Trader Joe’s KOREAN BEEFLESS BULGOGI (with recipe hack)


“Plant based Bulgogi style strips marinated in a sweet and savory soy sauce”

Bulgogi is a popular Korean BBQ dish consisting of grilled marinated beef. It’s delicious. Trader Joe’s frozen “Korean Beef-less Bulgogi is their vegan version, consisting of small pieces of mock meat made from soy protein, wheat gluten and other things. Judging from the internet, this product seems to be a bit of a hit especially with vegetarians of course (which I am not). The mock bulgogi strips have a pleasantly chewy texture that kind of make it resemble beef, with a pleasantly chewy but tender texture. There isn’t really any sauce on these and I promise these will be tastier with some kind of sauce on them. A no-brainer sauce for these would be some Korean Gochujang (red pepper paste, $1.99 at Trader Joe’s). This can make a fast easy sauce which will match well with the strips, and give it a little bit of heat. You can either sauté these and cook in a little Gochujang or put it on top after (see below)

TJ’s Bulgogi Vegan Strips cooked up into a tasty Stir Fry with vegetables and a little seasoning

To best enjoy these strips what I suggest is don’t do the super lazy thing I see on the ‘net, being just microwave these and put it on rice, which is what I see with people exclaiming “this is the bomb”. That is a pretty low bar and I can only imagine these people have never tasted actual Korean cooking? I am a Korean food devotee. Just putting this on rice may be edible but that is so boring people, so don’t be so lazy, you Millenials… Think of these strips as an ingredient, as the main protein to cook up into a dish. Make something with them, a stir fry for instance. Below is one recipe stir fry idea with these.

These will taste best if you get a little more sear or browning on them so don’t just nuke them, you should definitely cook them in a pan or wok to brown up. You can throw a dish together in 10 minutes with just a little effort. First – TJ’s often says “Heat From Frozen” on the package. I disagree about cooking food from frozen – something TJ’s often recommends on the package (again, geared towards Millenials?) I do suggest defrosting these before cooking.

I just left the package in my fridge overnight. Or you could take it out in the morning for that night’s dinner. Or just leave the bag on the counter for maybe an hour or two? In a pinch you could just run water over the (unopened) bag in a bowl till the strips are defrosted.

EASY BEEFLESS BULGOGI STIR FRY RECIPE: Put a tablespoon of TJ’s Toasted Sesame Oil (or any oil) in a pan. On medium heat, add the defrosted strips and let them cook in a single layer until they get a little sear (maybe 3-5 minutes?). Don’t move them as they sear. When they are seared, toss in some vegetables* of your choosing, cut into bite size pieces. In the picture above I used 3 cloves of sliced garlic (fresh garlic is a must) 1/2 an onion, 2 sticks of celery, 1/2 a yellow pepper. Increase the veggies as you see fit. Sauté the veggies with the strips for about 5 minutes, stir frying them till crispy tender. I seasoned this for a little more flavor. Add 1 Tbs soy sauce, and a 1/2 tsp of TJ’s Red Boat fish sauce if you have it. Add a tablespoon of Palm Sugar or honey and little ACV, lime or lemon juice for acidity. Turn off the heat and add another teaspoon or two of Toasted Sesame Oil. If you have them, sprinkle on sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I suggest drizzling Gochujang sauce over the top. For a super easy sauce, just mix a tablespoon or two of Gochujang with an equal amount water slowly until its a smooth sauce. Serve with rice of course. Also – Soft lettuce with these is nice (to make “Saam” lettuce wraps) If you want to be a bit lazy and not have to cut up * vegetables, you can just buy a pack of TJ’s frozen Asian veggies mix and cook that with these strips after the browning part.

Ingredients include soy sauce, pear puree, onion, garlic, apple puree, sugar, cornstarch, guar gum, soy protein, rice flour, wheat gluten and soybean oil

So how close is this to actual beef Bulgogi? First I am not vegan and I adore real Bulgogi. These are pretty good and slightly resemble beef however they would not fool me as real beef (though frankly my Korean wife didn’t know they weren’t beef unill I told her!) What they got right here, is the texture, which is pretty good, a little chewy and “beefy”. But I totally recommend you fix them up as mentioned above and cook them into something tasty.

