Trader Joe’s High-Oleic ORGANIC SUNFLOWER OIL


Trader Joe’s High-Oleic Organic Sunflower Oil

I use a lot of olive oil to cook with. However there are times when you want or a recipe specifies, to use a “neutral flavored oil”. Meaning you should not use olive oil which has its own flavor, in which case I use TJ’s Organic Sunflower Oil. It’s a very good neutral vegetable oil, in fact it’s a fine all-around cooking oil. This is the oil I use basically whenever I am not using olive oil. For example it’s what I use when I am making a Chinese or other Asian dishes which always specify a “neutral” vegetable oil that won’t affect the other flavors in the dish. And Sunflower Oil is good for high heat which is good for Wok cooking. I had to look up “high-oleic” but that this sunflower oil is High Oleic means its quite healthy too, maybe even more than olive oil. And this oil is ORGANIC. TJ’s Organic Sunflower Oil is quite reasonable at $3.99 for a 33.8 oz bottle, which is of course far less than olive oil. So you probably want this as your “other” oil, like me. I would buy this again.

Trader Joe’s “Tteok Bok Ki” KOREAN SPICY RICE CAKES


“This dish, a mainstay of Korean street food, begins with cylinders of tender, chewy rice cakes (think mochi or gnocchi) cooked in a spicy-umami, savory and sweet sauce….”

I confess when I saw these for the first time in the frozen Asian food section at Trader Joe’s recently I got pretty excited. Because Tteok Bok Ki is a Korean dish that I am pretty crazy about and have eaten plenty of. In case you’re not familiar with it already, Korean “Tteok Bok Ki” (pronounced Tok Boke Kee) is a hugely popular typically Korean dish, comprised of consisting of soft, super chewy rice cakes in a tube shape that are cooked in an addictive spicy, sweet red sauce of Gochugang (Korean red pepper paste), brown sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds plus other seasonings and it has lots of Umami. So of course I had to try Trader Joe’s version, which says “Product of Korea” on the package. Having now tried it while I can’t say of course that it’s the best I ever had still it’s fairly good and tasty enough to recommend you give it a try. We had it for dinner and really enjoyed it, especially as I fixed it up a bit with a few ingredients (see below). Inside the package are two bags, one containing white rice cakes and bag of sauce which the instructions tell you to thin with a cup of water. I made them in the “Traditional Preparation” style written on the package. I don’t see the point of making the “crispy” style as they will be covered with sauce and not crispy after that.

TIPS: I found that the recommended 1 cup of water they state seems like too much. The sauce came out a little thin and this sauce should be pretty thick, to really coat the rice cakes. So the next time I make these I’ll reduce the water to 3/4 or even 1/2 cup for a thicker sauce. You can always add a few tablespoons of water if too thick. Also be sure to stir quite a bit as it cooks, as this also thickens the sauce from starch released by the rice cakes.

Another TIP: To make it more authentic I added a some things and suggest you should too. At the very least add a few hard boiled eggs which is the way it’s typically served in Korea. Add the eggs into the sauce so they cook for about 5 minutes in the sauce to get a bit imbued with it (cut them in half when you serve). Also, in Korea the dish might have thin “fish cakes” in it. If you have an H-Mart near you, you can get these type of thin fish cakes or other add-ins. As I didn’t have any, I improvised with something I had in the fridge which was some TJ “Baked Tofu”. That kind of worked for texture and another element plus additional protein. I sliced the tofu thinly in the style of those aforementioned fish cakes. I also threw in a bit of fresh cilantro (Pak Chi) and that worked well too for flavor and color. I gave them a little drizzle of Sesame Oil just before serving. Chopped scallions are very typical as well so add some. If you happen to have a box of Gochugang in the fridge, adding in a tablespoon or two during cooking couldn’t hurt for maximum authentic Korean flavors.

