Trader Joe’s CHICKEN POT STICKER DUMPLINGS


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

Chinese dumplings are one of my very favorite things to eat. Seriously. 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, mostly 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! (I usually buy them in an Asian market). However that’s too much for most people. Which is where these babies come in. When you just get a craving for Pot Stickers, you can buy these frozen Chicken Gyoza Pot Stickers that TJ carries in their frozen Asian section. They’re good!

Now I am not going to say that these dumplings can measure up against my favorites of my dumpling joint but I do buy these dumplings all the time to have on hand in the freezer for whenever I am in the mood for gyoza and don’t want to leave the house (which let’s face it is all the time right now during Covid!)

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 here. 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 TJ’s bagged dumplings 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 means first frying the bottoms, then steaming them, giving one the best of both worlds texture-wise in a single bite, with the wrapper both a bit crispy/chewy plus soft. The skins on these TJ dumplings are neither too thick nor too thin but acceptable in proportion to the filling. If I make them myself they would have thicker skins, be bigger and more 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!)

PAN FRYING YOUR DUMPLINGS: I make these mostly as Pot Stickers/Gyoza 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, or they will stick together. You will hear them start to sizzle. Let them cook without touching them till they are nice golden brown on the bottom, maybe 4-5 minutes, You can check one every once in a while. You don’t want to burn them but you do want very browned bottoms. When they are there, you now toss about 3-4 tablespoons of water (or stock) into the pan and immediately put a cover on! Stand back of course. 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 let them steam until the water is just about all gone which may take about 6-8 minutes. Check when you think they are done. When they are almost ready if you put a tiny bit more oil when the water is all gone and let them keep cooking 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 not want to leave it! If they are a bit stuck use a thin spatula to gently help release them, being careful not to tear the skins.

You should to eat your Gyoza right away while they are nice and 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. I strongly suggest eating lots of green veggies with these. Edamame go great. If you can get Bok Choy or Choi Sum, that would certainly go well. And toss lots of chopped scallions all over these when you serve them.

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! TJ’s Sweet Chili sauce is also lovely!

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 such 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. I’ve eaten them at some top dumpling restaurants like Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao in Flushing, Queens (fantastic).

  • 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 the Naan Indian breads that TJ carries in the frozen section. These Naan are tasty, cheap and super convenient, just needing some warming up, and they as they say “Made In India” and “hand stretched” well that sounds authentic to me. A package contains 4 Naan and is $1.99, or about 50 cents each, not bad at all. 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 breads in the regular Bread section. These cost a little more and I think are a bit thicker.

Naan breads can be used for so many things. Of course these flatbreads go great with any of TJ’s pretty numerous Indian food items, but 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. Pizza? I’ve done them that way*. Really your imaginations are your only limit on what you can do with these.

To heat them, throw these in the oven or toaster oven. I sometimes just throw them in a cast iron pan. Hit them with some olive oil or butter or ghee and they become even more tasty. I sometimes add butter and fresh crushed garlic and then put the breads in that. These are fab. Or buy the Garlic Naan versions if you don’t want to smash your own fresh garlic. The Garlic Naan versions are also great and have a more flavor and some green stuff (cilantro or scallions). I buy a pack of each kind to keep in the freezer.

  • You can put together pizzas using Naan for your base. Try with these, or if you want a bit thicker base, get the fresh 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 maybe TJ’s frozen Channa ($2.29) or foil pack of Tadka Dal ($1.99) plus some Naan and some tomato 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. Since I had extra dal, gave some and 2 naan to my upstairs neighbors who thanked me profusely and told me they devoured it in minutes and that my dal it was as good as an Indian restaurant.

RAVE

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

 

Trader Joe’s GREEN DRAGON HOT SAUCE


Trader Joe’s as you may know carries a whole bunch of all kinds of condiments and sauces. It has quite a few hot sauces, some of these being VERY good. Green Dragon Hot Sauce is perhaps my favorite hot sauce Trader Joe’s sells (followed by BOMBA).

In short, this is a fantastic hot sauce. If you Google this product you’ll find it has many many fans all over the internet and with good reason. GREEN DRAGON has far more fans than the TJ Sriracha (not bad but IMO nowhere the equal of the original classic Huy Fong Sriracha {red rooster label).

Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce‘s ingredients include: jalapeños, tomatillos, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, garlic, lime juice and habanero. It is spicy of course but not blow the roof of your mouth off spicy. This stuff has a lot of lovely flavors going on. Its not simply “hot”With the above ingredients naturally Green Dragon can be viewed as a type of classic Mexican/South American style salsa. But its not just for “Mexican food” at all. It works with all kinds of cuisines and foods, Asian style food in particular. When I’m make Asian or Chinese dishes I tend to use Green Dragon a good deal. Its very floral as it is made from fresh green chiles, herbs and aromatics. Used judiciously this sauce adds flavor to all kinds of dishes. A few drops can go a long way in the flavor and heat department, so you can use it a bit sparingly (unless you love heat, then put more of course!) For example a splash of this when you are making eggs, either in scrambled eggs, or on top of fried eggs…really really good! I even put a few drops on something “boring” like cottage cheese (no really, try this combo on a toasted bagel) Cottage cheese, Boring no more. Toast up a bagel, top with cottage cheese, dot with Green Dragon; Thats one yummy breakfast. AVOCADO TOAST? YES! See below for a mini-recipe.

I just put some G.D.S in a lentil soup I had made and found it was perfect for that too, it added just that little bit of something extra that the soup needed, with that cilantro flavor. It is easy and fun to experiment with Green Dragon. Once you start trying it on different things, you will also discover, “umm, that works with this” for yourself. Green Dragon sauce is one of my “always have in fridge” TJ items! So I never am without it and I keeps one in the pantry too just in case.  It’s a steal too for $3.29 a bottle (18 ounces). In another Gourmet type store, something like this would be six bucks no doubt.

Avocado Toast: mash a ripe avocado up with salt, pepper, a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and Add some Green Dragon to taste. Spread mixture on buttered sourdough toast or sliced brioche or a bagel. Yum! Side note – add some into your guacamole, of course thats fantastic).

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 (frozen)


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

“Ahi” is the Hawaiian word for Yellowfin Tuna. Ahi is really really delicious! AHI TUNA STEAKS are sold in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s. As the package states, “Wild Caught, Spain”, means it was fished from Spanish waters of the Atlantic.

How To Cook: A slow defrost overnight or longer in the fridge is the best method. Slow defrosting is best = but in an “emergency” you can try putting the package in a shallow dish and using the running cold water method, put it under the faucet with a slow stream of cold water. I suggest you Do Not nuke it to defrost it. The package states you should “remove from package before defrosting”. Huh? I’m not quite sure why… does anyone have a clue why? Anyway I defrost it in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours if I can. Once the fish is defrosted I marinate it for a half hour to an hour. As far as marinades go, 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 oil or better still a teaspoon of TJ’s dark roasted sesame oil. You can add some type of acid if you like: a tiny amount of cider vinegar, lemon juice, or sake if you have it. You should serve it with some citrus, fresh Lemon or Lime.

Cooking Ahi Tuna: It is crucial that you don’t overcook tuna as it can dry out easily. Tuna is very easily overcooked so be careful with your cooking time. Personally I think AHI is best cooked in the Japanese “Tataki-style” way which is just searing the outside on all sides and leaving the center barely cooked, a bit pink. I generally 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 then turning with tongs to cook the other sides for a minute. You can use the tongs on the sides but again be careful not to overcook your fish. After you do it once or twice you will get the hang of cooking this way. When done, take the fish out of the pan, and let it rest for a few minutes before you slice it. Which you will do against the grain like a steak. Be sure to save the pan juices and any juice that runs out on the cutting board to pour over your fish.

You can deglaze the pan with sake, rice vinegar, or a tablespoon of water, 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, don’t use the marinade, make a fresh sauce to serve with the fish. Here’s some ideas for sauces….

“Butter Shoyu” (Soy Butter Sauce) Put a fat dollop of butter in the pan along with a little soy sauce, which are a terrific combination. Mix it well and and pour over the Ahi. Serve with slices of fresh lemon or lime.

PONZU: Another classic Japanese sauce. Combine Soy sauce and fresh Lemon Juice. Do not cook this, just mix together. A bit of grated lemon rind would be a gourmet touch.

