Trader Joe’s CHICKEN POT STICKER DUMPLINGS


Chicken and Vegetable Pot Stickers – Perfect for now (Chinese Lunar New Year) or ANYTIME!

Chinese dumplings are one of my very favorite things to eat. Over my lifetime, I would not be surprised if I’ve eaten a thousand of them, in one small hole in the wall place or another, in Manhattan’s Chinatown or Flushing’s. Flushing especially has become a destination for dumplings with terrific places that specialize in dumplings of all kinds. I’ve even learned how to make dumplings myself, from scratch, including at times even making the wrappers (which you can buy in Asian markets). However when you just get a craving for Pot Stickers, of course you can buy them, frozen, ready to cook like these frozen Chicken Gyoza Pot Stickers that TJ carries in their frozen Asian section.

Now I am not going to say that these dumplings can go up against my favorites of my dumpling places, but I do buy these dumplings all the time to have on hand in the freezer so I can easily enjoy some for whenever I am in the mood, and don’t want to leave the house (which let’s face it is all the time now of course.) These TJ bagged dumpling are not at all bad for what they are, they are super convenient, and frankly at $3 a bag (about 21 dumplings) they are a right bargain. TJ sells both a Pork & Veg version and this Chicken & Veg version which I am reviewing. As the pork one is not “porky” enough for me (I can make a decent pork and cabbage dumpling) personally I give a slight edge to the chicken ones surprisingly, as of course pork dumplings are way more typical. Now for me the insides of either of these are too finely ground. In any handmade dumpling you would be able to see the chopped up vegetables which you can’t in either these pork or chicken frozen dumplings. These are a tiny bit on the bland side but one can easily add some a great deal of Asian flavors with a good dipping sauce.

My first choice is to make these in a pan as Gyoza or Pot Stickers. Pot Stickers refers to first frying and steaming them, giving one the best of both worlds texture-wise in a single bite, with the wrapper both a bit crispy and also soft. The skins on these TJ dumplings are not too thick, nor too thin, and are acceptable in proportion to the filling. If I make them myself they would have thicker skins and be packed with filling. But these do fine in a pinch. I have never tried cooking these in a microwave though the package states you can make them that way. Nor have I tried making boiled dumplings with these, as also suggested on the bag. If you did boil them in a strong flavorful chicken broth they might be very good that way, especially with some spinach, kale or other leafy vegetables, i.e., a “chicken soup with wontons and greens” type soup (hmm, i just gave myself an idea to try out!)

I make these mostly as Pot Stickers using a well-seasoned black cast iron pan. If you don’t have one of those, just use a good non-stick pan. Swirl a tablespoon or so of a neutral vegetable oil in the pan with medium high heat. Put your frozen dumplings in bottoms down, being careful to be sure they don’t touch (important!). You will hear them start to sizzle. Cook without touching them till they are nice golden brown on the bottom, maybe 4-5 minutes, checking one every once in a while as you don’t want to burn them but you do want a deep golden brown. When they are, you toss about 3-4 tablespoons of water (or stock) into the pan and immediately put a cover on! Reduce the heat a bit. If you have a clear glass cover thats ideal so you can see whats going on inside but if you don’t, any cover that fits tightly will be fine. We want to steam them until the water is just about all evaporated, which may take about 6-8 minutes. Check when you think they are done. If they don’t look done (skins) just add another teaspoon of water and cook for another minute or two. When ready, if you put a tiny bit more oil when the water is all gone they can get a quite crispy bottom which is lovely, but this step is tricky, and optional. Anyway this is the reason these dumpling are called “pot stickers” as they do tend to stick to the pan and get stuck on. If they are a bit stuck use a spatula to gently help release them, being careful not to tear them.

You should to eat these Gyoza right away while they are hot, so timing is critical. What we do, is we get everything else ready, then take just 2 or 3 dumplings at a time on our plates, cover the pan with the heat off to keep them warm, and come back and fill up again with a few more when we finished the first batch. This way you always eat nice hot dumplings. In the first picture you can see I served them with edamame and peas which were a great match with these dumplings to add in more veggies. You can serve them with a little rice too and any kind of veggie or salad. We can usually eat about 6 each easily as the Main, along with other stuff though they can be just an appetizer of say 3 or 4 each.

Many countries have some variation of pot sticker dumplings. In Korea, “Mandoo“. In Japan they are called “Gyoza“. In China, Jiao-zi or Guo-tie.