The final dish turned out quite tasty and made a nice dinner for two of us along with some good Kimchi – or just make a salad. It was not very spicy. If you add a few things (even just a few hard boiled eggs and chopped scallions) it turns this basic package from a side dish into a lunch or dinner. The TJ package goes for only $3.79 (1 lb). If you get Tteok Bok Ki in a Korean restaurant it could easily cost triple that price, though of course the one you get at a restaurant is likely be better. However if you fix this up a wee bit this can turn out pretty decent. So given how convenient this frozen TJ version is, I will surely buy this again (update: we have already) It’s a real treat of Korean textures and flavors. In future I may get those fish cakes at H-Mart which are optional but will really make this into a more authentic Tteok Bok Ki. I love that Trader Joe’s is carrying more and more Korean foods. Now if Trader Joe’s could only improve their source of the mediocre meh KIMCHI they carry (sigh, its better than nothing). H-Mart has great Kimchi. Just sayin’!

AS-IS the package is GLUTEN FREE and VEGAN.

Optional TJ list for shopping: eggs, cilantro, scallions, toasted sesame oil, baked tofu…

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/tteok-bok-ki-071551

TJ’s ARGENTINIAN RED SHRIMP with Ginger Garlic Butter & Togarashi Seasoning


(note: after defrosting)

This is the wild same Argentinian Red Shrimp TJ’s has but packaged up with seasoned butter for a ready-to-cook meal. Convenient, yes, but naturally you pay extra for said convenience. We made this and the finished dish with the sauce was very tasty, but honestly nothing I could not have done with maybe 5 minutes of extra effort. This pack is $8 for a 9 oz portion which cooked makes for two meager portions for 2 as a dinner. To make this into a full meal (for two) I served the shrimp with a few sides plus a salad and a little French bread. Follow the instructions on the package which are to thaw overnight in the fridge. After defrosting I used a thin knife to get it out of the package (actually a bit tricky) and tossed the whole mess into a hot nonstick pan with a little (extra) butter. These Red Shrimp cook fast – they will be done in about 1 1/2 minutes – so be careful not to overcook them if you want the shrimp to stay plump and juicy. Frankly if you want to get more for your money, it’s quite easy to make a similar sauce. Buy the bag of frozen WILD RED ARGENTINIAN SHRIMP ($10.99 for 1 lb) and just add some butter and seasonings over the convenience of this pre-packed item. This package is convenient but not great value and its so easy to make. I probably won’t buy this again, I’ll just do it myself. Your call.

Need a recipe for sauce? Here you go folks:

GINGER/GARLIC BUTTER SAUCE: Grate or finely chop 1/2″ of fresh ginger and 2-3 cloves of garlic (optional: a little grated fresh lemon peel too); Toss garlic and ginger into about 2 tablespoons butter in a hot non-stick pan; Sauté 30 seconds, then toss in the (defrosted) shrimp and cook tossing them for about 60-90 seconds till they just turn opaque (max, 2 minutes or they will shrivel up). As soon as they are opaque (and red) toss in the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Optional: if you like spice, add a small spoon of BOMBA or your favorite something spicy. A little salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley or scallions. Serve with rice and/or crusty bread to mop up the tasty sauce.

Cooked (I garnished with scallions)

