Trader Joe’s BEEF BIRRIA


“Slow cooked beef in a savory tomato and chile sauce

Here’s what Trader Joe’s has to say about BEEF BIRRIA…

“This Mexican dish originally hails from Jalisco, and, like ours, is traditionally cooked for several hours in kettles until the Beef is incredibly tender and infused with a savory tomato and chile sauce. You can serve it as a simple stew, topped with fresh cilantro, diced onions, and a squeeze of lime. Alternatively, if you want to evoke the taco truck vibe—and we’re thinking you will—make your own Birria tacos! Dip Corn Tortillas in the broth and fry them in a hot pan or on a plancha. Add the Birria, top with chopped onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime, then fold and fry on each side until crispy. But don’t stop there—that lusciously spiced broth serves as a delectable dip for your tacos, too. Believe us, you’ll want to spoon, dip, and sip every last drop.”

I’ve wanted to review this product since I first heard about it months ago but I found it almost impossible to find in stock for some time. Is this Trader Joe’s most popular item now due to social media internet buzz? Does it sell out almost as soon as they put it out? Or has it just been a supply problem? Or a combination of the two. They get a box or two, put them out and they go fast. Anyway I looked for it every time I went to TJ’s for the last few months and could never find it. Finally last week I got lucky, and saw literally one last package sitting alone in Frozen section. So I grabbed it, but fast!

I defrosted it overight in the fridge, one method they suggest and cooked it on the stove. At $8 for 16 ounces, this is a wee bit pricey but this is beef, and you get a fair amount of large beef chunks with sauce. With tortillas and a little rice on the side the package was just enough for two of us for a dinner. I found the beef and sauce tasty, with the beef so soft and tender, stringy and moist. The sauce the beef is cooked in is good, savory with tomatoes, chiles and spices. The ingredients read like real food. Generally the beef is of a decent quality but there were a few inedible fatty pieces but not many and fyi some fat is important in this dish. So don’t just skim it off. This is what you should dip the tortillas in the fat on top of the broth to fry up the tortillas as the package suggests. Now BIRRIA is especially known for the stock or broth it’s in, which they call the “consommé” and typically is served alongside the meat in a cup so you can dip tortillas in it. Trader Joe’s version didn’t have enough broth for me anyway. Frankly I wished they gave more broth with this. I would like about double what they give you. So what I actually ended up doing was this. I added maybe a 1/2 cup of water to the pot and simmered it for 30-40 minutes to get more broth going in this dish. On top of that I also added a veggie (one large zucchini, quartered) to the pot, and let that simmer in the broth, and that came out delicious and gave it some more juice too. Though I did not find this overly salty the Sodium content listed on the package is pretty high. One portion (1/2 a package) contains over 1000mg sodium which is almost half (47%) of one’s daily recommended sodium so just be informed. I would certainly not recommend that one person eats whole package as that would be over 2000 mg of sodium with just this one thing alone. By my adding water to make more broth I did dilute things a bit and it was still tasty not watery at all, if you want to go in that direction. A Vegetable cooked in the broth will be delicious. We served this with corn tortillas and a little rice, and it made for a pretty tasty dinner. Birria is always served with chopped cilantro and chopped onion so consider that a must to add on top like the Serving Suggestion. Buy cilantro and onions along with your preferred tortilla to go with the Birria. I vote for corn tortillas. All in all I liked this, and would say this is one of Trader Joe’s better items, it almost tastes like it was home made. If you can find this (!) I think this is worth trying and I would buy it again.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/beef-birria-072620

$7.99 for 16 oz.

Trader Joe’s Beef Birria is tender, slow-cooked beef in a flavorful broth made with crushed tomatoes, dried chiles, and aromatic spices and often served as a simple stew….make your own Birria tacos….if your mantra is “everything is better with cheese,” then make Quesabirria tacos! We dip corn tortillas in the savory broth and fry them in a hot pan, top them with Birria and shredded mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle chopped onions and cilantro and fold into a taco. We suggest frying each side until the tortillas are crispy and the cheese is gloriously gooey and begins to brown at the edges. But don’t stop there—that lusciously spiced broth serves as a delectable dip for your tacos, too.”