A package is $3.49. Note: This is Vegan but it is NOT Gluten Free (contains Wheat Gluten). Gluten is what gives this the nice chewy texture. Buddhist have been using Wheat Gluten for Vegetarian Mock meat for a thousand years. That is what “Seitan” is.

Trader Joe’s GARLIC SPREAD (with Spinach recipe hack)


If you love garlic as much as I do, then you will adore Trader Joe’s GARLIC SPREAD . I find this stuff to be amazing. In fact, it’s become yet another TJ’s product I must have in the fridge at all times now. I think of it as much as an ingredient as a “spread”. You can use this and add it to a dish to give things an immediate flavor boost, kind of as you would fresh garlic.

A number of countries food culture’s have some type of garlic spread like this. In Lebanese cooking, they have the garlic spread, “Toum” (basically what TJ’s spread is). In Greece, they have a spread called “Skordalia” which is made from garlic, olive oil and potato. In the South of France they have the yummy yellow garlicky mayonnaise called, “Aioli” famously served with Bouillabaisse. Garlic with lemon acts as an emulsifier for the oil giving you a thick spread. Trader Joe’s version like Lebanese toum is an emulsified paste of garlic, oil, lemon juice and salt, traditionally made in a mortar and pestle. They did not skimp on garlic. TJ’s GARLIC SPREAD is so garlicky it’s not funny. True Garlic lovers will want to try this on everything. I came up with a great hack for Frozen Spinach, which you can make into a yummy dish in about 2 minutes with this garlic dip. See my recipe hack down below.

So what can you use this Garlic Spread on? To start with just try it on thin slices of toasted baguette, which will be match well with a salad or soup like croutons or garlic bread. This stuff is especially good for any pasta dish. Just toss in a spoonful into your finished pasta, especially tomato pasta (PESTO ROSSO? Add some of this to jazz it up! Use this instead of butter for cooking grilled cheese sandwiches. Put a little into your tuna or egg salad. Eggs, try some in an Omelet for some kick. Salmon or other fish, for sure. I’ve found it’s fantastic in mashed potatoes to jazz them up. Almost any vegetable dish will be enhanced with a spoon or two of this vegan garlic spread, so it’s ideal for vegans and vegetarians as well as us non-vegetarians. It was amazing on the CHICKEN SHAWARMA. Greek yogurt plus some of this spread makes and instant super easy tasty sauce. Here’s a recipe I came up with using spinach. This is a great tasting spinach dish in under 2 minutes.

SPINACH WITH GARLIC SPREAD HACK – Two ingredients: frozen spinach and garlic spread. Put the spinach in a colander and rinse it with water for about a minute until its defrosted. Shake or squeeze out most of the excess water. Toss the spinach in a pan with a little olive oil (or butter!) and cook for a minute or so till done to your liking (don’t overcook it) Add in a nice heaping tablespoon of the Garlic Spread and mix it in. Grind in fresh black pepper and a pinch of salt and its ready. It will look a little bit creamy and taste absolutely delish.

In fact most vegetable dishes will be enhanced with a spoon or two of this VEGAN spread, so it’s ideal for vegans / vegetarians to give a enormous flavor boost to most things. One thing to remember, it does have some calories as like a mayonnaise, its mostly oil. 2 Tbls have about 150 calories. Its $2.99. GREAT ITEM!

Trader Joe’s SELECT HARVEST CURATED COFFEE


NEW PRODUCT

This is a very good “curated” blend of two single origin coffees from Central America, specifically from El Salvador and Nicaragua. It’s a 50/50 mix of both, each roasted differently, one to a Medium roast and one as a Light roast, to bring out the ideal flavors of each. I found this coffee to be very tasty, smooth and delicious. Its $9.99 for a 12 oz bag of whole beans. I think if Starbucks or your local coffee high end shop was selling this kind of “curated blend” they would charge almost double that.

