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 SQUIGGLY NOODLES


Here’s a NEW Trader Joe’s item: “Squiggly Knife Cut Style Noodles with Soy and Sesame Sauce”. This package of dried wheat noodles plus sauce looked promising. For one thing its a “Product of Taiwan”. First time, I made them the way they suggest on the package. Here’s the instructions: “Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add noodles. Cook 4 minutes. Drain and add sauce packet”. This alone will not make a very tasty dish though. You should also add other things (protein and veggies) to make this into something tasty. Unfortunately we were disappointed with the noodles themselves. My wife’s comment was the noodles themselves just weren’t that good quality and tasted like a cheap noodle. Strike one. I did however give them a second chance. However this time I decided I would stir fry them. I cooked them 4 minutes, drained them, added a little oil so they wouldnt stick together. I tossed them in a wok with oil, ginger, garlic, sliced veggies and an egg, and stir fried them for a minute or two. They still weren’t great but we both thought they came out way better stir fried. So this is what I would recommend you do with these noodles. The sauce packet was made to be diluted so add a only half if you are using it and and taste as you go. The sauce isn’t good and frankly rather than using the (fake tasting) “Soy and Sesame” sauce packet I would suggest using some real soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, and maybe a little oyster sauce and chopped garlic of course, instead of using their crappy sauce pack. BTW the label lists Sodium in this at 40%, which is of course almost half of your daily recommended amount right there with one portion. Some packaged Asian foods have a fair amount of sodium, so you do check labels. All the sodium is in the sauce of course. $4.99 for 4 noodle packs. Basically I will give this a MEH. Fix it up and it can almost be good. Chopped scallions are a must.

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 SMOKED PAPRIKA


Traeder Joe’s has these cans of SMOKED PAPRIKA, which is Spanish Pimenton. Smoky, mildly sweet and flavorful. This lovely paprika is really nice in so many things and matches well with chicken, fish, shrimp and especially well with pork. I frequently make Pork Tenderloin Filets, cut into thickish slices (tournedos) coated very liberally with a lot of smoked paprika, crushed garlic and salt and pepper, for a super easy dish which takes about 5 minutes. Just sauté the “tournedos” in a good amount of Olive Oil till golden brown but still pretty rare on the inside. Remove and add a little stock, wine or even water to deglaze the pan to make a pan sauce with a few knobs of butter. Easy, fast and delicious. TJ’s SMOKED PAPRIKA is $2.49 a tin.

Trader Joe’s ROASTED TOMATILLO SALSA VERDE


You will find Trader Joe’s FRESH SALSA VERDE in the refrigerated section, and it’s quite good. If you are just used to tomato based (red) salsas and you want to try something a little bit different for your Mexican dishes, a Salsa Verde like this is a great variation to try out. This salsa is made primarily from roasted tomatillos. Tomatillo based green salsas are very typical in Mexico, and frequently one will find both a red and green salsa next to each other for the diner to choose from. Though they slightly resemble a green tomato, in fact tomatillos are at best distant cousins to tomatoes. The tomatillo is a unique green fruit native to Mexico which were around for a thousand years or more way before the tomato was even brought by the Spanish Conquistadors (after 1500). Tomatillos are covered with papery skins, which is also pretty unique.

This Salsa Verde also has jalapenos, green chili pureé, roasted red onion, cilantro and cumin in it for a an authentic Mexican flavor.. I liked this salsa. Its not very spicy. I find it somewhere around “Medium” in the heat department so may be good for those who don’t like Really Spicy Stuff but want some great flavors. I tried it on some pork carnitas tacos and it was great with them, bringing out the pork and enhancing it perfectly. Its was also great on eggs, either on top of a fried egg or an omelet or scrambled eggs. This is great on fish, shrimp, beef, pork or chicken. I had some leftover roasted chicken which was a little dry. We just put some of this salsa over the chicken and and Voila, it made the chicken worth eating again. I have a feeling it would even be good with some grilled Tofu or just on top of rice or a protein bowl. This salsa verde goes for $2.99 for a 12 oz tub. I would buy this again.

PS – one reader likes using this to make an easy version of Green Pozole, which sounds great.

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC APRICOT PRESERVES


RAVE

“Made with organic apricots! Sweet-tart, golden orange deliciousness that’s great on toast” – Trader Joe’s

An absolutely delicious apricot preserve made in Canada from organic apricots. If you are a fan of apricots and apricot jam as I am, you too will probably love this stuff as much as I do as it has the most intense apricot taste. I put some of this preserve on a slice of TJ’s rye bread toasted with butter. So yummy. Ditto, on an English Muffin. How about with peanut butter? Great combo. I put a pinch on a cracker with goat cheese. Yum. It’s wonderful with many cheeses. I am really in love with TJ’s apricot preserves, so good on practically anything it’s almost dangerous. I confess my jar became half empty pretty quickly! TJ’s Organic Apricot Preserve is a wee bit more expensive than some other jams TJ’s sells. This one goes for $4.29 for a 17.5 oz jar, however it is Organic and super premium. My only (minor) complaint is it doesn’t have enough little chunks of apricots; there are some but its mostly smooth (its very thick) but this is the tiniest complaint as I like chunky preserves. Taste-wise this stuff is wonderful. So if you like apricots, you will love this. I would buy this again, with pleasure. I am on my second jar already.

