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Friday, February 21, 2014

Trader Joe's Sai Tung Green Curry & Red Gaba Rice

Well, I've written at length before about my love of most Thai cuisine, so let's skip all that mumble grumble and get down to the business of reviewing one of the latest, greatest, easiest, tastiest, purportedly authenticish dishes that has been scavenged from the corners of the earth and brought right to a freezer aisle near you -  Trader Joe's Sai Tung Green Curry & Red Gaba Rice.

Man, that's a long product name.

Anyways, according to Trader Joe's, "sai tung" is Thai for "take out." I wasn't able to find independent verification of that translation in the 5 seconds I spent on Googling the matter, so let's roll with that. Hmm, ethnocentrically speaking, I thought that take out food was more or less an American thing. I wonder what the quality of take out Tupperware in other parts of the world are.

Overall, the sai tung is a pretty respectable dish. First, it's MASSIVE. The product shot I included here? That's less than half of what came on our $2.99 platter. It's kinda obviously packaged to be a microwavable lunch or dinner onto itself, which even for a guy with a bottomless pit of a stomach like me, would be a bit much. Sandy and I instead used it as a side dish the other night with some baked fish. The rice and curry come frozen in a compartmentalized plastic dish, not (unfortunately) the cool looking bowl on the box cover. And even though I followed the instructions carefully, it still took almost twice as long to nuke as the directions stated because both the rice and the curry are so densely packed in. Maybe Nathan can give me some lessons, that microwave wizard him.

Once it was finally heated, it tasted downright good. The red rice is of the sprouted variety, so it's a little extra protein and a lot of extra bite, kinda a texture closer to quinoa than regular white rice. Grainy, a little chewy, but definitely good. As for the curry, it doesn't disappoint. The sauce starts off nice and sweet and coconut milky, before laying a spice wallop on the taste buds before quickly retreating back to the sweetness. I'll admit it took me a few bites to really get into it, but once I was, I was hooked. I've had curries that were a little more complex and layered out at restaurants, but for a freezer meal, it was more than acceptable. There's a lot of not-common-in-USA greens mixed in - coconut shoots, morning glory, banana flowers - which if you don't mind chomping on something that kinda looks and feels like a soggy forkful of yardwork actually tastes pretty darn good in a greeny way. Sandy strategically avoided all that shrubbery, leaving more for me, which I didn't mind one bit.

"Oooooooh I like it," Sandy said when I asked for her thoughts a few minutes ago. "That curry sauce...." Whenever she says mentions she likes something and kinda trails off (which happens fairly commonly) I always kinda mentally picture her doing the Homer Simpson "Mmm, beer" thing. It was kinda surprising when she said she'd give it only a 2.5, though. She explained she artifically lowered her grade because she was subconciously upset she couldn't have more of it thanks to a diet regime she's trying out for a few weeks. "If I could've had the whole thing, like for lunch, I would've given it a four, probably," she said. Well, I'll give my a score a little boost to try and compensate. Good stuff.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sai Tung Green Curry & Red Gaba Rice: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Trader Joe's Coffee รก Cocoa

I think this item was first brought to our attention via Instagram. Sonia pointed out the photo to me, and somehow I got the impression that it was like a mixture of hot chocolate and coffee.

It's not.

It's coffee with traces of chocolatiness. Perhaps I'd describe it as having a "chocolate finish" if I were feeling generous. Disappointing for people like me who don't really like the taste of coffee. I'm not sure what "Chocolate Fudge Oil" is, but it's not nearly as chocolatey as it sounds. I've never even heard of it before, and I lived in Chocolate Town, USA for five years. That's right, just a few blocks from Hershey Park. It smelled like chocolate there, although some say the chocolate smell is artificially produced to cover up the smell of the nearby sewage treatment plant. People used cocoa shells for mulch there. But there wasn't much talk about "Chocolate Fudge Oil." Probably because it's not that chocolatey.

Now don't get me wrong, I know Hershey's isn't the best chocolate on earth, especially by chocolate snob standards. Like coffee, I'm not really into chocolate all that much, either—Hershey's or otherwise. I'm not one of those weirdos that dislikes chocolate, either. Given the choice between coffee and chocolate, I'll take the chocolate. I always mention Hershey's because I lived there. That's my reference point. It's what I'm familiar with. If I had grown up in Bruges, I would undoubtedly have an extraordinarily sophisticated Belgian Chocolate reference point that would make me seem waaay more suave, sexy, and worldly. But hey, I'm from Pennsyltucky, yo. Go Hershey Bears!

There is talk about "mocha" on the can. But the mochas I've had are a bit heavier on the chocolate part of the mixture. Plus, you actually make this by putting ground coffee in a filter and putting it in a coffee maker. It's not a powdered mixture like hot chocolate.

But I must say, on the plus side, it does have a rich, medium-dark roast type flavor going on. Smooth and a little nutty, like it says on the can. I think if I hadn't expected something "choco-riffic," I might have been a lot more impressed. If they had pitched this as some random Brazilian Arabica coffee and not emphasized chocolate so much, I might have been thoroughly pleased. As I've written before, one of the ways I measure the success of a coffee is how little sugar and milk I need to add to make it palatable. And I added relatively little to this happy blend.

So right now, I'm going to summon my inner coffee connoisseur and give this three stars. No wait...three and a half stars. No. Wait. Three stars. And I'm going to make a confession. When Sonia isn't around, I often guess her score. I've published posts with her score as just a guess on my part, but I pass it off as her official score. BUT, the thing is, I'm almost always right. Like dead on. So I'm going to go ahead and guess her score with this product. I think she'll give it four stars. It's not rocket science. She's a predictable lass. That's LASS, with an "L." Gotta love her, though. So cute.

Aha, her text just came in. I was right. It's a four.

So. Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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