As in the photo of my finished Ahi, it should end up seared on the outside and pink in the center, just how pink is up to you. I like mine like it is in the thickest part, the center (just this side of raw) while my wife likes it as it is cooked on the ends (medium) which I think of as overcooked. 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 really delicious and I am sure your family will also love this very steak-y fish (which they normally know from a can).

You could even try it as “Poke” I guess (ceviche style). I am willing to eat it this way but my (Japanese) wife won’t let me make this as poke as she says this is not “sashimi grade tuna” (true) which costs three times as much, selling for about $25/lb instead of this at $8/lb. So at 8 bucks a pound 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 olive 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 (on fully defrosted fish) for 30-60 minutes turning it once. Cook as desired.

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Having said how great this fish is please let’s not eat TOO much as this species is on the “near threatened” list. I eat AHI no more than once a month or less.

TJ’s SWEET CHILI SAUCE


RAVE

Apparently this is one of Trader Joe’s most popular products, and not without good reason. This is absolutely one of my favorite TJ products and on my “always have in fridge” list. As the name says, this is a delicious sweet chili sauce, that is pretty much an exact copy of the traditional Chinese sweet and spicy chili sauce you can find at any Asian grocery. It’s both sweet and spicy but not crazy spicy, with a perfect balance of the two tastes plus garlic of course. This sauce is typically served with chicken in many Asian cuisines. I had been buying Chinese brands of this stuff for years whenever I went to a special Asian grocery or supermarket but now Trader Joe’s make a version of it so even more convenient, as we put this sauce on many things though its terrific with most any chicken. If you bought a store cooked rotisserie chicken for dinner, serving with this sauce will that roast chicken 10x as tasty. What else can you use it for. Really anything… Chicken sausages? Yes. Fish? Yes (in fact you can put some on top of almost finished broiled salmon and put it back for a minute for a sweet spicy glaze). Grilled pork. Sure! Eggs? Yes. Get it? Seriously I think there is little this would not be good on, except may ice cream.

Easy dipping sauce for dumplings: a few tables spoons of this sweet chili sauce, a tablespoon of soy sauce, a little rice vinegar. Fresh grated ginger if you have it. Easy. Some extra garlic wouldn’t hurt either. Now you have a sauce for the pot sticker dumplings in the freezer. Dinner in 10 minutes.

A bottle used to sell for only $1.29. Last time I checked it went up to $1.49, still a bargain. I can’t live without this stuff. I always have a bottle in my fridge.

VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY KIT (aka Yakisoba)


VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY

This “stir fry kit” is composed of cut, prepped veggies all ready to stir fry, along with 2 packets of (cooked) soba noodles, plus a packet of soy- ginger finishing sauce. It has broccoli, bok choy, savoy cabbage, snow peas, scallions.

Look for this in the refrigerated / veggie/salads case. I say this convenient $5 kit is in actuality, most of the makings of Japanese YAKISOBA – minus a few ingredients – that one can easily add to make that super tasty Japanese dish. So when I saw this at TJ’s in the veggies section I said to myself, “Great I’m making Yakisoba tonight”.

YAKISOBA – YAKI means grilled. SOBA means buckwheat (noodles). Ergo, grilled noodles. Yakisoba is one of Japan’s most popular homey dishes, both eaten out, made at home, and served at school. Japanese kids pretty much grow up on it. Everyone loves Yakisoba.

You can cook up this Kit exactly As-Is on the package and get a decent Veggie Noodle Stir Fry. Or easily turn this kit with a few additions, into Yakisoba.

The main thing missing would be some kind of Main or protein (Pork, Tofu, Chicken….) plus some ginger and garlic, and a little more soy.

Protein: If you are vegetarian, you might add BAKED TOFU, sliced up into strips and grilled with the veggies. Possibly also add some sliced mushrooms, either shiitake, crimini or white mushrooms, any of them will add a lot of “umami”. If you are not vegetarian, protein options could be the traditional sliced or ground pork (even very thinly sliced pork belly). In Japan Yakisoba is even sometimes made with squid! Any protein you can stir fry with the veggies will pretty much work. Chicken strips, or steak, even ground beef. When I made it, I used pork tenderloin from TJ sliced up into strips that I first got a nice sear on both sides then set aside to add back at the end when I added the sauce package. I have cut pork chops into strips to make this with. Ditto chicken breast or thighs.