Trader Joe’s THAI SHRIMP GYOZA / DUMPLINGS


Thai Shrimp Dumplings / Gyoza

First to clarify, there are no “Thai seasonings” in these, nor are they spicy. They’re “Made in Thailand” hence the name (Gyoza being Japanese for dumplings BTW). TJ’s THAI SHRIMP GYOZA are frozen dumplings, with shrimp as the first ingredient listed along with cabbage and other vegetables, in a thin yellow wonton type wrapper. You can either steam, pan fry or microwave them. The skin is thinner than the “regular” TJ” dumplings. Taste-wise, these are well, OK, if nothing to write home about. One might say the shrimp flavor is “delicate”. Or one could say they don’t have a very distinct shrimp flavor. I also wish the shrimp in the filling were even more coarsely chopped with bigger pieces texture-wise, or they used a few whole baby shrimp in the mix. These shrimp dumplings are not going to compete with a shrimp dumpling from a good Chinese restaurant. Interestingly, out of the package you will notice they have browned bottoms as if they were already slightly browned or cooked. If you can, do pan fry these, perhaps a little bit more effort but worth it, as the more you brown the bottoms I think the tastier these will be. A bag of these Shrimp Dumplings now go for $5.50. There are about 15 dumplings in the 1 lb package. The funny thing is I’ve read people say these Thai Shrimp dumplings taste almost the same as TJ’s “Thai Vegetable Gyoza” the vegetarian version of these. Therefore the real question for me is since these don’t have a really distinctive taste of shrimp, are they worth the higher price versus the cheaper regular bags of Chicken or Pork dumplings Trader Joe’s has. If for variety, sure, or maybe you are a pescatarian. Frankly however the regular dumplings are better value (they were $2.99. Now $3.49) The wrappers on those are a little thicker which is more to my personal preference. Which is why I usually buy the big blue or red bags of frozen TJ dumplings as opposed to these “fancier” pricier, dumpling that are in boxes or colorful pouches. Anyway, try these at least once and decide yourself if they are worth the extra price. Funny enough I think if you made a few Red Shrimp to serve with these that would be a great combo!

Dipping sauce: I would not go a strong sauce with the shrimp dumplings, you probably want to keep it on the light side. Maybe a bit of low-sodium soy sauce with a teaspoon of vinegar (or lime juice) and some fresh ginger added. If you have Fish Sauce (Nam Pla, etc) around, a little bit might be good to give these a little more of a shrimp-y taste. Trader Joe’s once carried an excellent brand of fish sauce, Red Boat, but they stopped carrying it unfortunately.

Ingredients in the Thai Shrimp Gyoza include: Shrimp, White Cabbage, Chives, Scallions, Ginger, Garlic. Made In Thailand, No Preservatives, No Artificial Flavors. They’re in the frozen section.

RATING: “Meh”. Chinese restaurants have nothing to worry about.

TJ’s Nori Komi “FURIKAKE” Japanese Multi-Purpose Seasoning Blend


RAVE

PRODUCT OF JAPAN

Trader Joe’s FURIKAKE Japanese multi-purpose seasoning

“Furikake” is so typical in Japan you’ll probably find a shaker of it next to the salt and pepper in most any eatery, as well as on most people’s kitchen table at home. So what is FURIKAKE? Furikake is a seasoning made up of finely chopped dried seaweed (Nori) along with sesame seeds and other flavors (even sometimes tiny whole dried fish!) Japanese will sprinkle furikake on rice to to enjoy the combined flavors, and it is really delicious on rice. However one can use it elsewhere too. Besides trying this on rice, sprinkle some furikake over some grilled fish (salmon!), or chicken, meats, on top of eggs, noodles or a bowl of ramen. It’s really versatile and goes with so many foods, all of which is why Trader Joe’s calls its “multi-purpose seasoning”, it really is. This TJ version of Nori Komi Furikake is a basic version containing sesame and seaweed. In Japan they make lots of kinds with different flavors (like dried salmon and other fish, shiso leaf, green tea, wasabi, sour plum, etc) Here is some on Amazon with 8 different kinds (and its crazy expensive, yikes!)

https://amzn.to/3HSE1V6

You know those times when you have “nothing to eat” in the house?? Well say you at least have rice; eggs and this jar of FURIKAKE… Top a bowl of rice with a fried but still runny egg, and sprinkle a liberal amount of Nori Komi Furikake over everything. Mix it all in with a spoon. Voila! EASY. YUMMY. DINNER. This is a great simple, satisfying dish. You should try it, period. (BTW in Japan where you can get can get super fresh eggs, they even crack raw eggs into the hot rice, aka GohanTamago).