Finally if you want to really learn about this dish there’s a really good documentary series on Netflix called the TACO CHRONICLES and it has a whole episode about making Birria in Jalisco, Mexico, it’s point of origin. And you will see, it is traditionally made with goat, the most authentic meat for Birria.

Trader Joe’s SLICED KOREAN RICE CAKES


Here’s another new Korean/Asian item from Trader Joe’s. These are flat oval shaped disks made from sticky rice, so are very chewy and soft. These kind of rice cakes are a typical ingredient in Chinese, Korean and other Asian cuisines. In Chinese cooking they are known as “nian gao”. If you fry them they get a little crispy, which is how I like them best and the way you should use these. The bag has just the rice cakes (no sauce) to make however you like, typically made into a stir fried dish with vegetables and a protein. There is a basic stir fry recipe on the bag for Stir Fried Rice Cakes with Vegetables. which you could expand upon with adding a protein (say chicken, shrimp, pork or baked tofu.) Tip: add garlic which this recipe omits( !) You could come up with a Korean stir fry variation by adding some Kimchi and pork or chicken. The rice cakes are $3.29 a one pound and are in the frozen section. They are a “Product of Korea”. VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE

Here’s another recipe for Chinese Stir Fried Rice Cakes.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/sliced-korean-rice-cakes-074566

Trader Joe’s KOREAN SWEET PANCAKES (Hotteok)


“A chewy-flaky dough filled with a lusciously gooey cinnamon filling”

Here’s one more Korean item Trader Joe’s added in 2022; “SWEET CINNAMON FILLED KOREAN PANCAKES” known in Korean as “HOTTEOK“. In Seoul, they’re a common snack sold from stalls in the street. People really enjoy eating them on a cold winter day. Trader Joe’s has come up with a frozen version which all you need to to do is heat up in a pan and enjoy. I cooked them as recommended in a pan on the stove with no added oil, until they were golden brown and delicious. They look really good as you can see. I found them to be quite tasty. They were flaky and had a nice filling with cinnamon and brown sugar. I thought there might be some red bean paste in there but but reading the package I can see theres some sweet potato in the filling. So while I enjoyed these I’ve never tasted a real one and my wife (who’s Korean) on the other hand told me they were just so-so and not at all as good as ones you would get at some street stall in Seoul made by the Hotteok lady vendors. I don’t doubt that but at $4.50 for a package (of 4 pancakes) these are at least a lot easier and cheaper than booking a flight to Seoul. These might even make you want to go get some real ones some day in person. I know I would watching the lady make them in video below.

Trader Joe’s and folks on the internet suggest putting ice cream inside them. I didn’t try it but imagine it would be good. Again my wife, poo-poo’ed this saying that’s not authentic. I say try these yourself and decide. They make a slightly unusual and interesting dessert or snack. And if you’re ambitious enough to want to try to make them yourself, here’s a recipe…. and a TIP: eat them carefully, the inside is lava HOT so let them cool slightly!

Trader Joe’s site has a “Limited” sign on the picture so I expect these may not last forever. If you want to try them, do sooner rather than later.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/sweet-cinnamon-filled-korean-pancakes-069665

“When strolling through the streets of Seoul on a still, chilly morning, among the many sights to see, you may encounter the scent of fresh hotteok being served straight from the grills and fry pans of street vendors….”

They are interesting to watch getting made…. I bet they are really good. They are huge too.

