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 (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 sealed plastic pouches, which are are shelf stable and are not a bad deal at about $2 each (10 oz bags) I find these pouches of Indian dishes are great things to have in the 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.

I have not tried all of these Indian Fare pouches but there are a few varieties on offer. This Tadka Dal one is excellent and worth your giving it a try. 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. I tried it. Inside was soft black garlic, very weird. But the cloves of black garlic were absolutely delicious, chock full of UMAMI. I found it to be a pretty amazing and unusual product for Trader Joe’s to carry. This eventually vanished, or was discontinued? I stopped seeing it. Now a year or two later, I notice this small jar in the spices section of “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 long grain rice there is besides Basmati rice. TJ’s has had regular Jasmine rice for a long time, and recently they introduced this new organic version. The package says both “Product of Thailand” and “Certified Organic”.

Finally they have cooking directions and ratios on the package which seem about right to me. On this package they list using a 1:2 ratio (1 cup of rice to 2 cups water/liquid) and cooking it for 15-20 minutes. 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 delicate 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 rice. Washing rice these days is mostly about removing excess starch anyway. Make sure you drain the rice for 10 minutes too in a colander to keep your ratios 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 covered.

$3.49 (2 lb bag)

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 another 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.

TJ’s MULTISEED RICE CRACKERS with Tamari


Trader Joe’s Savory Thin Mini Multiseed RICE CRACKERS with Tamari Soy Sauce (GLUTEN FREE)

These are delicious little savory mini rice crackers in the Japanese vein (aka “senbei“). Each is tiny, a little bigger than a nickel so quite literally bite size. They are crunchy and tasty, great on their own out of the package. Or top them with whatever you can think of (cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, smoked salmon, tuna salad, etc) They could make a great base for little mini bite sized hors d’ouvres (imagine for example a little cream cheese, smoked salmon, and dill).

Ingredients include brown rice and white rice flour plus sesame and flax seeds and tamari soy sauce. Though it doesn’t specifically say “Gluten Free” on the package but one can assume from the ingredients that these certainly are gluten free. An 8 oz bag costs $2.99. After you try them you may buy them two at a time if a package goes as fast in your house as it does in ours.

I just enjoyed them as a snack with a little dollop of cottage cheese and Green Dragon/GDS . YUMMY

TJ’s CALROSE RICE (Asian/Japanese rice)


In our house, we eat a lot of rice. For years, I have bemoaned the fact that TJ carried a number of varieties of long grain rice – Thai Jasmine, Indian Basmati – which are all terrific, but TJ’s didn’t carry any short (“Asian”) grain rice. Well finally they do! OK technically Trader Joe’s Calrose rice is a “medium grain” however the reality is this is Asian rice. Seeing this Calrose rice for the first time made me so happy as it meant I no longer have to trek for rice at H-Mart or other Asian supermarkets, lugging a 20 lb bag of short grain rice back on the subway!

So what is CalRose rice exactly? (you guessed it, it’s from California). See the link below for complete info.

https://www.allrecipes.com/article/what-is-calrose-rice/

Maybe you have seen Kokuho Rose rice, or Nishiki? Both are brands of Calrose rice grown in California for the US Asian market. Nishiki is a popular rice among Japanese people in the US.

One thing I need to point out however are the directions on the package need some adjustment. I think TJ’s directions saying “simmer for 30 minutes” to be crazy long. 30 minutes!?! That’s about twice as long as one normally cooks white rice. If you follow the instructions written on the package I think you will end up with overcooked, mushy rice.

I recommend cooking it this way (stove top). Wash 1 cup rice gently in one or two changes of water. Drain the rice 15-20 minutes in a colander. Put in pan with 1 1/4 cups of water (ie, a little over 1-1 ratio) brought to a boil. Add a little salt*. Cook on med. high heat. Cover with a tight fitting lid. Set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes check rice quickly. You should see most if not all of the water gone. Turn heat to lowest setting and leave covered for another 6-7 minutes. Turn off heat and don’t open the lid! Leave covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes rice should be perfectly cooked. Taste it. If you really think its not done put on low heat for another 4 minutes with a teaspoon of water added. (*If you’re Japanese like my wife you will say don’t add any salt, but I prefer a little bit.)