锅贴 
Goutié

https://www.tasteatlas.com/guotie/recipe

You eat dumplings with a diping sauce. One classic sauce might be Chinese Black Vinegar* with lots of fresh julienned ginger. Or soy sauce plus vinegar, sugar, ginger and garlic. TJ sells a “GYOZA DIPPING SAUCE” which is fine if making your own sauce is too much trouble. If you like fresh cilantro it’s wonderful with these chicken dumplings. Something spicy to add a kick if thats up your alley. Green Dragon hot sauce for example is great with these!

While I can’t say these TJ frozen dumplings compete with the best Chinese homemade dumpling places, these are quite decent and make up a great deal with the convenience of being able to have them anytime you get a craving! These bagged ones are a bargain for 3 bucks for a 1 lb bag. TJ has a number of other “fancier” dumplings in the frozen section in boxes which cost a bit more but frankly I keep coming back to these. I recently tried TJ’s Pork and Ginger Soup dumplings and frankly was not impressed. Not surprising as making Xiao Long Bao is a pinnacle of the art of dumpling making.

  • Chinkiang Black Vinegar can be found at most Chinese or Asian groceries, usually 5-6 dollars? If you can’t find it and don’t mind paying through the nose Amazon sells it.

If you live in NYC and want great pot stickers and boiled dumplings I highly recommend VANESSA’S DUMPLING HOUSE which I first enjoyed 20 years ago in her first tiny hole in the wall joint on Eldridge Street where no more than 4 people could fit. Word grew about her amazing dumplings which were a buck. Vanessa’s business grew and she became a very successful immigrant entrepreneur who kept expanding and improving and now has multiple beautiful places. If you eat her pot stickers or any of her many kinds of dumplings you will learn what great dumplings are truly like.

Finally, if you really are interested in learning more and maybe trying your hand at them you will find lots of great info here

https://carlsbadcravings.com/potstickers/

and if you are REALLY inspired, make these yourselves!

TJ’s TANDOORI NAAN (frozen)


I really enjoy these Naan breads that TJ carries in the frozen section. These Naan are tasty, cheap and super convenient, just needing some warming up, and they say “Made In India” and “hand stretched” – sounds authentic! A package has 4 Naan for $2 (50 cents each!) TJ sells two versions, this plain Tandoori Naan and they also have a Garlic Naan version, which is quite flavorful. You might try both versions as both are really good. TJ also sells some non-frozen Naan in the Bread section. These cost a little more and I think are a bit thicker.

These Naan can be used for so many things. Of course these flatbreads go great with any of TJ’s pretty numerous Indian food items, but of course the Naan can be used anywhere a flatbread type bread would be good… with saucy foods, soups, etc. Bake these with cheese on top, or some ham or prosciutto, and you have a terrific easy creation. Really your imaginations are your only limit on what you can do with these.

To heat them, I sometimes throw these in the oven, or a toaster oven and sometimes just throw them in a pan. Hit them with some olive oil or butter or ghee and they become even more tasty. I do some butter and fresh crushed garlic sometimes and find these fabulous. Or buy the Garlic Naan versions if you don’t want to smash your own fresh garlic. The Garlic Naan ones have a little more flavors and some green stuff (cilantro or scallions).

I mentioned in an earlier post that you can put together some pizzas using Naan for your pizza base, in minutes! Try with these, or if you want a bit thicker base the Naan TJ carries in the fresh breads section.

So with your next TJ Indian feast, grab some Naan while you’re at it. A package of TJ’s Tadka Dal ($2) and some Naan and you have a dinner in 3 minutes for a few bucks that is as good takeout. I even made my own Tadka Dal and ate it with this Naan and since I had extra even gave some to my upstairs neighbor who thanked me profusely said they devoured it in minutes and said it was as good as an Indian restaurant.

RAVE

Argentinian Red Shrimp (frozen)


(from the package) Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp are caught off the southern coast of Argentina. They have a sweet lobster like flavor and texture. Grill, barbecue or sauté…”.

I now regularly buy these frozen shrimp at Trader Joe’s. These are very good shrimp. They’re wild, raw Red Shrimp (aka Patagonian Red Shrimp) that have been de-shelled, cleaned, deveined and flash frozen, seperately.

If you are interested in learning more, here’s info about “Patagonian Red Shrimp”

If I am not using the whole bag, I just take out as many shrimp as I need, then put them back in the freezer double bagged inside another ziplock freezer bag.