Trader Joe’s BLACK TEA and BOBA NON-DAIRY FROZEN DESSERT


Trader Joe’s seems to have a little thing for “Boba tea” and this is another incarnation of Boba Tea, in a frozen (non-dairy) dessert. Made with coconut milk this has small chewy tapioca pearls (boba) with swirls of brown sugar. More or less like the trendy “Bubble Tea” drink that has become popular recently in the U.S. This frozen dessert tastes like black tea with brown sugar with chewy black pearls of tapioca. Overall I would say I found this OK and interesting. It’s good but I am not crazy for it. However my wife (who’s Asian) liked this very much. She likes Asian style desserts. I said “this is good but I’d probably rather have a bowl of Coffee Bean Blast ice cream”. OK this is not a fair comparison, as this is not ice cream of course, its a non-dairy frozen dessert . So I will say “interesting”. If you want something a little different and want Non-Dairy and love tea, you might give this a try. It improved and tasted better after letting it sit out to defrost a little bit for the tapioca pearls to get softer. So give this about 5 minutes at room temp before eating. About $5 for a pint. We are divided in that I would not buy this again but my wife would, so a its a toss up in our house!

PRODUCT OF THAILAND

Trader Joe’s PUMPKIN CHEESE CAKE (Fall / Seasonal Item)


(Fall Seasonal Item)

We really enjoyed this Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Cheesecake. Especially after our upstairs neighbor gussied it up with some whipped cream when she invited us to her Halloween dinner (hence the black spider napkin holder) and served the TJ’s pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. What I liked about this cheesecake was it they did not over do it in the “pumpkin spices” department, it’s pretty subtle and tasted first and foremost like cheesecake with just a little something extra, with pumpkin. Its very yummy. $7.99 for a rather large cake (30 oz). This could make an especially nice dessert for Thanksgiving, or anytime you can get this during the Fall/Winter season when it may be available. Frozen, defrost in fridge overnight or 4 hours and leave at room temp for about an hour or so. I would buy this again.

Trader Joe’s: “We couldn’t fit an entire pumpkin into the box but we did fill it with rich pumpkin flavor…blended into the tangy sweet goodness of cheesecake….perfect for holiday dessert….”

Trader Joe’s BATTERED FISH NUGGETS (+ Fish Taco recipe)


Trader Joe’s Fish Nuggets are tasty and these taste like a real battered piece of fish. They are perfect for making fish tacos for one thing. The first ingredient is Alaskan Pollack. Don’t confuse this item (“Fish Nuggets”) with TJ’s “Fish Sticks”which are terrible, way inferior to these at a dollar less. I used these nuggets to make Fish Tacos for dinner the other night. BTW I didn’t bake these as it says on the package. I sauteed them in a cast iron pan till they were crispy on both sides.

We really enjoyed these when we made them into fish tacos. The popular TJ’s Fish Tacos recipe is easy to make. You take a package of these, Corn Tortillas (which I think will taste better than flour ones) and top with crunchy slaw made with the Cole Slaw Mix, some Greek Yogurt, and lime juice. Optional but nice would be some ripe avocado and your favorite hot sauce. I would recommend TJ’s Green Dragon and/or Peri-Peri hot sauce as being a good match with fish tacos.

TJ’s BATTERED FISH NUGGETS are now $5.99 for a 1 lb package. The other thing these might be good for is an English style Fish & Chips with some french fries?

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/battered-fish-nugget-tacos

“These tantalizing tacos combine the tart, tangy, and savory flavors of fresh Lime juice and crispy Battered Fish Nuggets with a mix of soft, crunchy, and creamy textures, courtesy of our Corn Tortillas, Organic Broccoli Slaw, and Plain Greek Whole Milk Yogurt. Endlessly customizable with your favorite hot sauce, salsa, or crema, one batch of these can feed a family of four and even more, depending on your hunger level.”

FISH TACOS

  • TJ’s Battered Fish Nuggets
  • TJ’s Plain Greek Whole Milk Yogurt
  • 1 Lime
  • TJ’s Organic Broccoli Slaw or Cole Slaw Mix
  • TJ’s Corn Tortillas

Add yogurt and lime juice to the slaw mix; let sit a 1/2 hour to marinate. Cook up the fish till golden brown and put two pieces into a warm corn tortilla and top with slaw and a few drops of salsa or hot sauce.