Seen at Trader Joe’s: IVY WREATH with lights


I think there’s something about buying a living plant against cut flowers or trees that won’t last. So instead of buying a wreath to hang on the door, which will just last a few weeks, this live ivy plant trained into a wreath shape will keep going all year round, as long as you water it. So while you can’t hang it on your door of course you could put this wreath shaped plant in a window with it’s blinking lights, or perhaps on a table as the centerpiece for a holiday decoration. The ones I saw at TJ’s the other day looked very healthy to me. Ivy can last forever if you take care of it. Could even be a Gift? Come with a little bag which has a short sting with about a dozen small white LED lights (takes 3 AA batteries). You can save this LED light string and use it over and over again, like I have. $12.99

“Keep soil evenly moist, partial to full sun”

Seen at Trader Joe’s: Xmas GRUMP TREE


TJ’s has these little Grump trees for sale again right now for Xmas. They are cute and a pretty good deal for just $9.99. These can make a funny gift…. But wait, why”Grump” Tree? I’m guessing it’s for copyright reasons. TJ’s doesn’t want to say Grinch less they get sued by the Dr. Seuss estate. However they can get away with saying Grump and we all get the reference to The Grinch by it’s design (a clever idea just wrapping the tree to a point). If you don’t feel like laying out a ton of money for a Christmas tree ($50-150?) maybe you could get away with a little Grump tree and dress it up really nice with a lot of decorations… And it will last. If you take care of it, it will grow and grow and maybe you can use it for a few years. “Will eventually grow into a large tree. Keep well watered.”

Trader Joe’s “THAI WHEAT NOODLES”


NEW PRODUCT

I was so happy to see these packages of vacuum packed fresh noodles in Trader Joe’s NEW ITEMS area recently. I think sometime in the past Trader Joe’s sold some kind of fresh Asian noodle (rice noodles?) but none I can recall for a few years. Trader Joe’s “Thai Wheat Noodles” are a pretty typical Asian style noodle. Think Udon maybe? As far as these being “Thai” these are as much Chinese or Japanese as they are Thai. They do say Product of Thailand hence the name. These can be used for any kind of Asian dish. A 21 oz package is $2.99. They’re basically cooked and ready to use and come in 3 individual bags of about 1 portion each, ready to use in a recipe. Each bag has about 7 ounces of noodles. To me frankly that makes a skimpy portion of noodles for one and I wish these had just a bit more in a pack, say 8 ounces each for a more decent portion. I found one bag will make a portion for one for a finished noodle dish factoring in the other ingredients you will use. So I definitely suggest you “beef it up” with stuff: veggies, proteins, etc. For my dish (pictured below) I had a a few pieces of cooked chicken tenderloins in my fridge so I topped it with this chicken plus a lot of scallions and slivered cucumbers. I basically used the recipe they have on the box for “Sesame Scallion Noodles”. TIP: Right out of the package these noodles are really stuck together into an almost impenetrable noodle brick. To get them unstuck and loose I really had to work at them using chopsticks and tongs to get them loosened when I added the liquid sauce ingredients. It was not easy to get them loosened up. So I experimented the next time I made them with hot/boiling water first. You can use very hot or boiled water, rinsing them in a bowl / colander. I used my fingers/chopsticks/tongs to get them as unstuck as possible. Then rinsed them in cold water and drained them. That worked better to prep them before adding them to your dish so suggest you try this.

You can of course also use these noodles in any stir fried dish of your own choosing. Some other ideas for toppings would be some grilled pork (Cha Siu?), grilled shrimp, or even just a fried egg on top with some Gojujang. I would say these wheat noodles are basically the same as Japanese “Udon” – so you could use them in Japanese cooking, say you could make “YAKIUDON“. I did a kind of YAKI UDON with these and it worked. The recipe on the box for “SESAME SCALLION NOODLES” worked fairly well when I made it. Another tip: The recipe on the box is for just one package so double or triple the recipe if you are making more than one otherwise you will not have enough sauce. The recipe on the box is a basic recipe that you can modify as you wish. I added a heaping tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter to it, to make it more “Thai”. I also used a little Bomba to spice it up. These noodles are handy and not bad at about a buck a portion, even if they don’t match up to fresh raw noodles you would find at an Asian grocery. One more thing I just thought of, you could say add these to Trader Joe’s GINGER MISO soup and come up with a noodle version of that! I really hope TJ’s keeps these around so check them out so they see they are selling!

I would buy these again.

VEGAN

My finished noodle dish with slivers of cucumber and scallions and topped with some slices of chicken. Very tasty!
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