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Showing posts with label Indian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Indian. Show all posts

Monday, July 8, 2024

Trader Joe's (Refrigerated) Chicken Tikka Masala

I've always been a fan of chicken tikka. It's basically chicken tandoori made with boneless and skinless chicken breast. It's served dry, while its cousin chicken tikka masala is served in a creamy, tomato-based sauce like the dish we have here. Sonia and I have both had some pretty tasty tikka masala in our day, too, so Trader Joe's has their work cut out for them.

This product comes refrigerated, not frozen, so you've only got a week or so to consume it. The heating instructions involved either 5 minutes in the microwave or 25 minutes in the oven. We opted for the conventional bakey box because we were leery of rubbery chicken. 

The texture of the meat was fine, but our basmati rice dried out a bit. It got a tad crunchy by the end of the heating cycle. We've both had tikka masala with thicker sauce, but the relative thinness of this offering didn't bother me, while it did bug the beautiful wifey to some extent.

She also thought the sauce lacked flavor. And though I have had more pungent masala sauce once or twice, again, I was fine with the spice level and taste of the topping here, noting elements of tomato, onion, garlic, turmeric, paprika, and ginger. Nothing to complain about in my opinion.

Still, the dry, crunchy rice, relatively small serving size, and higher price tag will have a negative effect on our score of this product... 

We actually recommend either the frozen Chicken Tikka Masala or even the Vegan Tikka Masala over this refrigerated variety. It's been a long time since we've purchased either of those products, but assuming they're more or less the same as when we reviewed them, they're consistently good and optimized for going straight from the freezer to the microwave with pleasant results.

$6.99 for two servings. Seven out of ten stars from Nathan for Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala. Sonia's score: 7/10 as well.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Trader Joe's Sri Lankan Organic Mango Chutney

So this totally wasn't what I was expecting. But I'm not going to let my preconceived notions ruin my experience with this product, because it's a unique and delicious condiment in its own right. Was I expecting Indian-style chutney while this specimen is uniquely Sri Lankan? Possibly.

I fell in love with chutney many years ago. There was a place close to my apartment that had the best chicken tikka, and I'd always get naan and samosas on the side and they came with two little dishes of red and green chutney. Before I'd even start on the entree, I'd finish both types of chutney completely. I'd later find out the green one was mint chutney and the red one was tamarind chutney, neither of which would have appealed to me if I'd only heard the names of the sauces. Both were heavy on sweet coconut flavor and were very watery and thin—no bits of fruit or chunks of anything.

This product is more like a marmalade in terms of look and texture. It's quite thick. And there are indeed mango bits floating throughout the little jar. It's sweet like the aforementioned chutneys, but this one is more fruit forward and has a lot less coconut taste, despite the fact that it does contain "organic coconut sap vinegar."

There's an unexpected though not entirely unwelcome spice blend here, as well. In addition to chili powder, which gives the product a modest kick, we're also looking at cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg. They're oddly strong, too. If it were me, I would have dialed the spices back just a tad and let the fruit flavors do the talking, but it makes for a very exotic taste combo.

This chutney went well with pan-fried chicken and rice. It complements naan bread, samosas, and charcuterie type foods. I'm sure you could use it with sandwiches, wraps, or as a glaze for meat or white fish.

Sonia says she's had chutney very similar to this one at other Indian restaurants. She's a fan. $2.99 for the 8.5 oz jar. Product of Sri Lanka. Organic. Kosher. Would buy again. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Sri Lankan Mango Chutney.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Garlic Naan Crackers

No Indian meal is complete without a bunch of naan bread. Man, I could eat that stuff every day. I remember falling in love with the naan at my favorite Indian restaurant back in Los Angeles, Anarkali. Since most Indian restaurants pale in comparison to that place, and also because we don't eat out that much any more, we often pick up naan from Trader Joe's or other grocery stores to go along with our room temperature, pantry style Indian meals or frozen microwave ones.

The biggest problem with naan that I can think of is that it doesn't keep very long, just like regular white bread. It molds in a week or so, unfortunately. Hmmm. 

