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, July 3, 2014

Trader Joe's 14 Shrimp Nuggets

Fourteen? That's what you're proud of and will advertise to the point of making it part of your product name? Fourteen? Really? Listen: that doesn't make much sense when it comes to Trader Joe's 14 Shrimp Nuggets. A flip to the backside and a quick glance at the nutritional label easily and readily shows why: a serving size is four nuggets, which is perfectly reasonable, but leaves me with a package of 3.5 servings if my third grade math isn't failing me now. With this, there are several options: a) Make whole box, eat seven nuggets, tell wife it's okay to eat seven nuggets. like I need any more help eating too much anyways. 2) Buy multiple boxes to even out serving sizes. Buying two wouldn't be enough - that leaves seven servings, an odd number (just me and the wife, the kiddo wouldn't touch these). I'd have to go buy four to make it even. It's this kind of serving shenanigans that was behind the whole hot dog/hot dog bun conundrum years back. Not cool. d) Buy one box, make eight, leaving six to split another night to eat alongside extremely mediocre Sam's Club frozen wings. Ladies and gentlemen, we went with option d. Here's an even better option: TJ's, throw two more nuggets in the box. Maybe "16" isn't as cool and trendy as "14" but we're adults here, let's be a little practical, shall we?

As far the shrimpy nuggets themselves: not bad at all. There's a lot of the greasy, fast-food-y type comfort food vibe going on here. Me gusta. As the name somewhat implies, these nuggets aren't a simple matter of breaded, battered shrimp. Instead, each nugget seems comprised of about two shrimp each, and as is most of TJ's shrimp, is reasonably fresh, decently firm, and definitely delicious like any good shrimp should be. And the batter is great: it crisps up nicely and evenly in the oven, and somehow, there's an almost buttermilk-y aspect to it. Not to go all Bubba on you, but TJ's has exceeded in giving us regular battered shrimp, shrimp on a stick, shrimp stirfry, heck, even shrimp in corn dog form before, so now they've mastered the nugget form.

That begs the question: how do they make the nuggets? Three words: Shrimp paste. Uggh. 

By this, I doubt they mean tiny glue sticks. Once I saw those words, it was like reading "Miley twerking" or seeing the new one-legged Speedo (Google image search at your own risk): immediate repulsion, and not something I could unsee or un-experience. I noticed there was a small amount of kinda slimey, kinda mealy, kinda salty, kinda shrimpy filler the first time we had these, but I didn't pay it much mind until I happened to read the description on the back while making the second batch a few nights later. It got cut off in my picture, but it absolutely says "bound together by shrimp paste." Uggh. When eating for the second time, all I could think was shrimppasteshrimppasteshrimppaste. Kinda ruined it for me, much like how a potentially delicious dessert got ruined for Nathan by a similar discovery. We're allowed our silly hang-ups, too.

  Regardless, Sandy seemed to really like them (see: greasy comfort food) and I enjoyed them enough the first time around, I suppose. Going forward I may just try to stick to regular battered shrimp, or whatever concoction TJ's comes up with next, like mini-shrimp enchiladas on a stick or whatever. Just hope it has an even number of servings and doesn't have any shrimp paste (uggh again!) in it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 14 Shrimp Nuggets: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons  


  1. Haven't you ever eaten shrimp toast in a Chinese restaurant? Shrimp paste! I love TJ's fish nuggets in a pinch - so I'm definitely going to try these.

    1. No, I haven't and now I never will :)

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrimp_paste

    Shrimp paste is not as scary as it sounds. It's pretty much just shrimp and salt, and very common in Asian cooking.