One can cook these Red Shrimp any way that you would normally use fresh shrimp after defrosting them of course. So first things first, best ways to defrost these. First off, leaving them to slowly thaw in the fridge overnight or the day before. If you have less time, you can put them in a zip lock bag, and submerge the bag in a bowl under a trickle of cold running water. In a pinch I have put some shrimp right in a bowl and covered them with 2-4 inches of cold salted water, stirring them even 5 minutes or so. I confess also in a pinch I have done an fast “emergency defrost” where I run the frozen shrimp under cold water in a colander till they are de-iced and mostly defrosted and then very SLOWLY warmed them on the lowest fire possible in liquid (salted water or some broth or whatever sauce I am cooking them in). If you are say using a sauce, you can simmer your defrosted shrimp slowly in the sauce at the very end cooking them maybe 2-3 minutes (turning them over once).

Whatever method you use, be sure not to overcook them. These Red Shrimp actually cook faster than other shrimp. I sometimes cook them, remove them when nearly done and then add them back in at the very end. These cook quite quickly, basically in a 1-3 minutes. As soon as they are no longer translucent and firm, to me they are done, or at least should be removed at that point and then added back to your dish at the end as mentioned. Cooking them just so will keep them tender and juicy and plump, which you want. If you over cook shrimp, they shrink up and become tougher. These shrimp are great in pasta, or sautéed in garlic and butter, or any shrimp dish. I made a nice curry with veggies and Thai Red Curry sauce and added the shrimp at the very last few minutes.

TJ’s Wild Red Shrimp cost $10 for a 1 lb. bag (20/25 count). They are a good size (aka Large). If you find these Patagonia Red Shrimp frozen or fresh they are usually double that price elsewhere. (UPDATE : TJ recently raised the price $1 not long after I posted this; they are now $10.99 – Feb 2021)

These Wild Red Shrimp are well worth trying.

RAVE

Below is a picture of a tasty curry dish I made with these shrimp plus lots of veggies using TJ’s Thai Red Curry sauce. I added the shrimp at the very last few minutes and served it with Jasmine Rice. Shrimp curry is yummy, and worth trying (a basic recipe is at the end)

Another dish: You can see I used these shrimp in a bowl of ramen (Roy Choi style instant ramen with a slice of cheese and butter. Sounds crazy but works, see video below). For this dish, which was a dinner I made a veggie stock instead of using the packet of seasoning* and added some fresh mushrooms. I added the shrimp at the very end of cooking, and only cooked them about a minute. You can see they look juicy and are not shriveled up from being overcooked. TIP: * Be careful with that little flavor packet in instant ramen bag. Read the label; they are just loaded with Sodium! Better is if you use some stock of your own and just a bit of the flavor packet. Worst case, use only half the packet and if it taste too flat, add something (a dash of low sodium soy sauce or a drop of Nam Pla (fish sauce)

ROY CHOI’S INSTANT RAMEN WITH CHEESE

There are so many ways you might use shrimp, so here’s one more idea: Why not Shrimp Rolls (like a lobster roll)? These shrimp are “lobster-y” so would be perfect in a a shrimp roll. Gently poach them then, put some on some lightly toasted buttered Brioche bread or aloha buns, with cut up shrimp, a little mayo, some Old Bay seasoning or dried dill… I bet this would be great, and you can pretend it’s lobster!

Another idea? Vietnamese style rice paper shrimp rolls (search Asian markets for the rice wrappers) https://justasdelish.com/vietnamese-shrimp-rolls-peanut-hoisin-sauce/

Want one more idea? Fried rice using some shrimp

THAI STYLE SHRIMP CURRY – Sauté onions and garlic in oil for 5 minutes, throw in chopped carrots, celery, potatoes (mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, scallions) …saute 5 minutes, throw in 1/4 cup liquid (water or broth) simmer for 10 minutes, toss in a jar of Thai Red Curry, simmer about 10 more minutes till tender. The last 2 minutes add shrimp and cook gently in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Serve with jasmine rice.

EDAMAME (Soy Beans, frozen)


Trader Joe’s sells two versions of EDAMAME (Soy Beans) in both in the shell and unshelled versions.

Both kinds are excellent, tasty and super healthy veggies for you to add to your menu if they are not already on it.