If only they could turn naan into crackers that last a year or so...and voila. Trader Joe's Organic Garlic Naan Crackers are here. I'm not saying TJ's invented naan crackers, but these are the first ones I've ever seen, so naturally I picked up a box. Garlic flavor. Yum.

And it's kinda uncanny how much these little guys actually taste like naan bread. I'm not even sure how they did it. They captured the unique bready flavor of naan in a crispy cracker format. The garlic flavor is there, too, but as I might have predicted, I want MOAR GARLIC.

It's a nice, savory flavor, but it's not very pungent. I guess that's so you can pair the crackers with Indian food or soup or any kind of dip without worrying about the cracker clashing or trying to steal the show. These crackers flaunt a subtle flavor. I think they could have amped up the allium and made these a very tasty stand-alone snack. As is, they're optimized for dipping, crumbling, and scooping. They go GREAT with hummus.

$3.79 for the 9 serving box. Kosher. Organic. Would buy again. Four stars from me. Four and a half from Sonia for Trader Joe's Garlic Naan Crackers.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Kitchari

Sonia and I both love Indian food and have been to numerous Indian restaurants in numerous cities, so I thought it odd that neither of us had heard of kitchari before this. Apparently, the way it's pronounced rhymes with "stitchery" or "witchery," and it's a dish frequently used for cleansing or anti-inflammatory purposes. Here's a good article on the subject.

We've seen these convenient microwavable pouches of Indian Fare from Trader Joe's before. Nuke for about a minute, dump on rice, and voila, an extremely cheap and easy Indian meal. 
The smell of this dish was wonderful straight out of the microwave. There was a rich earthiness under a fragrant spice blend including ginger, fennel, cardamom, and turmeric. Upon tasting it, we were both somewhat unimpressed. We both agreed it didn't taste as bold as it smelled, and we wished there had been more whole peas or beans or something to bite down on. The texture was quite mushy.

The split mung beans by themselves didn't do much for us in the flavor department, and the spice blend, though pleasant, wasn't as pungent as we'd hoped. We certainly liked it overall, but didn't love it by any means, especially when compared to the vast majority of amazingly flavorful Indian products we've tried from TJ's over the years.

But then I decided to do some internet recon on the dish. That's when I stumbled upon that article I linked to in the first paragraph. It seems like maybe kitchari is more of a medicinal dish than the typical wild ride for the taste buds that East Indian cuisine can often be. Apparently, it's mushy by design, and that makes it super easy to digest. Other properties of the mung beans help remove toxins from the digestive system. Also the spice blend is so mild that even young children and old folks can consume it, according to that article.

As fate should have it, my stomach had been upset for a day or two prior to trying the kitchari. fate should have it, the kitchari helped. It helped a lot actually. I noticed an almost immediate improvement with my gastrointestinal grumblings.

So...if you're looking for a scrumptious Indian dish, click right here and scroll through 12 years of reviews. I'd put this one near the bottom of the pack if scoring on taste and texture alone, but I can't deny there are definite detox qualities here...and again, it's not bad tasting by any means. $2.29 for the single serving pack. It's not explicitly labeled as "vegan" for some reason, but I can't see why it wouldn't be.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Trader Joe's Indian Style Garlic Achaar Sauce

Why is Indian food so delicious? I don't think I've ever had an Indian dish I didn't like. My hypothesis: it's the spices and sauces.

This tasty new Trader Joe's brand condiment lends credence to that theory. It's piquant, potent, and fabulously flavorsome. However, I have to share the following: while re-familiarizing myself with achaar sauce via internet search, I came across another popular jarred garlic achaar sauce: Brooklyn Delhi. First of all, that's a freaking brilliant play on words—not a Brooklyn deli like a delicatessen, but Delhi like the city in India. Ha! I love it.

Anyway, I mused for a moment about whether Brooklyn Delhi could possibly be Trader Joe's third party supplier of their own achaar. No sooner had the thought entered my mind when I stumbled across a tweet from the founder of Brooklyn Delhi calling Trader Joe's offering a "cheap, watered-down knock-off" of her version. 

