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, June 9, 2015

Trader Joe's Chicken Balti Pies

So if you've ever seen the movie Gandhi—or if you know your history—you're aware that the British occupation of India wasn't really something to celebrate. But a few good things did come from the collision of these two unique cultures. Now East Indians can enjoy pastimes like cricket and soccer, and Brits have added yummy foods like curry to their menu. These "pies" struck me as being nearly identical to Trader Joe's Steak and Ale Pies, another British-inspired delight. But in this case, there's chicken, carrots, potatoes, and a mildly-spicy curry sauce.

The curry here was tasty, but both Sonia and I felt it to be a tad blasé. We both agree the flavor was good—we just wish there were more of it. And we both could have handled a significantly greater amount of spicy kick. But as Russ notes in a soon-to-be-released podcast episode, the Brits are known for serving bland-ish food. Maybe full blown Indian curry was too much for the English, so they toned it down a bit.

The pie-crust-like breading was excellent. Sonia compared it to a flaky croissant. The carrot and potato chunks were large and plentiful and served a similar function as they might in a traditional pot pie. The chicken was also adequate, moist, and tender.

One pie is extraordinarily filling. And it should be—because each serving has massive amounts of fat and calories, including a full 115% of your US RDA for saturated fat! Sonia was wise enough to eat only two thirds of hers and save the rest for another day. At around $5.99 per box, they're not super cheap, and if you want to cook them properly in the oven, you're looking at the better part of an hour for prep time. So these tasty little pies are a significant investment on your waistline, wallet, and schedule—at least as far as frozen convenience food goes. Am I glad we tried them? Heck yes. Despite craving a tad more heat, I really can't complain about the texture or taste. Four stars from me. 3.5 from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.


  1. In grad school in the Midwest, an Indian fellow student brought a veggie rice curry dish. The Midwesterners told him it was very tasty (and it was) but very spicey. He looked so disappointed- he had deliberately used only 1/10 of the usual spices, knowing what wimps we were!

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  3. "Maybe full blown Indian curry was too much for the English, so they toned it down a bit."

    But curry IS English.

  4. I enjoyed these very much. The flavors were right on - and not to spicy. More spice? Add your own hot sauce. The authors of this blog must be sooo busy - that they find it inconvenient to invest 50 minutes to make a re-heated meal. I must assume that their "real cooking skills" are lacking terribly.

  5. As an Englishman on an extended visit to western PA, I had to try them when I found them. I enjoyed them but am not sure I'd get them again. The crust was the best bit - as it should be with that much fat! The filling was ok, up there with what I've had at home in terms of curry pies (which tend not to be high end products)... but there is the problem, the standard British chicken curry pastry is cheap as chips, Trader Joe's wasn't.

    As for the heat/Britishness - the Balti isn't a hot or particularly spicy curry (being one of the products of Indian accomodation to British palates) but it's meant to be spicier than that. And most British curries are a lot spicier than that. But then curry pies are rarely that spicy for whatever reason.

  6. wow, those look really good, but the calorie count is out of this world! No thanks! I'll pass. Thanks for keeping us informed!