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, January 28, 2016

Trader Joe's Steamed Chicken Soup Dumplings

Ah, January. If you're anything like me, you know what this means: head cold season. Seriously, I've had one lingering for at least a week, and it's gotten to the point that I can't hear as great out of my right ear. Which wouldn't necessarily be an awful thing, given how my kiddos love to shriek incessantly. Except I have to spend a decent amount of time on the phone at my daytime job, usually with overseas call centers, so I have to ask them to repeat things a couple times, thus giving off even more of the impression that I'm the weird old guy at work to all my younger colleagues (including my boss, who's 26. 26!!!). I'm only 33. It's not my fault those young'uns don't know basic '80s movie references (inconceivable!), random ODB lyrics, or who Homestar Runner is.

Anyways...head colds. Fun. Even more fun when you have a newly reset high deductible HRA insurance plan that makes going to the doctor for routine stuff like this somewhat cost-prohibitive. So, as I can imagine my nonexistent Southern grandma saying, I just need to eat some chicken soup, dumplin'.

Or maybe my ears failed again, and she said "Eat some chicken soup dumplings." Well, either way, here's Trader Joe's Steamed Chicken Soup Dumplings, available in the freezer section for $2.99. Cool concept: Take TJ's mostly successful potsticker/gyoza line, cross it with classic chicken soup. So basic, yet kinda genius.

So how's it work? Not bad. These were ready to rip after about 10 minutes in the steamer basket on the stove top. There's also microwave instructions but I'm not that kinda guy. Anyways, the six of these puffed up fairly impressively during cooking (we have clear glass lids for our pots so I could watch) and they were positively puffing and pulsing. Yummmm. When done, on the advice of the box (and using a shred of common sense), Sandy and I waited a minute or two for them to cool down so biting into them wouldn't unleash a boiling gush of broth straight down our gizzards.

I won't say the dumplings tasted exactly like chicken soup. As kinda a duh-ism, there's a lot more noodle to it than usual. I will say the doughy parts straddled a good line between usual soup noodle and potsticker dough-type flavor. But there's also not a whole lot of broth, either. I mean, yes, it's there, but the box's claim of being "filled with a warm and savory broth" may be a slight overstatement. Also, the chicken...not sure what spices you all usually put in your chicken soup, but the stuff here, between soy sauce and ginger and garlic made the meat part taste almost chicken sausage-esque. Sandy agreed with that. Also, no typical soup veggies like carrots or celery. End result: The chicken soup dumplings tasted much more like a somewhat juicer version of the regular chicken potstickers than a large bite of chicken soup that inside-outted itself. 

Which, I really like those, and I'm not a huge fan of chicken soup, so overall, I'm happy. They're pretty filling and decently okay for you caloric content, etc wise - get some fresh veggies on the side for a good enough lunch on a cold day. I mean, yes, the salt content is somewhat horrific, but name something that isn't, and if that's the worst you can say about a frozen prepackaged meal, it's not that bad in my book. Not that much worse than chicken soup. I liked 'em, Sandy borderline loved 'em, so these will be a repeat buy, I'm positive.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Steamed Chicken Soup Dumplings: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

17 comments:

  1. I always assumed it was chicken soup with dumplings instead of noodles!

    And who doesn't know who, seriously strong bad, seriously, doesn't know who homestar is??? (Well, OK, most people... But still! )

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  2. I'm hoping they release this with pork as that's the type I'm used to ordering at dim sum restaurants.

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  3. These are "soup dumplings," which are big dish in Asian cultures. I thought this was TJs version of that and not an attempt to cross dumplings with chicken soup.

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    1. Hrmmm....good point! Somehow that didn't even cross my mind. Pretty good nonetheless!

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    2. yes, i think the distinction here is that they are soup dumplings of the chicken variety, not dumplings of the chicken soup variety. i'm excited to try them, having had traditional soup dumplings in NYC's Chinatown. Delicious!

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    3. It definitely is -- the bamboo steamer on the box and the chinese soup spoon is a dead giveaway. I feel like this review should be rewritten, as comparing it to classic chicken soup is totally wrong! Still got a good rating though, I suppose.

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    4. I agree. I'm Asian and Chinese soup dumplings are called Xiao long bao. They are very popular and highly regarded delicacy. They are not meant to be chicken soup in dumpling form. The flavors are supposed to be Asian. You eat them with a little bit of soy sauce and very thin ginger slices. Delicious!

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  4. I reviewed this on my blog a few months ago. Actually it was pretty spot on to what you might find at a dim-sum restaurant. Not the best soup dumpling ever but passable for the real thing.

    http://mantoujoe.blogspot.com/2015/11/trader-joes-steamed-chicken-soup.html

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    1. I had these a little while back. Microwaved them. They heated up fine. Only 2 of 6 seemed to leak a tiny bit, but all of them were deficient in the amount of soup inside. Taste was OK, but not that much better than regular dumplings (I buy big bags of frozen ones in Chinatown here) to make it a repeat buy.

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  5. I've had them a couple of times now. I like them. I heated them up in a broth I made out of Trader Joe's lower sodium chicken broth concentrate packets and then infused it with some lemongrass, ginger and garlic. Then I added some julienned carrots and chives. Top with a squeeze of sriracha. Yum!

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  6. I just had these for lunch with a small salad and I can say I loved them! Great taste and just needed to be thrown in more broth. I am thinking about adding them to the next batch of chicken soup I make instead of my normal noodles!

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  7. Those are TJs version of xiaolongbao- which are most frequently made with pork- but i suspect TJs sells more chicken than pork in general so they made these chicken.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiaolongbao

    If you add some fresh grated ginger and lemon juice into the boxed tomato soup that's a good quick fix cold food.
    Ttrockwood

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  8. I've them several times in Philadelphia's Chinatown as well as in Cherry Hill, NJ where several Chinatown locations have restaurants. These are petty spot on with the exception of chicken vs pork and lack of cilantro (which a couple places include and I'm thrilled isn't in this). If you choose not to steam them in the enclosed tray and are using a metal steamer vs a bamboo steamer it is best to use lettuce, cabbage, or napa leaves underneath to prevent them from tearing and leaking. Having moved from NJ to FL where xiao long bao doesn't exist I LOVE these!

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  9. Putting soup dumplings into soup kinda kills the purpose. lol Makes more sense to just get regular dumplings as a soup add-in.

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  10. The first time I had soup dumplings was at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen (yes, that's the name of the restaurant...quite a mouthful!) and fell in love with them. They were like little balloons of thin, transluscent dough, halfway or more filled with broth. Little balloons of heaven. I tried to find a place that made these in Northern VA, but the restaurant I read about didn't quite deliver to my expectations - the dough was thicker, and the dumplings were all deflated! It was basically a meatball in a limp thing of dough :( I was excited to see that these were now available at TJ's, but judging by the picture, I don't think they are very good. I'm still curious to try them, although I'm not holding my breath.

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