Trader Joe’s “SPICY JOLLOF SEASONED RICE MIX”


Trader Joe’s “SPICY JOLLOF SEASONED RICE MIX” with dried tomatoes, onion and garlic

There was actually a little controversy across the internet when this product first came out, as some viewed this as a bit of cultural appropriation on Trader Joe’s part. What is JOLLOF RICE ? It’s a very famous African dish eaten widely across parts of West Africa, especially Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and The Gambia. Even in Africa the dish has a little controversy. Whose version is the best? Is it Nigerian or Ghanaian – or Senegalese where it has a different name (Tchebu Jen) ? The dish is considered the national dish of Senegal where it’s Thieboudienne or Tchebu D’jen. (The word “Jollof” is an English variation of the word “Wolof” which means both a language and a people/tribe)

In my lifetime, I’ve eaten many many plates of authentic Senegalese Tchebu D’jen in many African restaurants back in the day when there were a dozen African restaurants on 116th Street in Harlem when the street used to be known as Petit Dakar . I love this dish and variations of it. Taste a real version of this dish if you ever have the chance. An authentic “JOLLOF RICE” (aka Party Rice, aka Tchebu Djen) from Nigeria, Ghana, or Senegal is an amazing dish. It’s complicated to make with a number of ingredients, another reason that Trader Joe’s coming out with this “instant” version caused a wee bit of controversy on the internet. The mix was developed by a Nigerian family here I believe.

Here’s my take. Out of the package, this is a far, far cry from an authentic African Joloff Rice. I fixed it up when I made it. It has some potential if you fix it up to make something better, not close to what your Nigerian granny would make but something semi-OK and better than just making this package as is.

Here’s my suggestions on how to fix this up: In a large pot, put a tablespoon olive oil and butter (you probably don’t have Palm Oil which is best) Stir in a huge tablespoon of tomato paste. Cook for 30 seconds and add a chopped up tomato, 1/2 a chopped onion, 4 cloves of garlic minced. Cook 2 minutes, then add your cooking liquid (water, but chicken or veggie broth would be better). 3 cups as the package says is a lot. I reduced to about 2 3/4 cups as the veggies have water. Add a few carrots and a 1/4 cabbage. Boil for 5 minutes. THEN add the package of this “JOLOFF RICE” mix. Add some Smoked Paprika and as much as you like of some spicy mix of PERI-PERI, BOMBA, or ZHOUG . Once it boils lower to a simmer and cook covered for 20 minutes. Turn off heat. Let it sit 5 minutes covered to absorb all liquids. When you are ready, serve rice with vegetables on the side/top, and serve some of those spicy sauces on the side for people to adjust to their tastes.

Tchebu Jen is made with smoky dried stockfish in the broth and served with fresh fish. I ate it with some fish on top (smoked sardines and salmon) Other ideas are serving this with grilled chicken or maybe grilled SHAWARMA chicken.

TJ’s SPICY JOLLOF SEASONED RICE mix is $2.69 for an 8 oz package.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/spicy-jollof-seasoned-rice-mix-070883

“Originating in West Africa as far back as the 14th century, Jollof rice is more than just an esteemed and storied dish, it’s a cultural force of its own. It’s served as the inspiration for countless recipes across the African diaspora, including jambalaya and gumbo. It’s even sparked a friendly (if not, at times, heated) rivalry between a handful of nations regarding who makes the best version. If you’ve ever had the chance to try it, you know exactly why it’s remained such a vital part of African cuisine for over 700 years.”

Trader Joe’s CEDAR WRAPPED BBQ SALMON FILLET


Trader Joe’s came up with a pretty interesting creation : CEDAR WRAPPED BBQ SOCKEYE SALMON. The frozen package contains a boneless filet of (wild) Sockeye Salmon nicely seasoned and wrapped up in a very thin piece of cedar wood (!) which is pretty cool. This is inspired by the traditional Pacific Northwest Native American way of cooking salmon, nailing a side to a cedar plank and cooking them vertically around a fire. Something like this…

https://www.goodsalmonrecipes.com/cooking-salmon-cedar-planks/
Cooked BBQ Sockeye Salmon

Trader Joe’s version is a pretty good deal for $4.99 and worth trying. I made a piece for dinner and found the cooked salmon to be really tasty.