Of course short grain rice is naturally stickier than long grain rice, for one thing making it easier to eat it with chopsticks.

Oh and by the way TJ Calrose rice is not only for Asian dishes but excellent for other dishes, like Spanish rice dishes calling for medium grain rice, such as paella. You might even try doing a risotto with this TJ rice.

Trader Joe’s Calrose Medium Grain rice sells for $2.49 (2 lb bag ie, 1.25/lb) A typical price these days as rice has gone up in price a lot since a few years ago.

Can you make sushi with this? Yes you can. Or easier than real sushe – serve this rice with Spicy Tuna (with mayo and Sriracha) and sheets of Nori (TJ’s roasted seaweed snacks) and slivers of cucumber for an easy sushi style hand roll. Need a recipe for Spicy Tuna? Here you go!

https://pickledplum.com/spicy-tuna-roll-recipe/

TJ Brown Rice Medley


Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Medley – “A delicious blend of long grain brown rice, black barley and daikon seeds”

This is both healthy and a bit different than plain browner rice, and better I think. It’s a tasty mix par-boiled brown rice plus two slightly unusual additions of black barley and daikon seeds. Who knew you can eat daikon seeds? I didn’t till now! We tried this rice blend and it got both mine and my wife’s seal of approval as making for an interesting, nutty tasting rice side dish.

However I found Trader Joe’s instructions need a tiny bit of modification regarding liquid amounts. I would reduce the amount of liquid they suggest on the package. So instead of the 2 1/2 cups they state I say try 2 1/4 cups of water or stock (to 1 cup of rice). For a ration slightly more than 2:1.

Also if using just water, you should add a bit a salt. Butter is a good idea. Letting it sit (without peeking!) at the end for 10 minutes is important so all the liquid gets fully absorbed. Fluff up with a fork when done. Hitting this with a little more butter is a good too. Possibly some chopped parsley? Serve with your favorite main.

Its $1.99 for a 1 pound bag. Worth trying. PS If you find it a bit too cooked for your tastes or mushy, the next time you make it reduce the cooking to 30 minutes (instead of the 35 mins written on the package). The brown rice in this has been par-boiled. Normally regular brown rice needs about 45 minutes.

Trader Joe’s KIMCHI


Trader Joe’s KIMCHI (Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage) Ingredients: Napa Cabbage, Radish, Onion, Red Pepper Powder, Salt, Garlic, Vinegar, Lactic Acid (“Made in Korea”)

“MEH”

We know eating fermented food is good for you, right? So we should eat foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and of course kimchi on a daily basis for their probiotic benefits.

Personally I love kimchi. And I confess I’m a bit picky about it. I want the good stuff, meaning kimchi that someone who is Korean would say “that’s good!”. As someone who has Korean in-laws, and happens to love and have eaten a ton of Korean food, I have had the chance to eat a good deal of excellent varieties of Kimchi. I have been taught to taste really good Kimchi from just “OK” kimchi.

Kimchi is tricky to make and sell commercially. It’s a very specific preparation and Korean taste, and let’s face it, the best would probably be made by your Korean “Omma” (mom) if you had one. For commercially made Kimchi to be good, they must get everything right in manufacturing it in bulk, plus it’s a tricky food to distribute as it keeps fermenting. It can build up pressure as it sits on the shelves. I once bought a bottle of a really expensive brand at Whole Foods called Mother In Laws Kimchi that practically exploded like a shook up Coke when we opened it up, and made a real mess all over our kitchen!

Historically Trader Joe’s has tried their hand with Kimchi a few times and in different packages. Over the last few years, I would notice a Kimchi at TJ’s… then it would seem to vanish for a while..? Either they discontinued it for a spell or maybe they were finding other vendors, and changing the packaging, or all of the above. Before TJ’s current version sold in this red plastic jar, they carried kimchi in a soft plastic bag (see link) and also in a glass jar.