You may have first seen Edamame typically in a Japanese restaurant or in the Sushi section somewhere, where they are served in the shell with a sprinkle of salt for you to nibble on and suck out the beans in the shells. In the shell these are very typical “bar snacks” in Japan in a restaurant or Izakaya (pub). Edamame is Japanese for “Soy Beans”. Very healthy and good for you of course as well as very being quite DELICIOUS, with a taste a bit like peas but nuttier and earthier. I like them both ways, in the shell and out of the shell, so I usually buy a bag of both versions. TJ’s frozen Shelled Edamame are very convenient, as you don’t have to peel them of course if you just want the beans ready to use. Useful as a side dish, the same way you would serve some peas, or for adding to a dish, such as a rice dish*, again, the same way you might add green peas. When I add edamame, say to rice in the last 3 minutes, I don’t cook them first as the bag suggests (they are already cooked in fact). I just put some in a colander, rinse under the faucet in a colander the till they are no longer frozen, and then toss them in the pot of rice (or anything) for maybe 3-4 minutes. As a side dish you can’t go wrong with Edamame with a pinch of salt and some butter. Yummy! Or use them, as an addition to your favorite recipe. Soy Beans contain Lots of protein (9 gr in a half a cup!), lots of fiber, vitamins and basically everything that is Soy Good for you. Maybe one of the healthiest things you can eat.

A 12 oz. bag of the shelled version is $1.99 which is less than in a Asian specialty store where you normally find these goodies. And about $1.69 (1 lb) in the shell, which are of course great to serve people to nibble on and suck out of the shells in the traditional style. Maybe the kids would like those, as they are very hands on, play with your food.

  • RANT: Re: rice. We’re a rant I have about Trader Joe’s. They carry Basmati rice , Jasmine rice, Brown rice varieties… but they don’t carry SHORT GRAIN (Japanese) Rice! Why oh why Mr. Trader Joe’s?! Short grain rice is called for, for Asian dishes. I have to buy it at Asian groceries. It would be so convenient if you carried short grain rice. Any one else second this? Arghh!

More:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-edamame-3376830

RAVE

 

TJ Soy Ginger Marinated WILD COD FILLETS


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I picked up a package of Trader Joe’s “Wild Soy Ginger Marinated Cod Fillets” in the Frozen section at TJ’s to try. I was quite satisfied, this dish turned out to be really  good. This marinated cod costs about $7/lb. – very much on the lower price end for almost any fish these days, and this is wild caught cod from the Atlantic, so another good find at TJs.

This cod is  tasty, and easy-peasy to make. I followed instructions on the package about defrosting them overnight in the fridge. An overnight thaw in the fridge is always the best method for defrosting as thawing slowly is best to preserve the original quality. So just remember you need to think about this the day/night before if at all possible. If after an overnight thaw, you find its not completely defrosted when you are ready to cook you can put it in the sink in a pot and run a stream of cold water over the unopened package for 5-15 minutes till it feels completely defrosted. I didn’t try the method on the package where they say you can defrost in a bowl of warm water, in fact I would completely say never use warm water, its too fast and damages cell structure. If  you really need to do a “quick defrost” again run a stream of cold water on it till defrosted (again, “emergency only” method). A fish monger told me to do it with cold running water.

On the package they suggest 3 methods to cook the cod – in a skillet, bake it or microwave it. Me, I decided I would cook the miso cod by broiling the fish and glazing them with the marinade. Broiling is a typical Japanese method of cooking. I took the fillets out of the package with tongs careful to reserve all the marinade for later use. I placed the drained defrosted fillets in a black cast iron pan (my favorite cooking utensil), dotted them with a little butter and put the pan under a very hot (pre-heated) broiler. The fillets were not thick. One was a little bit thicker. So I cooked the fillets for about 3 minutes then took the pan out of the oven so I could pour over that reserved marinade over the fillets. Aha! The reserved marinade will make you a very nice soy miso glaze. So I immediately put the pan back under the broiler to finish for about just another minute or two, keeping a close eye on the fish and the glaze which was all bubbly and browning up. As you can see the glaze browns up beautifully, thickens, to make a nice sauce for the fish, and obviously keeps the fish moist and not dried out. You can even put another little bit of butter in the pan and hit the fish with freshly ground pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon. I forgot to mention I threw in some frozen shelled Edame (soy beans) around the fish to cook with it. The edamame were a perfect match with the fish, along with some some rice. There’s a Japanese meal for you.

We really enjoyed this. Sometimes cod fish can be a bit boring but this miso / soy marinade treatment makes this product very good. You can hit it if you like with even more freshly grated ginger (I generally do).

