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, March 31, 2016

Trader Ming's Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower

From my childhood, I have what my lovely bride interprets as a bad habit on major holidays: namely, not really eat anything until the big dinner itself. You see, it's not a bad strategy when "holiday dinner" is at about 1 p.m. or so, so skipping breakfast isn't that huge of a deal, and come meal time, you have plenty enough room in your belly to eat your fill, and to be too full for dinner. Totally works because that's how I grew up. But on her side of the family, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and the like are more towards the evening (5 p.m. or so), making this strategery much tougher to employ. Not to say I haven't tried...but every holiday with a later big meal, I get the speech: "You're not going to starve yourself all day until dinner time! You're gonna eat something! Set a good example for the kids!" and so on.

And so it was this past weekend out here in the 'burgh. Easter dinner, our house, 5 p.m. Got home from church, she started launching it yet again...blahblahblah...yes dear, alright dear, I ran 5.5 miles that morning so kinda hungry anyways...

...and then she pulled out Trader Ming's Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower from the freezer. Game, set, match. Stop twisting my arm already, this looks good!

As the name implies, what we have here is a bag of frozen lightly breaded cauliflower florets with some spicy kung pao sauce to stir them all around in. The camera somehow ate the picture we took of the finished product, but the picture on the bag is a more than apt depiction of the vibrant veggie vittles inside. Except...most of the blossoms are freaking huge. Ginormous, probably a whole serving itself. That's not entirely a bad thing, but they do present a textural variant that can be difficult to account for in preparation. Naturally, the stemmy sections retains more crunch and stiff fibrous feel, while the actual "trees" sections are kinda all over the place. Some were done roughly right, with a good bite, while others seemed smooshy and almost creamy due to being just way too soft. If they were smaller, I'd think it'd be easier to prepare them in a more even manner. It didn't inhabit us too much, but I could see it being a potential issue for some.

As for the sauce, I didn't care much for it straight up (yes, I tried it). It seemed a bit too cloyingly soy sauce-y, with a little tang of pineapple juice and a tickle of heat poking out.  However, once on the slightly crispy/greasy cauliflower, a lot of the soy tendencies mellowed out, while the spice amped itself a smidge. By the end of my bowlful, the heat definitely kicked up several notches from where it started. The breading itself is barely worth mention, except to say it was a fairly adequate medium between the sauce and veggie.

Overall, this particular Trader Ming's offering is a go...I'd feel slightly better recommending it if it cost $3.99 or so instead of $4.99...but chances are it'll be a repeat purchase for when the vaguely Asian food/don't feel like paying for takeout bug hits (which is often enough). Sandy offers up a four whereas I'll slide in a little lower.

Bottom line: Trader Ming's Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


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  2. I tried them and they were ok but nothing great and too expensive for battered cauliflower and sauce in my opinion. ;)

  3. Mine got really soggy after tossing in the sauce. I'll either bake it longer or use less sauce next time

  4. Sauce is too gloopy-sweet and the florets are too big. Otherwise, it's not too bad. I'd give 6/10.

  5. I found the same issue the first time I tried this. About half the bag was creamy, delicious cauliflower pieces and half were fibrous, tough cauliflower pieces. Those fibrous, tough pieces I couldn't even cut with a steak knife! I found the sauce delicious, if only every piece of cauliflower was edible I could eat this vegan dish several times a week. It's a little pricey ($5 for a bag), especially when the WHOLE bag is NOT edible.

  6. I recently tried this and it's not terrible, but the pieces need to be smaller and more uniform. I had a lot of very large pieces and the breading doesn't stick well to those. What didn't fall off was mushy. The few small pieces I had crisped up nicely and held on to their breading.

  7. Not very good.. Expensive and mushy!!!! Way mushy sorry I wasted my money...

  8. Sauce too hot to eat, nowhere does it say it this product is hot. I get really aggravated when products have chili peppers and the label does it have it listed as an ingredient. Way down in the ingredient list it has spices listed. It does not say there are Chili's or Peppers or jalapenos in this product. I will be getting a refund from Trader Joe's.