Frankly I have never been super impressed when I tried TJ’s Kimchi usually saying “not great but OK”. So my short review of of TJ’s latest kimchi is still “it’s just OK”. It’s decent but not very good kimchi. I think this one is better than the ones they sold previously? It’s better than no Kimchi if you can’t find kimchi elsewhere where you live. I can’t say this latest version of TJ’s kimchi is equal to most that you would find at a Korean supermarket, like H-MART (see how many kinds H-MART has??!) So on the plus side this latest Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have that tangy kimchi fermented taste (from lactic acid, which interestingly is listed on the label as an ingredient?) It doesn’t list any fish products which many Korean kimchi has for umami (oyster, squid…). So this is a vegetarian kimchi. It does say its “Made In Korea”. Though it says “spicy” I don’t find it terribly spicy though I imagine this is a highly personal opinion. One thing about this kimchi though. By the time we get it, to me it’s already what I would call a bit on the “older kimchi” side. I like my kimchi on the “fresher” side (1-2 weeks) This TJ one tastes like kimchi that’s been around maybe 3-4 weeks? As kimchi ages it gets more fermented, and the taste gets more sour and the kimchi gets softer. In our household we describe kimchi like this as “a little old”. Let’s face it, this was shipped all the way from Korea and then had to be distributed by truck I assume all over the US (don’t get me started on the carbon footprint this must have). When my own homemade kimchi* or any kimchi we buy gets this about this fermented what we do is usually start using it in cooking rather than serving it raw. However some people actually prefer kimchi that is a bit older or even “aged”. In Korea you can even get specially aged kimchi, 1 or even 2 years old (!) and that stuff is quite pricey.

I’m glad TJ is at least trying with selling Kimchi and Korean foods in general (though their pre-marinated package of bulgogi beef I tried once was terrible, as tough as shoe leather).

So to sum up if you can’t get a better Kimchi anywhere else this TJ kimchi is “not bad”. It’s about $4.50 for a 10 oz. jar. At least Trader Joe’s carries kimchi, and maybe eventually they will find a terrific Korean kimchi vendor even one in the US. Until then we can at least make do with this. And definitely try cooking something with Kimchi. Try making kimchi fried rice, which is very yummy, especially with a fried egg on top. Cooking kimchi mellows it out and adds great flavors to whatever you are making. Especially if you’ve had the kimchi for a while and its getting too funky for you as-is.

https://www.thekitchn.com/trader-joes-has-kimchi-here-are-6-ways-to-use-it-183085

Eat some kimchi with your Pot Stickers. Great combo with a little rice.

Besides eating kimchi uncooked you can use it for cooking in some dishes. This Kimchi may even work better cooked. For example “Buta Kimchi (Stir Fried Pork with Kimchi)”

(recipe here: https://uncutrecipes.com/EN-Recipes-Japanese/Buta-Kimchi.html)

You could make a Kimchi Jigae (stew) with pork, tofu, and kimchi.

Tip: you can use TJ’s pork tenderloin

And especially KIMCHI FRIED RICE. This would be excellent use for this kimchi.

https://food52.com/recipes/80922-what-to-do-with-old-sour-kimchi-kimchi-fried-rice

DIY HOMEMADE KIMCHI

Think about making your own DIY Kimchi! No really. An easy kimchi version that not terribly to hard to make. If you buy a few ingredients at a Korean grocer (like Kochugaru, Korean ground red pepper) you can make your own cabbage kimchi and I bet the result will be better than TJ’s kimchi not too mention you will feel like a star when you impress people casually tossing out “You like it? I made this kimchi myself”. Aaron & Claire on YouTube have a great “easy kimchi” recipe using regular cabbage (it’s a kind of “summer kimchi”). I made it and my (Korean-Japanese) wife who has always said the TJ kimchi is no good told me the cabbage kimchi I made based on Aaron& Claire’s recipe was the most amazing kimchi she had in the U.S. It’s great one day later and will be improve more and more, tasting pretty amazing in a week or two as it ferments in the fridge. Seriously, if you want good kimchi, you will be surprised that you can make really good stuff on you own! Thanks Aaron & Claire for a super recipe.