To sum up I found TJ’s Soy Ginger Marinated Wild Cod Fillets to be super convenient, easy to make, and really tasty. I would buy it again, and in fact have a few times since I first tried this. This is becoming a Go-To item for me at TJ now and I usually have a package in our freezer.

RAVE

 

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AHI TUNA


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“The secret to cooking Ahi Tuna is not to overcook it”

Ahi = Hawaiian for Yellowfin Tuna. Its tasty! AHI TUNA STEAKS are in the frozen fish section at Trader Joe’s. From the package (“Wild Caught, Spain”) it sounds like it was fished from Spanish waters.

How To Cook: Most important, a slow defrost overnight in the fridge is the best method. Slow defrosting is best = but in an “emergency” you try putting the package in a shallow dish and running under the faucet with Cold water. Do not nuke it whatever you do, that will ruin it for sure. The package states you should “remove from package before defrosting”. Huh? I’m not quite sure why… does anyone have a clue why they would say that? Anyway I defrost it in the fridge, and once the fish is defrosted I put it in a container to marinate it for a half hour to an hour. As far as a marinade I generally make a typical Asian/Japanese style marinade: Soy sauce, fresh grated ginger, fresh ground black pepper, a pinch of honey or brown sugar, plus a bit of some oil, either olive or for extra Asian flavor a teaspoon of TJ’s dark roasted sesame oil. You can add some type of acid if you like: a touch of cider vinegar, lemon juice, or sake if you have it. You will serve it with some citrus (fresh Lemon or Lime)

Cooking Ahi Tuna: It is crucial that you don’t overcook tuna. Tuna is easily overcooked so be very careful with your cook time. Personally I think AHI is best cooked in the Japanese “Tataki-style” way being  searing the outside on all sides and leaving the center barely cooked, a bit pink. I cook it in a black cast iron pan over med-high heat with a little neutral oil, searing the outside for 60-90 seconds on one side. Flip it to cook the other side for a minute. If you want you can use tongs to sear the sides of the fish (but again be careful not to overcook it) Take the fish out of the pan. Let it rest for a few minutes before you slice it, against the grain like a steak. Be sure to save the pan juices and any juice that runs out on the cutting board and pour that over it.

Deglaze the pan with some water, rice vinegar, or or some extra marinade that you saved at the beginning. I found that if you marinated the fish and use that marinade to deglaze the pan there is protein that coagulates when you cook it, so it glops up a little (I just thin it with soy and some water, it doesn’t bother me too much,  it makes it thicker thats all). If that gloppy stuff bothers you, make a sauce fresh to serve with the fish. Here’s some ideas….

“Butter – Shoyu” (Soy Butter Sauce) Put a dollop of butter in the pan along with a little soy sauce, a great combination. Pour over the Ahi and serve with slices of fresh lemon or lime.

PONZU SAUCE: Combine Soy sauce and Lemon Juice. Great combo!

The photo shows my finished dish.

It should end up just seared on the outside and pink in the center…just how pink is up to you. I like mine like it is in the center in the pic (pink! just this side of raw) while my wife likes it as it is cooked on the ends (medium). As a final touch, I sprinkled some sesame seeds on top, sliced it against the grain, and put it on a bed of arugula, pouring the pan juices over the top.

Ahi Tuna is delicious. You could even try it as “poke” I guess (ceviche style). I am willing but my (Japanese) wife won’t let me make it that way, as she says this is not “sashimi grade tuna” –  which costs three times as much, selling for about $25/lb instead of this at $8/lb. So at 8 bucks a pound for a nice fish dish, this is a another good deal from Mr. Trader Joe.

Ahi Tuna is one of my favorite fishes that TJ’s carries, and I highly recommend trying it if you never have before. If you have any leftovers, it is delicious served cold the next day, maybe on a bed of rice or a salad.

ASIAN MARINADE: 2-3 tbs soy sauce; 1″ peeled fresh ginger, grated; fresh ground black pepper, a little honey or brown sugar, teaspoon of sesame oil (or a neutral oil) plus lemon or lime juice for a marinade (you can make a bit more and save some to serve on the side). Marinate in the fridge (defrosted) for at least 1 hour, turning it once. Cook as desired.

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Trader Joe’s COFFEE BEAN BLAST Ice Cream


Do you love coffee?

Do you love ice cream?

Then this is for you.

OMG amazingly good. Very good coffee flavor.

TIP: I improved it even more by sprinkling a little bit (or more) of very finely ground espresso coffee on top. Double Yum!

About $4 if I remember. Worth it.

Excellent TJ product.

 

RAVE