All I have to say is DANG, girl, if this stuff is watered-down, then your roasted garlic achaar sauce must be absolutely life-changing and I must try it as soon as I can get my hands on some.

Because "watered-down" was the phrase farthest from my mind when I first tried this product. It's so rich and flavorful. It's super garlicky, but there are also hot chili spices and a deep, earthy bite that's so unique. We put it on naan bread with some eggs and garlic-flavored goat cheese. Fan-freaking-tastic. It's honestly quite noshable with nothing but bread—the eggs and cheese just made it a complete meal.

This would go great with chicken, fish, shrimp, fries, appetizers...honestly it's probably easier to list things it wouldn't go with than things it potentially could. I wouldn't try it with desserts, I guess. It would ruin ice cream or cake, I suppose.

I'm excited to experiment with it. $2.69 for the jar. It's not a huge jar, but a little goes a long way. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegetable Samosa Burrito

I'm not into globalism as far as politics are concerned, but I must admit, when international cultures entwine, some pretty interesting and enticing culinary combinations result.

I'm thinking taco pizza, curried chicken salad, or Chicano hamburgers...or the fact that you can put sriracha on anything American and make it better. Fusion food. The only thing finer than one tasty tradition is two or more combined in the same dish. And now they're doing stuff like sushi corn dogs, kimchi quesadillas, and pierogi poutine...? What the what? I'll have to try those things some day...but until then, I'm glad there's Trader Joe's.

So it's a the form of a burrito. Sounds good. If you use the microwave, this happy little lunch item goes from refrigerated to piping hot in just two minutes.

Despite being a little stuffy from the excessive cold we're feeling here in the upper midwest, that familiar curry-esque samosa smell cut through the kitchen and piqued my appetite immediately. Sonia and I cut our burrito in half and ate it with some other leftover Indian food and rice. By itself, it would have been the perfect size for a stand-alone lunch or even dinner for one person.

There were big chunks of potato, cauliflower, and carrots, plus plenty of large whole peas throughout the dish. The texture of the veggies was just about perfect. The tortilla would have been a bit more crispy had we used the oven, no doubt, but we were fine with it being soft and supple. It's definitely a secondary element after the veggie chunks.

To me, "tomato chutney" doesn't sound particularly appetizing or exciting. But it tasted great. Just look at the ingredients list. There's onions, garlic, mustard, vinegar, white wine, ginger, paprika, turmeric and rosemary, just to name a few of the represented flavors. The taste was every bit as complex and bold as you might expect from those elements. It's a uniquely Indian flavor in the familiar format of a burrito. Would buy again.

$3.99 for the product. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Misal Curry

I've always been fascinated with maps and geography. It's also interesting how places and groups of people got their names. I'm in awe that we can still refer to islands in the Caribbean as "the West Indies" based on the erroneous assumption that 15th and 16th century explorers found an alternate route from Europe to India.

"Man, I'm jonesin' for some authentic Indian curry. Let's try going in the opposite direction and see if we get to India faster." Great work, guys. You were only off by literally 15,000 miles.

Nowadays, we take frozen Indian food at the grocery store completely for granted, along with myriad other international cuisines. We truly don't know how good we have it. And I'm not saying that this dish or any of Trader Joe's other frozen selections are quite as good as anything you'd actually be served in India, or even a half decent Indian restaurant here in the states—what I'm saying is the accessibility factor along with the relatively authentic taste is something I'm truly grateful for, and it seems petty and frivolous to file any complaints at all about this miracle of modern convenience.

So for that reason, let's start with everything positive about this dish. It's vegan. That's good. I'm not vegan, but it's nice to not have to eat animals or animal products at each and every meal. It's actually spicy. Heck yes. So many curry products are totally lacking in the heat department. We're not talking five alarm fire type heat in this case, but there's definitely some kick to this curry. I'd put it just above half way on a spice-o-meter.

Finally, it's super easy to prepare. Six minutes in the microwave and you're good to go. It's not super fattening or calorific in the grand scheme of things, either. A lot of curry dishes can really pack a punch in that department.