I would buy this again.

TIP: The best way to buy coffee is like this, as WHOLE BEANS. Why? Coffee has a ton of volatile oils which are best ground right before you want to use it. You get the maximum flavor if you grind up some beans just before you brew it. Now, if you don’t have a grinder at home, use the grinder at Trader Joe’s. When you get home, put the bag of ground coffee into a freezer bag, seal it and keep it in the freezer. You can put a few days worth of ground coffee in an empty air tight jar to keep it fresh.

Trader Joe’s SALSA DE CACAHUATE


“A Southern Mexican inspired salsa made with guajillo chiles and peanuts”

“A peanut based salsa with a unique mix of creaminess, nuttiness and peppery heat. Versatile. Enhances food from burritos to shrimp.”

(summer 2022) New Product – SALSA DE CACAHUATE. I found this to be just terrific, pretty much a “wow” new Trader Joe’s product.

This is bit of an unusual and atypical (regional) salsa (for us at least in the US) which originates from Southern Mexico. It’s a peanut-based salsa. Cacahuate is “peanut” in Spanish, based on the Nahuatl word (you pronounce it : kaka-wa-te). I found this new salsa to be really, really good. It’s unusual compared to more typical tomato based salsa’s at Trader Joe’s due to fact it’s peanut based and creamy. The salsa has a huge depth of flavor. It’s definitely got a kick (med. hot spicy!) and its thick and creamy. Be sure to stir it. This salsa was really tasty on some tortilla chips. It was also delicious with some spinach and cheese quesadillas I made. But it is not “just for Mexican food”. This can be great with lots of things. This can be a great sauce or ingredient for many kinds of foods as Trader Joe’s suggests. For one thing, great with chicken. It is fabulous on chicken, say grilled chicken breasts or thighs. Pork too, it was delicious on some TJ’s CARNITAS cooked into “slices of pork loin”. I also like the idea of trying it with shrimp as TJ’s suggests. It would even be great with TOFU. I will experiment with this, and you should too. It’s excellent! Definitely worth trying. Trader Joe’s indicates this is a summer / seasonal item so if this sounds interesting I would not wait too long to grab a jar to try out (or two). $2.99 for a 12 oz jar.

“If you’ve ever sampled the cuisine of southern Mexico, you’ve likely come across a version of salsa de cacahuate, a savory, often spicy, peanut-based sauce that’s used on a remarkably wide range of dishes, from street tacos to roast chicken to grilled shrimp, and more. Etymologically derived from a Nahuatl word for peanut, salsa de cacahuate has a unique mix of creaminess, nuttiness, and peppery heat that makes it an uncommonly versatile condiment—just the kind of sauce that cries out to be put on everything.

In tribute to this southern Mexican staple, we’re proudly offering Trader Joe’s Salsa de Cacahuate for the summer. And just like the namesake sauce that inspired it, this rich and flavorful jarred Salsa is almost endlessly versatile. Aside from enjoying as a dip with your favorite tortilla chip, you can use it to enhance everything from burritos to burgers to breakfast fare. It adds an extraordinary depth of flavor when served over salmon, steak, or stuffed peppers, and brings out the best of a sizzling plate of fajitas. For a true treat, try spooning it generously over a plate of sliced pork loin.”

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/products/pdp/salsa-de-cacahuate-073992

Seen at Trader Joe’s: CREME FRAICHE


New at Trader Joe’s: Creme Fraiche is kind of the French version of sour cream. However its a bit different, and better that sour cream as it has more butterfat and is tangier. This is the first time I’ve seen it at Trader Joe’s. This is a welcome addition to the dairy stuff.