Trader Joe’s Nori Komi Furikake contains: white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, nori (seaweed), salt and kelp powder (yup, more seaweed!) Seaweed of course contains glutamates. Glutamates have “Umami”.

Personally I have to have Furikake in our pantry at all times. A jar will last some time (you can keep in the fridge too). You’ll find it in TJ’s spice section and it is really worth checking out. A jar is $2.49. At a Japanese grocery it would be twice that. Want more info and ideas: check this link, even how to make your own!

Trader Joe’s Korean Glass Noodles & Vegetable Stir Fry “JAPCHAE”


Trader Joe’s frozen JAPCHAE ; Korean Sweet Potato Glass Noodles & Vegetables stir fry

(update, march 2021: i haven’t been able to find this for some time. hoping its just a supply chain issue and not disco’d. Update2, may 2021: finally back! i just saw these again!

I had read about this new Trader Joe’s Korean frozen dish on offer. Reports on the internet were that it was good. I had to wait for it to hit our shelves in NYC so I could check it out, as I love Korean JapChae. Finally I saw it in our TJ’s here and got one to try. I was pretty impressed. It is indeed quite good. Even my (Korean) wife gave it her seal of approval with her comment “it tastes like JapChae” – it tastes authentically Korean. Lable does say it’s “MADE IN KOREA”. The noodles in JapChae are a clear vermicelli type noodle made from Korean sweet potato. These are called glass or cellophane noodles as that is what they resemble. Korean Chap jae or (Jap Chae) is a tasty noodle stir fry dish. TJ’s ChapJae is VEGETARIAN / VEGAN. Trade Joe’s sells it in the frozen Asian section, ready to eat. As well as being quite tasty it’s a pretty good deal at $2.99 (for 10 oz package). For the two of us, the container made 2 medium sized portions for a side dish. If you add things, it can become a dinner or main dish. We ate this with our dinner of potsticker dumplings. These two were a great combo together! We enjoyed the dumplings with this side dish of noodles with a bit of Kimchi too.

Carrots and red and green bell peppers round out the dish. Drizzle some more toasted sesame oil on just before serving if you have it. This dish is not spicy. Add something if you want it spicy. One can “beef up” the dish just by adding additional things: protein, more veggies. For example we put fried eggs on top which was a terrific addition. Top each portion with a fried egg, or you could make soft scrambled eggs and mix them into the noodles when they are ready to serve. You could also add in some BAKED TOFU or serve it on the side with this. So you can easily take this package of JAPCHAE and use it as the base for making a bigger fuller meal out of it. Add in to the noodles (or top when serving): cooked ground beef or ground turkey or pork, grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon or what have you. You can add more vegetables, too! Mushrooms, spinach, green beans…. Add stuff to this and you will have a delicious easy dinner for two, for way less than takeout. We liked TJ’s Jap Chae alot and will definitely buy this again.

One side note though: it does have a pretty high SODIUM CONTENT. If you eat this whole container yourself, note that you are getting a lot of Sodium (1120 mg) or almost half of the daily recommended level (2300 mg). Eating 1/2 the container as a serving brings the Sodium down to (560 mg) 24% of the recommended level, clearly much better for you. Always take a look the Sodium levels on any prepared / packaged food as many foods, can skew pretty high especially some Asian dishes. Get into the habit of checking the Nutrition labels when buying prepared foods, especially as it regards salt, something Americans eat generally way too much of.

TJ’s Indian Fare (pouch) Yellow TADKA DAL


Trader Joe’s INDIAN FARE YELLOW TADKA DAL is “A savory, creamy and spicy blend of lentils and spices” (PRODUCT OF INDIA)

Trader Joe’s has quite a bit of Indian foods on offer, some in the frozen foods section as well as some non-frozen ones too, such as this line of Indian dishes which comes in pouches. Some of these I’ve tried are really good, especially this one, TADKA DAL.