The "brown rice" is kinda purple. I don't know if I've seen purple rice before. It tasted fine, although the texture was just a bit spongy. If you're not into beans, then the texture of the misal might not be your thing, either. Sonia thought the curry itself had too many "al dente" beans. Spongy rice and both squishy and firm beans made the texture my least favorite aspect of this curry. That might be a function of the beans used. There are "sprouted moth beans" and "white peas," neither of which I'm familiar with.

Some curries can be kind of sweet. This one isn't at all. It's earthy, beany, and spicy. Although there are multiple coconut ingredients in the product, I didn't taste much coconut at all.

It's actually a "product of India." I guess that makes it more authentic...? But also I'm not sure how we don't have the ingredients to make it in this country, or you know, at least in this hemisphere. For $2.29, it doesn't seem like the meal's cost has been influenced much by its trip around the globe. 

Score-wise, I think we're looking at something like double 3.5's.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Trader Joe's Spicy Chakri Mix

During my freshman year of college, Aerosmith released their Nine Lives album. My dormitory roomie, whom I'd known since high school, and his then girlfriend, were big fans. So they purchased the CD shortly after its release. On it was a track entitled "Taste of India." The opening lines of it went: 

"Gotta love the sweet taste of India. Lingers on the tip of my tongue." 

Like a good Christian roommate, my old friend changed the lyrics to "Gotta love the sweet taste of Nathan's mom" and would sing it that way when it would play on his boombox in our very tiny dorm room. We'd always have a laugh together about the lyric swap, as "your mom" jokes were in vogue at the time. 

But none of us were well-versed when it came to actual Indian food back then. In subsequent years, walking the streets of Los Angeles and Philadelphia with a bag of curry or channa masala take-out in my hand, my friends would often hear me mumbling "Gotta love the sweet taste of Nathan's mom" under my breath and would ask what the heck I was singing.

I gotta give it to Trader Joe's for furthering my experience with Indian food. Most of their Indian selections aren't quite restaurant quality in my opinion, but they're close enough that when you consider price and convenience, they're still a must-try in most cases.

This snack bag is a little different from the other Indian selections I've had in that it's a dry snack, rather than a saucy meal with veggies, rice, and tofu or meat. It has a spice blend that's similar to a lot of other Indian treats—curry leaves, turmeric powder, and rosemary.

In some ways, it's not a far cry from a Tex-Mex snack mix. The smell is pretty similar and the heat level is comparable, also both styles are super crunchy. There are tiny balls, skinny sticks, peanuts, and those big long pieces that look like the spines of small animals, and each element is super crispy. Looks like all the pieces are made of chickpeas and/or rice, other than the peanuts, of course. I really do wish the peanuts were larger and more plentiful. The peanuts on the cover art are huge compared to the tiny ones I found in my mix.

Other than that, not too many complaints. It's a convenient, exotic snack that's got a decent flavor and a little spicy kick. It would be great on salads or maybe even mixed in with other Indian dishes. I'd even try it with other international cuisines. I'm thinking this would be great on top of Pad Thai or even in wonton soup...? 

It's salty, nutty, and moderately oily. I still think it would be much stronger with more peanuts. But hey, I can always add my own, right? $2.99 for the 7oz. bag. Three and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Trader Joe's Mini Spicy Pumpkin Samosas

It's an important distinction to make: these are spicy pumpkin samosas, not pumpkin spice samosas. Pumpkin spice samosas would be weird and maybe even a little gross. Hopefully even you pumpkin haters can set aside your disdain for the fall gourd and consider giving these a try...that is, if you like Indian food.

Because the spice blend here isn't ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and clove. It's cilantro, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Yes, I'm aware ginger is on both lists, but the order in which it falls within the list is significant. It's a background flavor here, not the main attraction. These samosas are a little sweet, too, but they're not "pumpkin pie" sweet, if you know what I mean.

In addition to real pumpkin, Trader Joe's Mini Spicy Pumpkin Samosas have paneer cheese and sweet potato within them, too. To tell you the truth, I wasn't sure if that combo was going to work, but it definitely did. Both Sonia and I were fans from our first bites.