A 7.5 oz container is $3.99.

https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-between-sour-cream-and-crme-frache-203467

HACK: Turn Trader Joe’s CARNITAS into CHAR SIU (Chinese Roasted BBQ Pork)


Here’s a hack I came up with to turn Trader Joe’s Pork Carnitas into Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Looking at a half used package of TJ’s Carnitas I had in the fridge, I had an thought. Could I turn it into Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Roast Pork) ? I mean both are roasted pork. Why couldn’t I just add the Chinese flavorings to come up with some Char Siu? So I tried it out and guess what? This hack worked great! The Carnitas now tasted very close to delicious Char Siu aka Chinese BBQ Roast Pork. My wife and I thought the hack came out delicious. Here’s how I did it.

I made a Chinese sauce, grilled up a few thick slices of the carnitas, cooked it in the sauce to absorb the flavors, then spooned on more. To get that BBQ effect, I put the pan under the broiler until it had caramelized and the sauce became a thick glaze. The pork was tender, moist and full of flavor. We were amazed at how good this turned out and how much it tasted like Chinese BBQ Pork aka Char Siu.

I will be doing this now whenever I am in the mood for some easy Char Siu ! (BTW the Carnitas / Char Siu make a great topping for Ramen!) We ate the BBQ pork along side a Chinese noodle dish I made. It could be even good just on top of a bowl of rice too and with a few veggies, or any way you would use traditional Chinese Roast Pork.

Try this hack out yourself and see how easy and tasty it is!

SAUCE TO MAKE CARNITAS CHAR SIU

1 clove of fresh garlic, crushed

1/2 inch ginger, grated

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons palm sugar / light brown sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

pinch of ground cinnamon (or 5 spice powder if you have some)

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

1 teaspoon rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

Mix all the ingredients together in the bowl. In a cast iron or oven safe pan, grill up your Carnitas pork slices under the broiler on low, for maybe 3 minutes, watching carefully until the pork is lightly browned. Flip and brush on some Char Siu Sauce and place back under the broiler on low for maybe 1 minute checking it carefully to make sure it does not burn. Take out and turn off the broiler. Spoon any left over sauce over the pork to coat. Put the hot pan back in the oven and let it sit for 1-2 minutes for the sauce to glaze up and reduce more in the residual oven heat (again keeping an eye on it to make sure it is deeply browned but do not let it get burned) Spooning the sauce over every 30 seconds or so.

Enjoy!

Here’s a more traditional recipe making it from scratch. I made the ingredients simpler in that you can find them all at Trader Joe’s – which doesn’t sell Oyster Sauce, for example (I wish). So if you have that and other Chinese ingredients in your larder, of course add them. The CHAR SIU recipe below in Woks of Life will give you ideas.

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC TOASTED SESAME DRESSING & marinade


Trader Joe’s says “A versatile dressing that can be used for salads, marinades and dips.”

I really like this. It is delicious as well as versatile. It’s an organic Japanese / Asian sesame based dressing which is great for any salads and for coleslaw. Savory and a little sweet, with lots of Umami. Versatile as in, this is more than just for salads. It is also an excellent marinade which you can use to marinate many foods. For one thing its terrific to use with chicken. Marinate the chicken in some of this sauce for 1/2 hr or more before grilling, then brush on some more near the end as a glaze. You can also do the exact same thing with Tofu. It is really great as a sauce with the Baked Tofu. Slice up the tofu and pour some of this sauce over and sprinkle with scallions. Its also good just added on top of any sauteed veggies. Cold noodles with sesame sauce (add some more toasted sesame oil and some peanut butter and soy)

You could even mix in a tablespoon of chunky peanut butter into a some of this dressing for a Thai type variation.

Now $3.99 for a 12 oz bottle.

I would buy this again.

Trader Joe’s TURKEY BOLOGNESE “just sauce”


UPDATE (Sep 2022) REPORTS ARE COMING IN THIS MAY HAVE BE DISCONTINUED (argh!!)

Turkey Bolognese sauce – You can serve this sauce with PAPPARDELLE noodles (best) but it would work with any pasta. or gnocchi. This is “just sauce” as opposed to another frozen version TJ’s has which comes with noodles and sauce. It’s a “Bolognese” style tomato based sauce (ragu) made with ground turkey instead of pork or beef. $3.29 (12 oz). You can have a dinner for two for about five bucks with this sauce and the Pappardelle noodles ($2) or for about four bucks if you just buy regular pasta ($1).