You can find Sesame Oil at Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find Korean GOCHUJANG (red chili paste) easily where you live, you can at least find it on AMAZON : https://amzn.to/3lf7IYg

It’s a must have ingredient to do any Korean cooking. As well as Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – needed for making kimchi

https://amzn.to/2UYxh5p

TJ’s Channa Masala (frozen, Indian)


Trader Joe’s Channa Masala (cooked chick peas with onions, tomato and spices)

Vegetarian

Trader Joe’s of course has quite a number of good frozen and non-frozen Indian foods, many worth exploring. If you haven’t tried this, I would say try it the next time you are doing an “Indian food” night. I find this is one of TJ’s best frozen offerings. This “Channa Masala” (spiced chick peas) is really good; almost equal in taste to many Indian restaurants. Channa means Chick Peas. Masala means mixed spices. This dish is very tasty and well spiced, it can be nuked or cooked on the stove (let it defrost then put in a pan). It’s kind of a steal at $1.99. Serve this with Basmati Rice and some Naan and you have a meal for 2. Especially if you eat with TJ’s excellent Mango Chutney and some yogurt.

PS – no one says you can’t add something to this. I often add something ; like greens: chopped swiss chard or spinach and another pat of butter, cooked for 5 minutes. this variation with added greens is excellent.

$1.99 (10 oz package) (may be higher now due to price increases)

BONELESS PORK TENDERLOIN (with recipe ideas)


Another one of those things that I get almost every time I go to Trader Joe’s as it’s delicious and an extremely versatile thing to have in the fridge (or freezer) as well as a real bargain.

If you are not familiar with “pork tenderloin” let’s put it this way… If this was beef it would be the filet mignon. The best melt-in-your-mouth deliciously tender cut. One big difference? Beef filet mignon costs about $15-20/lb or more? But this “pork filet mignon” sells for $4/lb at Trader Joe’s. A $5 piece can feed a family. So deliciously tasty as well as super affordable.

(UPDATE: Price has increased since this was written)

Trader Joe’s sells 4 versions of the pork tenderloin. “Plain”, 2 marinated ones (peppercorns and garlic & herbs) that cost a bit more but come on, it’s so easy to do a marinade of your own in a few minutes. TJ also sells a “crate free” pork tenderloin if you prefer which is $6/lb. At Whole Foods I’m just guessing this would cost double that price?

Boneless pork tenderloin is a lean cut with almost no waste. It sometimes has a “silverskin” which should be removed before cooking. This is not very hard, you just need a very sharp knife.

I frequently just cut the tenderloin into “medallions” or steaks about 1/2-3/4 ” thick, season them, and cook them as one might cook filet mignon. Or one can cook it whole in a pan, then slice it afterwards (deglazing the pan after for a pan sauce). Cut the meat into strips, and this is so perfect for Asian dishes & stir-fry’s. Or Fajitas or Tacos! Whole, its great for roasting in the oven. Pork tenderloin can be an impressive center-piece of a fancy dinner (See the stuffed roast pork tenderloin video recipe below) Another tip: Be sure not to overcook tenderloin, as it’s so lean it can easily get overcooked and dried out. A correct cook of tenderloin should have a bit of pink (trust me, it’s safe and fine) TIP: Slice slits in the meat and insert thin slices of garlic all over.

Seasonings for pork tenderloin? You can not go wrong with any of these: garlic, lemon, rosemary, cumin, peppercorns…. and AJIKA!

TIP for Asian stir frying: The Chinese technique of Velveting any meat for 20 minutes will make it even better.

https://www.theendlessmeal.com/baked-pork-tenderloin/

https://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/healthy-pork-tenderloin-recipes

This is a terrific looking, easy recipe from Milk Street, SPICE CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN BITES

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