We've always loved Indian food. After Mexican, Indian is probably our favorite type of international cuisine. There's a sweet, spicy, savory curry essence to these appetizers that works oh-so-well and is oh-so-unique. It's a harvesty kinda flavor, but it's also unmistakably East Indian-inspired. The heat level is mild to medium—enough to enhance the flavor but not enough to cause any discomfort to someone who enjoys spicy foods.

Like other Trader Joe's samosas we've tried, the breading here is crispy, flaky, buttery, and delectable. It might be a little on the oily side, but it adds to the richness of the flavor. The only complaint I can think of is that I wouldn't have minded some kind of chutney in a little packet on the side for dipping. I know, I know, I always make that same complaint, but a bit of chutney as uncommon as these little apps might have made them even more delicious.

$3.99 for 12 mini samosas. Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Trader Joe's Shrimp Tikka Masala

I don't know that I've ever had a tikka masala dish that I've disliked. Just from Trader Joe's alone, we've seen chickenpaneer, and vegan varieties, all of which were thumbs up. Shrimp is one of my favorite foods and always has been. As long as it's cooked properly, it's pretty hard to mess up shrimp, so the bar is set pretty high for this dish already. 

Like most of you, we haven't been eating out much lately. So I guess if anything, that lowers the bar a tad and makes us appreciate near-restaurant-quality microwave meals even more than usual. Hopefully we're giving this Shrimp Tikka Masala its fair shake. 

Anyway, Let's dive in.

I feel like they almost wanted to go with a flippable tray, a la those yogurts that come with mix-ins, but with the shrimp and sauce being flipped into the bed of cumin rice instead of cookie bits getting flipped into a bed of yogurt. The tray isn't quite that flexible, so you're left flicking the shrimps one by one into the other side. Fair enough.

There are about 8 or 10 small shrimp swimming around in a red sauce. For a frozen meal, their texture is about what you'd expect. Shrimp doesn't fare particularly well in the microwave, in my opinion, and these specimens were no better or worse than I expected—just a tad more chewy than steamed or fried shrimp would be. 

The sauce is a "mildly spicy tomato sauce" ...and that's what it tastes like. It's not particularly bursting with Indian spices or heat. It's a wee bit more complex and interesting than, say, tomato soup, but it struck me as being significantly less flavorful than any of the previous tikka masala dishes from Trader Joe's.

The rice here isn't the classic basmati rice we see in most of TJ's Indian food. This is "cumin rice." It's plain white rice...with some cumin seeds and coconut oil. So...pretty much just plain white rice.

I polished off the tray easily enough. Never gagged. Never grimaced at the flavor. But it didn't inspire any moments of bliss or euphoria, either. 

While I can't shaft it too badly, I'd put this near the bottom of the tikka masala pack and maybe even near the bottom of the list of Trader Joe's Indian food in general. That's not to say it's bad in any way. There's just a laundry list of other outstanding Indian foods at TJ's that I'll reach for before I pick up this particular selection again. Sonia sat this one out, citing an upset tummy as her reason for non-participation.

$3.49 for the single serving meal. Ready after 5-6 minutes in microwave.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Trader Joe's Fiery Chicken Curry

Despite all proceeding evidence to the contrary, I really thought this was shrimp.

Maybe it was just a weird random parallel pescaterian universe portal that let me see this, but I really thought I read this as "Trader Joe's Fiery Shrimp Curry," not "Trader Joe's Fiery Chicken Curry." I was on a solo parenting trip, so no witnessses. And it being a hot day, with no plans to go right home afterwards, and this being a frozen entree, it made a purchase unwise at that time. I thought about taking a pic, but TJ's doesn't really like that, and I've bent enough rules in the past by recording a podcast there, so I relied on my old, thought-to-be-rustproof memory. I'll just tell Sandy to get it next time she goes. No biggie. shrimpy. Internet searches and calls to all the area TJ's confirmed. It's chicken, not shrimp. It's still an acceptable protein, of course...but it ain't shrimp.