Trader Joe’s TURKEY BURGERS (frozen)


Ground turkey is something I tend to buy often when I go to Trader Joe’s, maybe like many of you, as I find it so versatile as well as affordable. So besides the fresh stuff in the meat case, I also decided to check out this package of Trader Joe’s frozen turkey burgers. Any advantage of buying this versus buying a package of fresh ground turkey? Normally I would probably just buy fresh ground turkey and form burgers myself. However I can see reasons some might like these frozen turkey burgers instead of fresh. For one thing I imagine some folks (especially singles?) might find this more convenient as if you just wanted one burger you have that ready to go and are not left with extra turkey which you would have to use in a few days or freeze. Or maybe some people don’t like touching meat and forming burgers, or just find this faster and easier to make? Certainly one benefit of these frozen turkey burgers is the frozen burgers are cheaper than fresh ground turkey. These go for $3.49 for a pound (4x 1/4 lb burgers). Whereas one pound of TJ’s fresh ground turkey will cost you at least $3.99 presently. So the frozen ones are good value.

Cooking: Trader Joe’s instructions say to “Cook From Frozen”(as usual for them on frozen stuff). Now I don’t like to cook food from frozen if I don’t have to. So I defrosted these on the counter for about an hour or two, after cutting open the package and putting the pucks on a plate to defrost but in a pinch you can cook from frozen. The cook time will be shorter if defrosted of course.

The cooked turkey burgers were tasty. TIP: Turkey is pretty bland so I really season them before cooking with a real good dusting of the TACO SEASONING spice blend, which really jazzes up turkey burgers. Don’t add salt as there is some salt in the spice mix, and they have some salt already added in the burgers. Also I made them as cheese burgers by putting some grated Unexpected Cheddar on top which works great as it is amazing melted (cover the pan for a minute to help melt the cheese). I put them on toasted Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns and dressed them up with some spicy ketchup (mix some Peri-Peri or Bomba into some of the Organic Ketchup) . Our turkey cheese burgers were yummy with toasted buns, lettuce and tomato and we quite enjoyed them and wouldnt even know it was turkey and not beef.

Trader Joe’s CHICKEN CILANTRO MINI WONTONS


Trader Joe’s CHICKEN CILANTRO MINI WONTONS

You could easily describe me as a dumpling fanatic. I’m fortunate to live in a city (NYC) with a huge Asian population and can get really excellent dumplings, such as at “Vanessa’s Dumpling House” to name just one place. So having said that, while I can’t honestly say these Trader Joe’s mini wontons compare to to really good handmade chicken and basil dumplings I can get at a place like Vanessa’s, or Shiu Jiao Fu Zhou dumpling house, these are decent little wontons, and they are certainly convenient. So if you can’t go buy a big bag of frozen dumplings from Vanessa‘s or another Chinese dumpling maker as will I do on occasion, these may be the next best thing as they are so easy to buy at TJ’s. They seem popular and I usually see a few people grabbing a bag. On the web, I know there is some hack with these dumplings cooked in TJ’s Miso Ginger broth, which I tried and is pretty good – but for me that broth needs more miso and way more ginger! These are mini wontons and are smaller than regular wontons or dumplings. These are just one bite each. They’re good made by either boiling or pan frying them.

If boiled, I like them in a strong chicken broth (preferably homemade) or possibly one of Trader Joe’s broths or the Ginger Miso Broth (I would add more miso if you have that and some fresh grated ginger) They are good also cooked up as pan fried wontons. These will taste much better with a good dumping sauce. For me, that is mandatory. Also the cilantro flavor in the dumplings is weak so I recommend adding a good handful of chopped cilantro just before serving. Some people hate the cilantro’s flavor but I love it and it’s a very essential Asian taste. These Mini Wontons are $3.49 for a package (12 oz). I would buy these again.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/chicken-cilantro-mini-wontons-099085

Trader Joe’s BOBA TEA Kit (Brown Sugar Tapioca Pearls Drink)


If you are not familiar with BOBA TEA (aka bubble tea) it’s a popular (very TRENDY) drink that has very large pearls of Tapioca that sink to the bottom. The tapioca pearls have a very chewy texture that most people really enjoy. The pearls are so large that to suck them up it comes with a special ultra wide straw. These drinks are sold by specialty tea shops like “GONG CHA” that serve up a premium (and a bit pricey) Boba Tea Drink.