I tried this making this TJ’s “Just Sauce” along with TJ’s PAPPARDELLE noodles (which BTW are really good). Now as I am a pretty good cook on occasion I’ll make a homemade Bolognese sauce. So for comparison, lets be fair and say my own homemade turkey bolognese sauce is better that this. Not that’s out of the way, TJ’s Turkey Bolognese sauce is not bad. It’s OK, if nothing special. Obviously this is convenient and easy which is it’s main selling point. Its a bit bland for me for one thing. So if you get this sauce you can – and should, fix this sauce up a little bit with adding a few things to it: some garlic and Italian herbs and spices, good olive oil and of course some Parmesan or Pecorino, after defrosting. Simmer it for a few minutes with the additions. Oh and be sure to finish cooking the noodles in the sauce for the last minute or two so they can absorb the sauce a bit. This translates into if the package says “cook 7 minutes or till al dente” you pull it one or two minutes before, toss in a pan with maybe a ladle or two of this sauce and cook it on low until the noodles are done till al dente or to your preferred liking. Then top with a little sauce and cheese. As shown below you can see the pappardelle have absorbed some of the sauce.

I would encourage you to try your hand sometime at making this sauce yourself. Here’s an “easy version” I came up with. Really, it’s easy, cheap and will taste way better of course.

RECIPEFAST & EASY TURKEY BOLOGNESE: Brown a pound of ground turkey (optionally you can use ground beef, or mix of 1/2 pound each ground beef and pork, or Impossible burger for that matter). Sauté on high heat in a tablespoon of EVOO. Once the meat is browned well, add 4 cloves of garlic (crushed), 1/2 a chopped onion (optional: a grated carrot) and turn down to medium heat. Add a spoon of wine, balsamico or just water to deglaze the bottom of the pan scraping up any bits. Saute on low covered for about 3 minutes then add a can of ROASTED TOMATOES (with or without chiles). Rinse out the the can 1/2 way full with milk. Add that in. Add a tablespoon of TOMATO PASTE if you have it. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Italian herbs. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Serve the sauce with a hearty noodle like Pappardelle.

Another one here….

Update (Aug 2022) FYI, someone left a Comment that this product has been discontinued…..?

Trader Joe’s PAPPARDELLE egg noodle pasta (RECIPE)


“Pappardelle is a hearty noodle with many uses. Traditionally this hearty noodle is served with high-flavor chunky sauces made from game or pork… We like it with a robust Bolognese. It’s perfect for soaking up the flavorful juices of a pot roast and an ideal noodle for soups…”

Trader Joe’s Pappardelle noodles are good, hearty Italian egg noodles. These are especially perfect with robust chunky sauces, like a ragu Bolognese. A bag is $1.99 (8 oz). Here’s what I learned from making these a few times. To bring out the best of these noodles I suggest you don’t just cook them and put them on a plate and top with sauce. If you are just serving these with butter and cheese that’s OK to do. But if you are serving with a sauce (Bolognese maybe?) these will taste best if you finish cooking them in the sauce for a minute or two at the very end. Meaning pull them out of the water at about 4 or 5 minutes, drain (but not too thoroughly) and finish cooking them with 1/2 your sauce till they are al dente (save a little of the cooking water, which you can add to get the sauce consistency you want). Again grab them after about 4 minutes of boiling, throw them into a pan with about 1/2 cup of sauce per portion, cook and toss gently for a minute or two, until the noodles are cooked to your liking. The noodles will absorb the sauce and all the flavors, and make for a very hearty dish (see my dish, served with some asparagus as a side). Top with a bit more of your (reserved) sauce and a little grating of Parmesan.