It's kinda too bad, as the chicken in the new TJ's fiery chicken curry is kinda the weak point. Not that I reasonably expect high quality pollo from a frozen dinner that cost $3.49. But I'd expect better than what I got here. The package states upfront it's chicken breast AKA white meat. Now, I have no real problem, generally, with dark thigh meat, but when you expect a few choice-ish morsels of white meat but get only three of them, and about three dense, grisly dark meat pieces it kinda throws you off. It'd be more acceptable if somewhat expected.

Everything else? On point. Gotta give it to TJ's on the sauces for their frozen dishes, particularly the Indian ones. This curry sauce is awesome. Coconutty, sweet, layered, peppery, fiery, spicy, with intensifying and lingering heat....yes to all of those. It wasn't too spicy for either Sandy or I, but could be for some of y'all out there. If the sauce were sold separately as "fiery curry sauce" we'd buy again and again and probably prop it to our pantheon on here.

Turmeric rice is turmeric rice. Helps fill out the meal and soak up all the sauce. Nice work, rice. Represent.

Still, with this being chicken and not shrimp I feel an opportunity got missed. And lo and behold I'm not completely crazy. The term "Goan-inspired" made me Wiki up some info, and, well, look: "Goan food is considered incomplete without fish." With some high quality shrimp, and even at a mildly increased price point, this dish could be a real absolute winner that'd help make up for a rare shrimp miss on TJ's part. Oh well.

The fiery chicken curry is definitely repeat purchase worthy if for no other reason than to get another hit of that tasty tasty sauce. Love it. Makes a perfect microwavable meal for my heavily birddogged no-less-than-28-but-absolutely-no-more-than-32-minutes lunch break for me. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fiery Chicken Curry: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, July 20, 2018

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Yellow Tadka Dal

For a few months in high school, I worked at my local Boston Market. It was an okay job - first and foremost, all the free cornbread I could ever want - but man, there's a few things that, close to twenty years later, kinda stick with me. Like the barrel of some sort of acid used to "clean" all the rotisserie skewers. Gross, hold your breath when walking by. Or how my assistant manager there regularly lit up while in the kitchen...during dinner rushes...while prepping food. That "smoked" turkey on the menu wasn't false advertising.

But another Boston Market memory came to mind while prepping Trader Joe's Indian Fare Yellow Tadka Dal. You think all the side dishes there were freshmade? Bahahahaha, that's hilarious.  Nah, all the mashed potatoes and green beans and mac n cheese and whatever else was bagged and either steamed or boiled before being brought out...

...which is exactly how I made this Indian dish, in only a slightly more traditional method than nuking in our microwave. I literally submerged the package, as shown, in a boiling pot of water to warm up this shelf-stable lentil stew-like dish. I guess it's only weird if it doesn't work.

The tadka dal certainly works, as far as my tongue can ascertain. I can't tell you how authentic it is or isn't, but I can tell you both Sandy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tadka dal, if you're not familiar, is a fairly common spiced lentil dish in Indian cuisine. What we both enjoyed most was the warm, welcoming "glow" of the spices. I'm not sure how else to explain it. While somewhat spicy, it wasn't straight up heat, but there's not a complex depth to it either. It's not the same as other spices that you'd expect from, say, a tikka masala. Curry plays a part, but I'd wager on it being a bit heavy on the turmeric, which is just fine by me. You can see how yellow this stuff is.

The lentils are, well, lentil-like. What is there to really say about them? But they add earthiness and body to the creamy tomato broth base. There's enough lentils that it didn't even really seem all that tomato like, so that's a plus in Sandy's book. She might not even realize there were tomatoes in it until she reads this...I guess we'll find out. In any event, we both wish we had some naan to help get every last bit of the tadka dal into our belly.

Speaking of wishing for naan...the tadka dal is really more a side dish, or at least in need of something else to fill out to a full meal. We went cross-cultural with falaffels, but at least have some rice on hand to serve alongside.

Bringing one thing back: make note of the "creamy" aspect. Yup, sorry vegan lentil-lovers out there, there's milk in the ingredients here. From what I can tell from a quick Google search, many if not most tadka dal recipes can be or are vegan. So there's a potential knock.

