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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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney

There's been a lot of back-and-forth out there in the wild webby west the past few weeks about the merits of a gluten-free diet for those who are not diagnosed celiac sufferers. I'm...not going to add much to that discussion, other to say that I know enough good, honest folks who go to great lengths to avoid gluten because of how they believe gluten affects them, so there's probably something to it that science (and the rest of us who don't deal with what those others do) may not fully understand as of yet. Can't find the link, but there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal last week that detailed how, in response to increased consumer demand over the past few years, many food manufacturers are now either focused on making gluten-free versions of products, while openly admitting they sacrifice nutritional quality for taste and texture. Yummm those extra calories!

Another tactic, and more pertinent to Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney, is many food that never contained gluten to begin with are now slapped with or marketed under being gluten free. For example, read this about Heinz Ketchup. Now, an average consumer may not know what an "uttapam" is (I sure didn't) but once the first two words of the little subheaded description are read ("rice breads")...well, that's a pretty significant hint it's gluten free. Rice is a pretty common substitute grain (with varying results), so unless so gluten would reach its wheaty tentacles in through some ultra-nefarious means, the "gluten free" at the top of the box is really as useful as a "cholesterol free" label on a box of Cheerios.

Enough about all that, let's talk uttapams. They're fun. They're funky. And Trader Joe's may have helped Columbus them, because I've never heard of them or had one, but now I'm kinda intrigued. If made from an authentic Indian recipe, as the box claims, that means the lentil/rice mixture that makes up these pancake-like yum-yums was fermented for a while. That's probably the case, as there's this lingering kinda sour/kinda sweet/kinda sharp/kinda acidic taste to the batter that's the base flavor. Not sure of the best words to adequately describe, but it sure was unexpected upon first bite. Texturally these uttapam seem to be a cross between mashed potatoes and pancakes, while the undersides of these cakes crisp up nicely when made in the frying pan. Can't imagine microwaving them as alternate directions suggest...ugh. The taste of the batter is balanced out nicely by a certain spiciness - it's not spicy in a hot, peppery way, but in a more herbaceous sense from the abundance of onion tidbits and cilantro choppings. And for a little added subtle sweetness, the coconut chutney up top helps bind the whole dish together. There's no taste that's too scarce or too prevalent - it's perfectly harmonious.

And for those out there who may want to try these out but no desire or capacity to have them four at a time - no fear! Not only do the uttapam (uttapams?) come in a resealable plastic baggie, but also the chutney comes frozen in two separate packets. Making two one night and the other two another night, like Sandy and I did, was a cinch, no creative repackaging needed. That's a nice touch.

If memory serves me right, these "Indian pizzas" (as they're sometimes referred to, apparently) were in the neighborhood of $3 for the box, and honestly, if I were to go out to an Indian restaurant, order some uttapam, and get something approximately like these, I'd be pretty happy. Let's be positive and say that means more about the overall quality of this product versus anything else. Both Sandy and I thoroughly enjoyed them and can see them as a great appetizer for any Indian-themed meal. Nicely done.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons   


  1. Just got these this weekend. So good. On the same level as the scallion pancakes.

  2. Bought these after seeing your review. I really enjoyed them! Excellent find.