Pappardelle with Bolognese sauce is made for each other so that’s definitely a combo you should think of for these noodles. If not a homemade ragu Bolognese you can easily use Trader Joe’s TURKEY BOLOGNESE “just sauce”. I can’t say it’s great, but it’s decent if you don’t want to make your own (see my easy turkey ragu bolognese recipe below)

RECIPEFAST & EASY TURKEY BOLOGNESE: Brown up a pound of ground turkey (optionally you can use ground beef, or mix of 1/2 pound each ground beef and pork, or Impossible meat for that matter). Sauté on high heat in a tablespoon of EVOO. Once the meat is browned nicely add 4 cloves of crushed fresh garlic, 1/2 a chopped onion (optional: a grated carrot) and turn down to medium heat. Add a spoon of wine, balsamico or just water to deglaze the bottom of the pan scraping up any bits. Saute on low covered for about 3 minutes then add a can of ROASTED TOMATOES (with or without chiles). Rinse out the the can 1/4 to 1/2 way full with milk. Add that in. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Italian herbs. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Serve the sauce with a hearty noodle like Pappardelle.

Trader Joe’s GREEN JACKFRUIT & recipe for Pulled BBQ Jackfruit


My DIY Pulled Jackfruit on Aloha Bun with coleslaw

Jackfruit is a tropical fruit, popular with vegetarians as a “meat substitute”. When cooked it can have the texture of “pulled meat” such as pulled pork or chicken or ropa vieja. It doesn’t have much taste but it easily absorbs flavors and sauces and it’s quite good cooked up with BBQ sauce as “pulled jackfruit”. Trader Joe’s carried a pouch of PULLED JACK FRUIT IN SMOKY BBQ SAUCE in a green foil pouch (see below) but it got discontinued. Alot of people liked it and I did too, despite not being vegetarian. TJ’s does sell this can of JACKFRUIT so you can make the same thing fairly easily yourself, just mixing this can of jackfruit with your favorite BBQ sauce. A can is only $1.99 too!

How does one use Trader Joe’s Green Jackfruit in Brine, you ask? It takes on a “meaty” texture, and, much like tofu, absorbs the flavors of sauces. Our favorite preparation involves cooking jackfruit in barbecue sauce, where it eventually shreds like pulled pork, ready to be piled on a warm Honey Wheat Hamburger Bun and crowned with crunchy cabbage.

UPDATE: This is in stores again.

what it looks in the can; frankly not too appetizing, yet!
after cooking the Jackfruit; Now it looks pretty good!

https://www.traderjoes.com/home/recipes/pulled-jackfruit-sandwich

HOW TO MAKE PULLED JACKFRUIT MINI SLIDER BUNS: After opening the can, dump the liquid out and put the fruit into a colander. Rinse the jackfruit thoroughly and drain it. To get the texture, I just used my fingers and crushed up the jackfruit piece by piece. The seeds you can mash or crush or leave as is. Sauté the jackfruit in a pot in some EVOO (or butter) for about 5 minutes on low heat, stirring it gently. Add your favorite BBQ sauce (1/2 cup per can?) in. I used the SRIRACHA ROASTED GARLIC sauce, a good match. Cover the pan and simmer on very low heat for about 20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so and making sure it doesn’t burn. It will be thick when done. Turn off the heat and let it rest for about 10 minutes. When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, put a scoop of the jackfruit on†o the bottom half of a TJ’s ALOHA BUN (or brioche roll). Top with some coleslaw and the top half of the bun. Enjoy! A bit messy to eat but quite tasty! 1 Can served 2 of us easily with the fixings.

Directions as per TJ’s website

(note I liked it without the water, or just a few tablespoons)

  1. Prepare Pulled Jackfruit: Drain jackfruit and pat dry. Partially shred jackfruit chunks into smaller pieces. In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add jackfruit and sauté for five minutes. Add BBQ sauce and water to pan and stir to evenly coat jackfruit. Cover pan and simmer on medium-low heat, 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally and pulling jackfruit apart as it becomes tender.
  2. Prepare Tangy Cole Slaw: While jackfruit cooks, in a large bowl, toss cabbage blend with mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside. 
  3. Prepare Sandwiches: Place a scoop of pulled jackfruit on the bottom of a bun. Top with diced onions, coleslaw, and bun top. Eat and repeat until satisfied!

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