Trader Joe’s BOBA TEA kit is a (poor) approximation of what you might get from a specialty Boba Tea shop. I have had Boba Tea from quite a few different Tea shops and in short, Trader Joe’s Boba Tea Kit won’t put any of them out of business. The drink you get in a real Boba Tea shop is way better than this, however if you’ve never had it before this may give you an idea of what “boba tea” is. As my wife commented “this is a Trader Joe’s version”. She meant it as a knock as in “cheap knockoff of the real thing”. A specialty shop boba tea drink usually costs about $5-6 bucks each. This kit sells for $5.50 for 4 drinks. So yes a cheap knock off. Granted, its a high profit item (sugar, tea, tapioca)

Anyway if you can’t have it at one of these shops and just want to try boba tea in that case then his might be a good starting point. For one thing the tapioca pearls in Trader Joe’s are much smaller than the ones that the shops make which are huge and so chewy. This kit has 4 pouches of a concentrate with the pearls. You mix this package up with milk or tea (or combo of the two) plus a handful of ice to dilute its sweetness, and you need to add enough of these things in, otherwise it will be way too sweet. I put the defrosted pouch into a glass jar with a lid so I could really shake it up with the added ice and liquid. The kit even has 4 big straws. Not bad, but again really no comparison to a Boba Tea shop drink. I probably wouldn’t buy it again.

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC FROZEN SPINACH (with garlic spinach recipe hack)


It may seem a little silly for me to review frozen spinach but here goes anyway because it’s actually something I buy all the time from Trader Joe’s (along with frozen peas!) TJ’s frozen spinach is easy, healthy, tasty and super convenient to have in the freezer. Plus it’s one of TJ’s best bargains for just $1.99 for a pound in the organic version and $1.49 for the regular version.

At the risk of heresy there are a few vegetables which I propose are actually better frozen than fresh. Really. One is frozen peas. The other is frozen spinach. While I love fresh raw spinach, the reality is it’s a pain. Spinach is very dirty and sandy. You must it like crazy 3 or 4 times to get rid of all the grit in every nook and cranny. Then you start with what looks like an enormous amount, raw. You can fill the biggest pot you own with it to the brim, and that shrinks up into almost what looks like just enough for one person. It really shrinks up in cooking. All of these are reasons I find frozen spinach easier than fresh spinach.

RECIPE HACK – a two ingredient Trader Joe’s recipe hack I came up with for spinach with TJ’s Garlic Spread – which are so good together and takes minutes! SPINACH IN GARLIC – Put the spinach in a pot with a teaspoon of olive oil or butter (or 50/50 mix). Cook on medium till it’s just cooked but still bright green (don’t overcook it) then add a heaping tablespoon or two of TJ’s Garlic Spread and mix it together. Give it a grind of fresh black pepper, taste it and if it needs it, add a pinch of salt (as the Garlic Spread has some salt). Optionally give it a squeeze of fresh lemon. This garlicy creamy spinach combo is absolutely delish. You can even mix in noodles to this for an instant dish.

Spinach omelet – make the above and toss the spinach in the middle. Yum!

Spinach rice: Cook Basmati rice. Cook some spinach. Mix the two together when done with some Greek yogurt. Season to taste.

TJ’s organic spinach is $1.99. The regular spinach is even less only ($1.49). Either is a bargain and is a great thing to always have in your freezer. So eat your Spinach! It’s healthy – it’s what made Popeye so strong.

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