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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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Trader Joe's Crispy Green Curry Shrimp Gyoza

You readers are so smart. S-m-r-t. No, seriously. I'm going to pick up just a recent example: The one who pointed out that the "enzymes" in Trader Joe's Super Burrito! probably included L-Cysteine, which is from animal sources and -gulp- can be derived from human hair -ewwww - therefore not making the burrito a vegetarian or vegan product, despite it going out of the way to include vegan mayo. That's an unsettling sentence for me to type. Yuck. Now every time I see the word "enzymes" on an ingredient list I'm going to think of the first half of this Family Guy scene.

Here's a cheerier example: A couple weeks back I reviewed those Thai Shrimp Gyoza, thinking there were some new hot item, and being pretty disappointed in their lack of taste and flair. Another one of you was pretty quick to point out that I probably really had these Trader Joe's Crispy Green Curry Shrimp Gyoza  in mind, and a quick consultation of the "What's New" shelf and display at the store and even quicker comparison of package colors (green vs. yellow) showed that yes, once again, you all are right. Thanks as always!

And these gyoza are absolutely what I wanted when I got those other ones. Like Cher, if I could turn back time...These are the real deal. There's very little to not like about these crispy dumplin's. First, the wrapper. Even though we just baked these (as is even the preferred prep method, you can also microwave, but why?), the wonton wrapper got very crispy despite its thinness, while still holding the innards and stuffing all together with very few leakages. It was rather impressive, actually, and although my waistline likes the fact we didn't deep fry them, well, my tongue would have loved to tried. Must be that palm oil they're pre-cooked in...ohh..I'll let that slide, yet again. I know, I know. 

It's not just the outside that lived up to the "crispy" billing. The insides were too. Oh, no, it wasn't the shrimp - that was yet another example of superior TJ firm, fresh, nongritty, nonsalty, yummy shrimp. Didn't even notice the "shrimp paste" unlike previous times. Nope, it was the veggies in there too, which were predominantly carrots and kale. Those too were fresh and firm, with a little crunch, offering a great mouthfeel-y counterbalance. And then there were all the great flavors that Thai food can offer, especially in curries - the sweet coconut, the bite of some lime, the heat off some spices. They may err slightly on the spicy side, so if you prefer milder, these may be a little strong.

The only real complaint that either Sandy or I had was we would have loved an included packet of dipping sauce. Just a little extra somethin'-somethin' to dunk these gyoza in would have been an absolute killer, and given that my choices on hand were Frank's Red Hot or my new favorite BBQ sauce, I think we might the right decision to forgo any condiments. Something like a currylicious dipping sauce, though? Man, my mouth waters. In our minds, this is a tremendous pick-up for the roughly four bucks for a spicy seafood pick-me-up that approaches restaurant quality for a fraction of the price. Matching fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crispy Green Curry Shrimp Gyoza: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

11 comments:

  1. Try them with the green curry simmer sauce as a dipping sauce. So good.

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  2. I wanted to like these so much. I agree they were wonderfully crispy and the pieces of shrimp were large and texturally appealing. Buuuut, the green curry flavor was virtually nonexistent. Very, very bland. I ended up dipping them in TJ's soyaki to give it some flavor. Maybe I had a bad batch so I'm willing to try them again.

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  3. Enzymes are present in plants as well as animals! L-cysteine is an amino acid not an enzyme, which is a protein made up of amino acids. Neither animal nor plant. The building blocks of ALL LIFE. Vegan as can be. Back to your burritos!! BTW, I have a PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Biology and I know whereof I speak.

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    1. ^ What she said. Some of the fear-mongering is kinda crazy. The first paragraph of this review should be deleted or rewritten--it is inaccurate and misleading! And 'enzymes' are a basic part of life, both plant and animal. (Don't freak out, but poop contains water--yes, WATER! OMG don't drink water!!!)

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    2. I'm a Ph.D. chemist and know all about amino acids, too. :) But I've also been vegetarian for several decades. The source matters to vegans and vegetarians. So although an amino acid may appear in protein from plant or animal sources (as cysteine certainly does), we want to know if it was ripped from non-volunteer dead animals or extracted from plants. If the manufacturer doesn't specify, that's a problem. I don't want an animal killed to provide me with food. I wouldn't have a problem with human hair as the source of cysteine as long as the humans voluntarily gave it up... Actually, cysteine isn't really on my personal list of never ever eat, though, since I can always maintain the illusion that they got it from a plant source. But I would rather the source was specified on the label to keep me honest. I don't really want to encourage the meat industry. It's bad enough that I buy dead animals in unrecognizable form for my obligate carnivore feline roommates, although I console myself with the thought that they would happily stalk and kill the cow or turkey themselves if one wandered into the yard. But I'm not an obligate carnivore and all my essential amino acids are readily available from plants.

      The same problem arises with enzymes, which are proteins. The source matters. Rennet in cheesemaking traditionally came from animals, but microbial sources are often used today (probably most cheese made in the USA today uses microbial enzymes because they're cheaper and more consistent). For example, Dominos regular pizza cheese uses a microbial source, but they can't guarantee the source of other cheeses used in their products because it varies depending on their vendors. That can be a problem for those who aren't deluded optimists like me.

      The Vegetarian Resource Group is pretty good about asking manufacturers and fast food joints directly about sources, so checking their archives online can be useful if you're not a carnivore.

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  4. Hi, Nathan, I love reading your reviews but wondered if I could suggest some symbols like Vegan, Gluten Free, etc. on each post in the same spot....so one who is GF could tell right away this is a food I can eat..etc. What do you think?

    Thanks for your hard work eating your way through TJ's. ;)

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    1. Hi Karen,

      We do! If any product is vegan, gluten free, etc we tag it as such. See "labels" right at the very end. We also try to mention it in each post. Use of the labels allows folks to find reviews by product or type (see menu on right sidebar). Hope this helps!

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  5. I haven't finished reading the review yet because I CAN'T STOP SCREAMING IN TERROR FROM THE INFORMATION IN THAT FIRST PARAGRAPH!! whyyyyyy...whyyyyyy *sobs*

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  7. There is so much wrong with the first paragraph, it pains me. At least read the Wikipedia article you linked to! "Plant sources: red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprout, oats, granola, wheat germ, sprouted lentils." Stop spreading misinformation.

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