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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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Trader Joe's Vegetable Spring Rolls

There I was, minding my own darn business at my usual TJ's, chillin' out in the frozen aisle, when Trader Joe's Vegetable Spring Rolls went flying through the air and right into my cart.

Nah, seriously, courtesy of Pam AKA the Frozen Queen. Must be payback from that one time I demanded she find me churros and find me churros NOW. I've nagged her every time I've seen her since about anything new and interesting, and I guess this time she skipped the small talk and got right down to some serious appetizer business. "You gotta try them!" was all she said with a wink and a smile. Yes, ma'am!

Sorry it took me so long to get around to them, Pam. You wouldn't think it'd take a guy like me so long to finally try them out. But turning on the oven in this heat in a 101 year old brick house with no can understand, right?

Well, as it turns out, you don't have to stick them in the oven. Once I actually looked at the box, a recommended cooking method is zapping them to defrost a little, then sizzling in a skillet for a few minutes. I really hoped this make a perfectly acceptable, semi-greasy, crispy, spring roll full of warm veggie material - Kale! Edamame! Forget all the salt, this is health food! - that would be worthy of a full stamp of approval.

Oh, so close.

Unfortunately, even after defrosting, and frying them for over twice as long as stated to - the centers were still cold and clammy. This was with significantly browned wrappers. I don't see how this is user error. Sigh.

Everything else seemed right, or close to it, at least. The veggie mix - kale, edamame, mushroom, carrots - were about on par for a frozen spring roll, and blended nicely with the little bits of tofu in there. Nothing seemed too chunk or stood out too strongly, which was welcome from a textural standpoint - even Sandy ate them without complaint, and normally mushrooms make her gag.  Those veggies were seasoned fairly liberally with soy sauce and salt, and probably would have been better if more restrained. A little bit of black pepper helps balance that out, though.

For a small handful of bucks (maybe $3 or $4) I can't say I was overly thrilled, but wasn't terribly disappointed either. Sometimes a spring roll is just a spring roll and that has to be okay. Such is the case here. Sandy liked them a little more than I did, and we'd buy again.

Just hope Pam doesn't throw anything else at me after this review.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegetable Spring Rolls: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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