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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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Trader Joe's Vegetable Biryani

Up until Mr. Shelly's recent review of uttapam, it had been quite a while since we checked out any Indian food on this blog. So, to make up for lost time, here's a look at yet another Indian dish: Trader Joe's Vegetable Biryani. We saw it on the frozen section shelf, right next to the uttapam, and it looked too good to pass up. 

I've been to a handful of decent Indian restaurants, but I've never heard of biryani before I saw this dish. Maybe I just wasn't scouring the menu hard enough—I have a bad habit of sticking with my old standby's all the time: chicken tikka masala or some kind of tandoori. Although it often pays to venture outside of your comfort zone, you can never go wrong with the classics. So now my habit is to try the very inexpensive version of each new-to-me Indian dish at Trader Joe's, and then if it really wows me, I might dare order it when I'm out livin' large, spendin' G's at a fine dining establishment.

Note to self: order vegetable biryani next time you eat out at an Indian place.

Because this stuff is pretty awesome. For $2.49, we're looking at a dish that's in the same price range as a typical Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice meal, with similar fat and caloric content, but with way more uniqueness, flavor, and satisfaction. This meal is super-filling—but not uncomfortably so. It's packed with beans, peas, basmati rice, and meatball-sized vegetable dumplings. The dumplings and rice have the perfect amount of flavorful Indian spices. Nothing's too dry, nothing's too hard. It even has plump raisins to give it a nice sweet zing. The textures and flavors blend together beautifully, and the veggie and bean content is hearty enough to make up for the lack of meat. This entree is vegetarian. Not sure why it's not vegan, but it doesn't have that happy little "V" on it like some other Indian products from Trader Joe's. I'll let you vegan peeps read through the ingredients and tell me why it's just "vegetarian."

This dish is special enough to garner double 4.5's from the Rodgers clan. We're fans. Unless you hate Indian for some strange reason, we can't imagine you won't like this. And for the price, there's not much lost if you don't.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

15 comments:

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    1. I'm not 100% sure the details of it, but the way they filter (for lack of a better word) the sugar, it can't be considered technically vegan, I believe they use animal bones or something similar. No expert, clearly, but that, I believe, is the gist of it.

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    2. Thanks, everybody for your contributions. I had NO idea ANY sugar wasn't vegan. This is eye-opening for me. I found the following at Vegan.org:

      Is refined sugar vegan?
      It depends on how you define ‘vegan.’ Refined sugars do not contain any animal products, and so by an ingredients-based definition of vegan, refined sugar is vegan. However, some refined sugar is processed with animal bone char. The charcoal is used to remove color, impurities, and minerals from sugar.

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    3. From Trader Joe's: "We do not consider our Trader Joe's Vegetable Biryani with Vegetable Dumplings Vegan because of the sugar used as an ingredient. This ingredient is purchased by our supplier as a commodity, therefore the processing is not tracked and the use of bone char may be used. Please know that when any of our TJ'S labeled products contains the ingredient sugar and our supplier tracks its processing and can be sure bone char is not used, we will always place the V Vegan symbol on the products label."

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  2. Sorry, found this AWFUL!. Yuck. A dreary mess of a dish. Readers beware.

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    1. agree! I thought it tasted terrible. So bad that the thought of returning it entered my mind.

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    2. So happy others feel the same. I will get my money back on this seeing as it was highly praised by the employee.

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  3. This is delicious, I agree. I could eat those dumplings by themselves!

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  4. Loved it. Paired it TJ Lamb Koftas and sautéed green beans. Yum.

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  5. This is my favorite Trader Joe's item. YUM!!

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  6. So, technically, if using bone-char sugar it's not even vegetarian then? It just has vegetable ingredients.

    Almost as bad as vegetarian labeled dishes that contain animal-rennet processed cheeses.

    Also, from the post above, if animal bone char comes in contact with the sugar than it does contain animal parts at some small level I would say.

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    1. Technically a true "vegetarian" is(or should be) vegan, but in reality nearly vegetarians(as they call themselves) consume animal products too(eggs/dairy), just not meat...but even many of them will consume fish(not considered meat I guess). Also a vegetarian is typically about diet only, not for ethical reasons.

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  7. Way to salty.... Yuck! Threw half of it out.

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  8. Way to salty.... Yuck! Threw half of it out.

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