For $1.99, we were happy. It's definitely repeat purchase-type material for us. If this TJ's tadka dal were a side dish or option at an Indian buffet, we'd be happy. Just get it out of the bag before bringing it out. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Indian Fare Yellow Tadka Dal: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, August 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas

I've always been a fan of not only chicken tikka masala, but chicken tikka as well—basically just boneless chicken with tandoori spices. And overall, I've been super impressed with Trader Joe's Indian offerings throughout the years. Plus, I love me some samosa-type purchasing this new-to-me frozen noshable was a no-brainer. And I'm glad I did.

The shells came out of the oven flaky and crispy, if perhaps a tad greasy. No need for pan-frying these puppies—they provided more than enough oil of their own. Taste-wise, the dough was extremely pleasant and flavorful, not to mention structurally-sound for hand-held snacking straight off an hors d'oeuvre tray know, right from the baking sheet if one were so inclined. Note: that structural integrity guarantee does not remain in effect if one were to, say, cut the appetizer in half with a fork to share with a friend, or to, perhaps, take a picture for a blog or Instagram or what have you. In fact, cutting these little triangular morsels caused most of the chicken tikka filling to squish out onto the plate, which brings me to my next point...

The chicken tikka filling was good, but it's extremely shredded, to the point where it's nearly liquefied...okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. I guess I'm trying to say I wouldn't have minded some actual chicken bits, but that's nitpicking on my part. 

Also, the flavor was pleasant, but it just wasn't intense enough for me. The Indian spices weren't as potent as other chicken tikka offerings I've had. There was just enough spice to tell that this was, indeed, an Indian-inspired appetizer—but no more than that. I like my Indian food to boast strong, spicy, vivid tastes. This was a much more mild flavor here.

Sonia didn't seem to mind it as much as I did, but she immediately pointed out that as good as the product was, in her opinion, it would have been much better with a sweet, spicy Indian chutney of some kind.

Even though I'm able to point out a few things that might be labeled as "flaws" in this product, it's still pretty dang snackable. The true test is how long the tray lasts in our household of two after it comes out of the oven. In this case, barely 15 minutes. It could have had something to do with the fact it was close to lunch time, but we can't score this too harshly based on that fact alone. Again, we're looking at twelve pieces for just about four dollars, so it's a pretty standard value we've been seeing at TJ's lately.

I'll throw out three and a half stars here. Sonia will spring for four.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Korma Fish Curry

A handful of you might remember that not all that long ago, Sonia and I had been living without a microwave. We purposely neglected to replace it mainly to see how we’d do without it. But now that we’re living in our RV and traveling, we are now, once again, endowed with the ability to irradiate our foods from frozen to ready-to-eat in a matter of minutes—when we’re hooked up to shore power, at least. Oh, how I’ve missed you, nuked foods. May our romance blossom once again. For our reunion date, you prepared a delish fish dish for me. How sweet of you, Samsung MC1015BB.

This blog has explored quite a few different frozen, microwavable Indian products over the years. In my opinion, this is one of, if not the most consistent line of products Trader Joe’s has to offer. No, they can’t compete with a really good, authentic Indian restaurant, but considering the price and convenience, I’ve never found anything that compares.

This dish was no different. It’s the same basmati rice we’ve been seeing with most of these Indian meals. And of course, TJ’s curry is pretty consistently good. And the fish? Well, that was the wild card. Some TJ’s fish is spot on, and some…not so much.

But here we had a delicious white fish with a great taste and texture. Swai? It was soft, but not mushy, and it blended quite well with the thick, spicy curry. The packaging made the fish look like two or three “sticks,” for lack of a better term, but we got a large, triangular filet instead. If anything, it was more fish than I expected, just based on the picture on the box.

There’s a surprising amount of heat here, too, which Sonia and I both appreciated. The curry is potent, yet sweet, smooth, and coconutty. All three elements worked beautifully together, and we devoured our entrees quickly, wishing we had purchased another box or two to enjoy another day.

