I've braved both frozen and boxed Indian food from Trader Joe's, with more success than not. But look...it doesn't matter how cool and printy and no labelly and kinda retro the can looks, it's still a can. A can. Conveniently with a pop-top tab, I may add, so in the history of cans, this can is up there...but, still, a metal, shelf stable can, prone to dents and questionable-by-association contents.
But that's not even all. If you can't tell by the photobombs by Optimus Prime and a cheapie USB plug fan from Target, this was my work lunch one day this past week. So not only did I have to open a can of Indian food, I would then have to heat it in the microwave. I don't mean this in any sort of rude way, but I didn't want to be lumped with the guy who zapped some fish (never, ever do that at work) or the nice lady who scorched her popcorn. I didn't want anything to smell too curry-ous if you know what I mean.
And then I would have eat it, and again, not to be rude, but deal with any potential, umm, after-effects while on the clock. I do enough on my own every day the toes the HR-visit line, did we really need to tempt it?
After just a couple minutes and a stir or two from the break room nuker, lunch was served. The aroma was surprisingly mildly fragrant - definitely some warmth with spices, but my cubicle neighbor's chicken fingers made its presence known more than my bowlful of Indian. Got a few compliments from those closest to me but that was it. Visually, the curry appeared soupier than it actually was - the peas and onions thickened up the tomato base more than expected, without seeming too swampy. With a little rice mixed in after a couple bites, the feel and consistency was just right.
And taste...my goodness. Is it authentic matar paneer tase? Look: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I don't know. But purely on it's own basis, it's delicious. Plenty of the usual Indian spices - enough heat to help clear the sinuses a little, with a pleasant linger, but easy enough to cover up with a stick or two of gum afterwards. If you've had the paneer in other TJ's dishes, this is fairly like the others - softly firm, mild, a welcome bite, and there's plenty of it.
I'd say it's dang near perfect for a work lunch mix up from the norm - cheap (was it even $2?), easy (dump, zap, eat), quick, delicious. Just make sure you don't have an important meeting afterwards, and watch out for dribbling on the TPS reports. I'm going solo on this - Sandy wasn't entirely willing to take the risk until she saw how I fared - but sometimes with high risk, comes high reward. This is one of those times.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Matar Paneer: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons