

  3. Thanks for the malabari paratha review! I have some in my freezer that I've yet to try. Now I know not to try it with the paneer ;)

  4. Totally Taysha, the paratha might be redeemable with the right pairing!

  5. I love the frozen version and usually eat it with pita.

  6. I heat the Paratha on a griddle with no added oil and they come out just right.

  7. Do they still make them? I was at the store in Virginia beach and they disappointed me by saying the company stopped making the malabari... They were so great... Am so heartbroken... I don't know where to get them... They were the best...

  8. I'm eating the Indian Fare Palak Paneer right now, and had to look to see if anyone felt the same! The "green" or earthy flavor is totally overpowering. I thought it tasted a bit like dirt? Your description is right on as far as appearance and texture as well. I'm struggling to get through this lunch. I'll keep an eye out for the frozen version as well but I thought it would be so nice to have one that doesn't take up space in our office fridge/freezer!

  9. It came to my attention that malabari paratha has been discontinued. Haven't visited trade Joes since. Heartbroken!!!!!!!!

  10. Unfortunately, it taste like dirt ;(

  11. Am i the only one who swears by and LOVES the shelf-stable Palak Paneer?! Gosh, i think it's the best. Granted, I haven't yet tried the freezer version but still. LOVE!

  12. You can find these parathas at any Indian stores. http://www.dailydelight.com/images/Pf/Malabar_Porotta.jpg.
    There could be better healthy versions of those.

    It goes well with chicken curry or my favorite -> Kerala style potato curry (vegetarian).


  13. I like both the frozen and shelf-stable Palak Paneer, but the frozen one is definitely better. They are great with a cup of rice, but I'm sure a good bread would work too. The frozen one is more food - 500 calories vs 320. The frozen one with 2 cups or rice might be enough for two people. With a cup of rice, the shelf stable one is the perfect amount of food for one meal.

    The frozen one is not spicy at all, while the shelf-stable one is a little spicy. The frozen one has more chunks of cheese. Of course spinach is the primary flavor in both, so if you don't like spinach, you won't like it.

  14. I LOVE the frozen palak paneer, but also the channa masala. there tends to be a lot of the rich spicy sauce, which is great over rice. I much prefer to supplement it with a can of chick peas so I can get two meals out of it!!

  15. I L-O-V-E palak paneer. It is my favorite Indian dish of all time. My wife brought home two versions from TJs the other day, The freezer version ranked up there with the best recipes for palak paneer that I have ever had. The shelf-stable version was a big disappointment. The earthy flavor mentioned in previous posts was an understatement. You can even feel the crunch of sand between your teeth. They over-processed the spinach in my view, more of a puree than I prefer. I would disagree with a previous post on the idea that if you don't like spinach, you won't like the freezer version either. What most people don't like about spinach is precisely that poorly washed, earthy taste and grittiness that many of us raised on terrible popeye-style canned spinach came to believe was the flavor and texture of spinach. Try the freezer version, and you'll understand that spinach can taste great!

  16. For the paratha, you can heat it up on a non stick pan without additional oil. There's enough oil in the paratha already. This is how I was taught to do it by an Indian woman who lived with me. I used to get my paratha from an Indian store however am anxious to try the trader joe's brand now that I know they carry it