At $3.49 per single-serving package, it’s one of the pricier microwaveable Indian products at TJ’s, but it’s worth it if you ask Sonia or I. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Trader Joe's Bollywood Popcorn

I wish I had something intelligent to say about Indian cinema and all the Bollywood classics that I'm sure exist. I simply don't. Closest I come is being able to say I was in the same room once or twice when Sandy was watching "Bend It Like Beckham" (I was probably writing a half-witted review, much like this one). And how representative that particular movie is of most Bollywood fare...I have no idea, because I don't know any better.

And I won't admit to knowing much about Indian cuisine, either. Most (okay, all) of my exposure has been either at Indian restaurants or the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe's, and how authentic that experience really is...I don't know, either.

But I can say I've eaten a lot of popcorn, and that whenever I've had any version of tikka masala I've loved it. Finally, those two classics have come together in Trader Joe's Bollywood Popcorn.

Ripping open our bag took some persistence and care. It probably didn't help we were pretty eager to chomp some down for a night of Olympics watching...but this was a tough bag to crack, to balance the force necessary without causing a popcorn micro-supernova. The payoff, though, was amazing - a big, aromatic cloud of cloves and cumin and garam masala, which quickly laid to rest how potent the seasoning might be on a simple popcorn base.

Potent is an understatement. My goodness. The best way I can explain it is a "happy heat." If you're a tikka masala fan at all, you know what I mean - it builds slowly but surely, with a lot of warmth, and it just lingers on and on, but it's never overbearing. I'm kind of amazed it comes from popcorn and not an actual dish with chicken or paneer and rice.

Combine all that with perfectly munchable popcorn kernels - solid, fluffy, crunchy, well popped, without many (if any) widows. It's a perfect snack. And it's been a long, long time since we've done this, but Sandy and I housed the entire bag in about an hour's time - that's what we get for keeping it within reach on the couch. And for once I can claim we were equally guilty.

To be honest, I'm trying really hard to think of anything even remotely critical to say about this popcorn, and I'm coming up empty. No deductions at all from these two American judges. And only $1.99. Perfect 10.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Bollywood Popcorn: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Matar Paneer

Obviously, I was taking a risk here with Trader Joe's Matar Paneer.

I've braved both frozen and boxed Indian food from Trader Joe's, with more success than not. But 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?

I did. And happy to report, the matar paneer passed every test. Rather impressively, I may add.

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 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

Friday, August 21, 2015

Trader Joe's Indian Fare Jaipur Vegetables

Here's an item that's been in our cupboard for months and months and we might have forgotten about it, but last time we were at TJ's, they were handing it out at the sample counter. We liked it, so Sonia and I reminded ourselves to heat up the package we already had at home. And boy am I glad we did.

It's really tasty. It reminds me of the filling in the Balti Pies we looked at not too long ago, though not quite as fattening and calorific. Obviously, there's no crust or chicken here, either. The curry is nearly identical to the Balti curry, though maybe a tad bit spicier. There are big chunks of peas, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. Plus, there's paneer cheese and cashews—two ingredients TJ's is no stranger to. They all blend together nicely flavor-wise, but I'd definitely say the taste of the curry is the dominant flavor here. And that's just fine with me, because it tastes great.

All of the other ingredients create a nice hearty texture. It's not just a homogeneous mush. There's plenty of each constituent part to keep it interesting. I wasn't particularly thrilled with the cashews, since they were slightly soggy. If they had found some magical way to keep them crunchy, then this already delicious product would have been even better. I suppose they could have separated the cashews into a separate pouch that you could open and pour into the mixture at the end, but that's just me being uber-picky.

And that brings me to my next point: the preparation of this product is insanely easy. You either drop the bag into some boiling water on your stove top for five minutes, or you snip the bag and nuke the contents for a minute or two. I heated mine in the microwave and poured it over rice, and bang! Instant meal. I don't recall exactly what the price is on this one since it's been so long since we purchased it, but if it's anything like the other Indian Fare products, it's probably in the ballpark of $2, which is a really good deal for what you're getting. No complaints here.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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