Friday, May 20, 2011

Trader Joe's Rice Pudding

Rice pudding is apparently a very popular dish worldwide. According to this Wikipedia article, different versions of the dessert evolved independently of one another in virtually every region on Earth. I guess you've gotta figure that any civilization that has rice, milk, and sugar is eventually gonna throw those three ingredients in a bowl together and see what happens.

Somehow, I managed to grow up in a rice pudding vacuum. I don't think I had even heard of it until I was in my teens. At first, it sounded revolting to me; rice is simply not a dessert food. But then, I grew older and more adventurous, and after eating raw fish, sauteed grasshoppers, and Chinese food that only cost a dollar, rice pudding suddenly seemed tame to me.

When I first tried it, it was presented to me by Latino-folk as "Arroz con Leche," leading me to believe that the dish was, in fact, Mexican. And, it is...but it's also Indian, Thai, German, Danish, and/or a whole host of other nationalities. The Pennsylvania Dutch did a pretty good job of bringing all good German foods to central PA, but if they did bring some kind of rice pudding, it certainly didn't end up at the local markets in my hometown.

Anyway, for all you gringos out there: Arroz con Leche = rice with milk. What an inventive name. That's why "horchata" never caught on in this country: poor marketing. You ask somebody what horchata is and they'll tell you it's "Mexican rice water." Mexican rice water? People drink that? Yuck! I picture a nasty soapy-gray liquid that comes as a byproduct of rinsing a strainer of rice with tap water in the sink.

But have you had horchata? It's delicious! People should answer the question "what is horchata?" with "It's the sexy Latin Cinnamon-Sugar Beverage, mi amigo!" Then you'd see horchata flowing from every restaurant soda fountain in the U.S.

Anyway, my point is that "rice pudding," though not totally appetizing to white bread Americans, is much better than "rice with milk." Now, let's move on to more important matters, such as the weird old-timey photo on the container...

It's a vintage pic of two young ladies sharing a secret of some kind. Judging by the expression on the first girl's face, it's a very scandalous secret. I'm not sure why something like that should make us hungry or make the food more appetizing, but apparently it gets the buyer's attention. Interesting choice of packaging. Maybe the one girl is telling the other the true origin of the product within the container.

Oh yeah, all that and I haven't really mentioned anything about the taste of the food yet...It's really good! My only complaint is that it could use a dash of cinnamon. There's just the right amount of rice and just the right amount of sweet milky's very yummy.

I give it a 4.5. Sonia's score is slightly lower, probably because she grew up on the good homemade stuff, but she still gives it a 4. Not too shabby. Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.


  1. I have an amazing aroz con leche recipe from the Mexican chef that worked at my husband's hotel. It was soooo good.