We ate this TADKA DAL last night and I have to say I found it surprisingly tasty, I’m mean as in “This tastes like it came from an Indian restaurant” level good. This Tadka Dal was very flavorful and nicely spiced with a wee bit of heat going on. I put it in a pan on top of the stove (they suggest heating in hot water). If you serve this dal with a few other things, you have a nice easy dinner… We had this with another dish plus cooked Basmati rice, some Garlic Naan, Mango Chutney and a salad. (Sidenote: I saw TJ’s has a new Indian condiment, “Garlic Achar” which I want to try)

If you add at least one other dish to the Dal such as TJ’s CHANNA MASALA you can have an easy and quite tasty pretty authentic Indian dinner. These TJ’s “Indian Fare” products come in shelf stable pouches and are not a bad deal at about $2 each (for 10 oz) I find these pouches of Indian items great things to have in our pantry for whenever we’re in the mood for Indian food, or come home and don’t feel like cooking but don’t want to order out either. These plus frozen Naan make fast super easy meals. I have not tried all of these Indian Fare pouches but there are a few varieties on offer. This Tadka Dal one is quite good and worth your trying. By the way, in case you want to know what “Tadka” refers to: Tadka translates as “tempering.” It is a method widely used in Indian cuisine, in which whole or ground spices are heated in hot oil or ghee and the mixture is added to a dish.

TADKA DAL: ingredients include yellow split peas, butter, oil, tomato, chili pepper, salt, cumin, onion, curry leaves, yest, mustard see, tumeric…. The Sodium level listed is a bit high, so compensate for that with other dishes (such as using less salt to make your rice)

VEGETARIAN, GLUTEN FREE

Trader Joe’s ground fermented BLACK GARLIC


“Use like garlic. Delicious on avocado toast, in butter and sauces, on vegetables and proteins, or any time you want extra depth of flavor”

This is a pretty interesting Trader Joe’s product, a bit of an unusual find. Now a few years ago, they sold something in the produce section labeled “Black Garlic”. It was from Japan. It basically looked like a whole head of garlic you had forgotten about in the pantry that had shriveled up and turned completely black! Wild looking! I tried it. Inside shriveled shells were cloves of black garlic inside were softish and absolutely delicious, chock full of UMAMI. I found it to be a kind of amazing, and pretty unusual product for Trader Joe’s to carry. This stuff eventually vanished or was discontinued, anyway I stopped seeing it. Now a year or two later, I noticeed this small jar in the spices section. “Ground Fermented Black Garlic…Made In South Africa”. The black garlic has been dried and ground up into little tiny black bits that can be sprinkled onto things. It tastes garlicky but different from fresh garlic or garlic powder for one thing this was fermented. It’s full of Umami, adding extra depth of flavor to whatever you put it on. I did think it’s a little on the pricey side at $2.99 for a tiny 1 oz jar but I have found it does last a bit. It’s terrific added to sauces and as they mention vegetables. I am trying this on so many things. Avocado anything especially. I am thinking this is a hidden gem that many will look at and bypass and it may vanish in the future. So as we don’t know how long this product will last, if this sounds interesting, grab one to try.

WHAT IS BLACK GARLIC

https://www.thespruceeats.com/black-garlic-4165384

A little search and you find that it’s super healthy to boot! https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-black-garlic#1

https://www.mashed.com/325207/trader-joes-fans-are-so-excited-about-this-new-fermented-black-garlic/