Cooking: Though the package say for cooking it 2 ways, in the oven or outdoor grill I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen on a hot day. I decided to just grill it on the stove in my cast iron pan. I didn’t cook this fish from frozen like it says to do either. I defrosted the fish prior to cooking it (just placed the sealed package under running water for 10 minutes which worked ok). Inside the plastic package the salmon is seasoned and wrapped in a thin piece of cedar tied up. I grilled it cedar side down for about 4-5 minutes (again it was not frozen, they say 25 minutes in the oven from frozen). Flipped it and grilled the other side for about 2-3 minutes. You could put in foil as they suggest, which is the French “en papilotte” method of making a moist environment. Sockeye may be different than what you are used to when you think of (Atlantic) salmon. Sockeye salmon has a more dense and meaty texture and has very dark red flesh as a wild salmon. This sockeye salmon cooked up well and tasted nice with TJ’s not too overpowering bbq seasoning. Plus the cedar flavor was subtle and tasty and the fish had a nice moist texture. One piece makes a decent portion for one. The skin on the bottom stuck to the cedar plank and kept it moist. I just served it with just a sprinkle of lemon. It might be quite nice with a little sauce on the side too (some lemon and Greek yogurt with a touch of Zhoug?). The Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend was a good match for this as a side dish. That is a staple for me.

THE NUTRITION LABELS STATES YOU GET A WHOPPING 32 GRAMS OF PROTEIN !

Worth trying. I would buy this again.

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/cedar-wrapped-bbq-sockeye-salmon-fillet-064671

TRADER JOE’S SAYS : “Our Cedar Wrapped Sockeye Salmon is rubbed with seasonings including smoked sea salt and chipotle powder to yield a balanced, smoky, mildly spicy, distinctly cedar-y Fillet. And, in addition to imparting flavor, that cedar wrap also ensures a super moist result—no matter whether you bake it or grill it!”

PS – you know those pictures of bears catching salmon jumping upstream? They are probably these Sockeye Salmon.

Why you should eat SARDINES (Protein, Omega 3 & Calcium…)


You should probably add sardines to your diet if you don’t eat them already. Before you click away just hear me out. Don’t be squeamish about these little fishies. Sardines are good, and they’re good for you. In fact did you know Sardines are one of the healthiest fish you can eat? Not only are they are loaded with protein they are a terrific source of calcium (the ones with skin and bones but don’t worry these tiny bones are so soft you don’t even notice them). Women especially need extra calcium. And Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids giving one 2 grams of omega-3s per 3 ounce serving – which is one of the highest levels of omega-3s in any food per amount They also have the lowest levels of mercury of any fish. Sardines are WILD caught only, never farme and the sardine is a plentiful and sustainable fish. And they are cheap. But not only are these little guys healthy for you. I think sardines are DELICIOUS. Europeans love them and eat lots of sardines. Not so much here in the U.S, but you should if you don’t already.

Trader Joe’s sells about three varieties of canned sardines. I especially love TJ’s SMOKED SARDINES IN OLIVE OIL (purple can) which is just $1.69 (!). A can gives you a whopping 21 grams of protein. Plus Calcium and Omega’3. I probably eat a can for lunch at least once a week.

SERVING SUGGESTION: Drain and mash them up with a fork adding juice of a quarter lemon or lime and a teaspoon of mayonnaise, with a grind of fresh black pepper. Add a touch of hot sauce if you like. Spread this paste on fresh toasted bread or your favorite cracker. So yummy.

Trader Joe’s has 3 varieties of sardines. If you can’t bear to see the ones with skin, the skinless boneless ones in olive oil (grey can) are a good starting point but I do recommend the tasty smoked ones (purple can) which I love best. The “smoked Trader Joe’s sardines” are very tasty.

You can even saute cubed potatoes in the left over oil in the can.

Country of origin: Portugal (purple can), Canada (blue), Morocco (grey)

Get some more ideas here: https://wildplanetfoods.com/recipes-category/sardines/

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)