TJ’s CERTIFIED ORGANIC THAI JASMINE RICE


New Products: Trader Joe’s ORGANIC JASMINE RICE

Thai Jasmine Rice is wonderful, one of the tastiest kinds of rice varieties out there, alongside Indian Basmati. TJ’s has had regular Jasmine rice for a long time, and that one too is quite good. Recently however they introduced an Organic version if that interests you. The package states it’s CERTIFIED ORGANIC and “Product of Thailand”. Importantly, TJ finally has cooking directions and ratios on the package which seem correct (I have found some printed directions on rice are way off!) On this package they list using a 1:2 ratio, meaning 1 cup rice to 2 cups water and cooking the rice for 15-20 minutes. This is a good starting point for you to use. Now I rinse Jasmine rice very minimally, maybe just once instead of the standard 2-3 time as I want to preserve as much of that jasmine aroma as possible. It’s organic and as far as I can tell, quite clean, you don’t have to go overboard washing this and washing out some flavor. Washing rice these days is mostly about removing excess starch anyway, not cleaning it of debris. Make sure you drain the rice for 10 minutes too in a colander to keep your rice/water ratio on point. If you find your rice too mushy then next time reduce the water slightly. Let it sit too after cooking for 10 minutes. ORGANIC JASMINE RICE $3.49 (2 lb bag)

DIRECTIONS: Bring two cups of water to a boil in a pot with a very tight lid. Add a little salt. Add 1 cup of rinsed, drained rice. Cook 10 mins on medium heat, then reduce heat to the lowest possible heat and continue cooking for 5-8 minutes. Then turn off heat and let it sit for 5-10 minutes with the lid closed. Fluff rice and optionally add a little butter.

BTW where do you store rice? I have taken to keeping it in the fridge if there’s space – otherwise in a dark cool pantry in a zip lock bag.

TJ’s Organic Roasted Teriyaki SEAWEED SNACKS


TJ’s Organic Roasted Teriyaki SEAWEED SHEET SNACKS (aka Korean Gim/Kim)

These are very similar to the single pack roasted Seaweed Snacks TJ carries. You know, the little green sheets of seaweed that American kids love! These however come in a convenient “six pack”. They are labeled Organic and “Product of Korea” and “teriyaki flavor”. Unlike Japanese nori seaweed sheets which are sturdy and solid (used in making sushi) these Korean seaweed mini sheets (aka Gim or Kim) have been roasted with sesame oil making the texture much airier and crumbly so they will break apart if you bend them too much. So while not great for rolling up as traditional sushi, I do use these to make a kind of “easy sushi” style mini hand roll. Putting a spoon of Asian rice in the middle, then something on top of that (especially good with Spicy Tuna*) and a few strips of cucumber. These are so tasty. You can hold the seaweed in one hand and add the other things carefully, bend it gently and pop it in your mouth in one or two bites. Quite yummy this combo! See pic and also Maangchi’s descriptive How To in the link.

$3.49 for a six pack. I have a feeling these may work out to be a bit more economical than the single packs?

TIP: snip a few sheets up into little thin strips for a super rice topping.

* EASY SPICY TUNA RECIPE (using canned tuna)

Drain the water or oil from a can or two of your favorite tuna fish. To the tuna, add 2 tablespoons of Mayo. Then add about a tablespoon (or two) of your favorite hot sauce of your choosing such as Sriracha, Zhoug, Peri-Peri or whatever you like, to taste (you can add more if its not spicy enough when you taste it with the rice). You might add a few chopped Hot and Sweet Jalapenos to the mix. Add a chopped scallion or two, mix everything together, and refrigerate for an hour to blend the flavors. Serve with cooked Asian rice and these Seaweed Sheets.

HOW TO MAKE EASY SUSHI MINI HAND ROLLS: Hold a sheet of seaweed gently. With your free hand, put a teaspoon or two of cooked rice on it gently and make a slight indentation for the tuna topping. Add some spicy tuna and strips of cucumber. Not too much in one square or it may fall apart, just enough for a nice big bite. Put in to your mouth carefully!

You can also the tuna just putting some a spoon on top of asian rice in a bowl. You put a little tuna, a crunch of cuke, and then cover that with a square of seaweed. Carefully “fold it” (bend gently) into a little package using chopsticks (or your fingers).

Naturally you can use other toppings. Smoked salmon and avocado is a classic too.

Serving these with some Kimchi on the side would be great.

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