TIP: The noodles come cooked in a plastic bag. When you open the bags the soba noodles are totally stuck together in a very firm block that you can’t do anything with. You MUST prep them ahead a half hour before you start your dish. Loosen them up by letting them soak in very, very hot (even boiling water) for 15-20 minutes — and not for only two minutes as the package says which is not enough time! Once loosened up you can gently untangle and loosen them with your fingers and drain them in a colander, ready to throw in at the end with a pinch of more oil. Want more noodles then come in this package (not much)? Then just first cook up some Soba noodles or Chinese noodles or rice noodles, drain them and have them ready to toss in the pan with some more oil.

YAKISOBA: In a non-stick pan, sauté some ginger and garlic with the Main Protein (slicked pork, meat or tofu – or squid!) in a few teaspoons of neutral oil. Toss in the veggies. Add mushrooms if using. Stir fry veggies about 3 mins. till barely cooked (do not overcook!) Add the softened noodles and the meat or tofu back to the pan. Stir fry for a few more minutes, then turn off heat and add the sauce to coat. A few drizzles of sesame oil would be great. Add some Green Dragon Hot Sauce if thats your style. Stir all to combine. I threw some arugula and more chopped green onions on top. Katsuobushi* flakes if you have them? Done. About 10 minutes and you have a delicious dish.

PS – If you can find “Katsuobushi” flakes* at an Asian store, that would be great to top this with for authentic Japanese Yakisoba. Amazon sells Katsuobushi.  Ditto for “BENISHOGA” (Picked Red Ginger). Both are traditional Yakisoba toppings.

 

UPDATE: The first time I purchased this kit there were 2 packs of Soba Noodles inside. Recently on 2 occasions when I purchased it, there seems to be only 1 pack of noodles in the kit. Whats up with that? With 2 packs there was really a meal here for at least 2 people but with 1 pack of noodles, obviously thats much less noodle to veggie ratio.

 

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TJ’s Amba Mango Sauce


Trader Joe’s Amba Mango sauce is a unique and very tasty condiment.

I had vaguely heard of “Amba” as an Israeli condiment for “Sabich” (eggplant sandwich). Amba Sauce is one of those new tasty food products that TJ sells that you may not know what it is at first, nor what you would use it for, but give this wonderfully unique tasting stuff a try. Savory, pungent, tangy, the sauce is made from fermented ripe as well as green mangos simmered with garlic, salt, turmeric and a few other spices, blended into a smooth sauce. Amba is so unique, intruiging and tasty that once once you try it, you will end up dreaming of things you might try it with, “I wonder if this would be good on..(fill in blank).” Thats what I did. I kept putting it on things to see if they would be good with it. Many were!

So what is “Amba Sauce” anyway? From the package: “Amba is a fermented mango sauce traditionally found in Israel  India and the Middle East. Use it as a savory sauce on meat and seafood, vegetables and falafel, or even as a unique salad dressing”.

“Amba” means mango in an Indian language, Marathi. Its made of yellow ripe mangos as well as unripe green mangos, pureed till smooth and cooked with many spices and chilis and is fermented. The fermentation I’m sure ratchets up the taste level. It is both sweet, sour, and spicy. The heat comes and hits you later. Much later. This stuff is a very complex flavor bomb of fruity and spicy and many spices. Get the idea? Its great for many things. Just a few ideas: Try it over cooked chicken. Falafel, of course! Salmon. Meats. Salads and bowls. On the side with Indian pakoras, or breads, or basmati rice? Absolutely of course! Mixed with Greek Yogurt*? Yes! I came up with the idea of mixing these two things and it was amazing together as the yogurt calmed down the spice level and melded things.

AMBA SAUCE is carried in the refrigerated section and comes in a convenient squeeze pouch with a plastic top. A 14-ounce re-closable, pourable yellow bag of Trader Joe’s Amba Mango Sauce is $3.29. A bag lasted me quite some time as a little goes a long way, and it can last for a month or two in the fridge. This is a fantastic TJ product well worth the price. Amba is hard to find in the U.S.

Here’s a super easy tasty sauce mix with Amba I came up with; it makes a smooth, creamy yummy sauce, toning down the spice level but still getting some and you can adjust the ratio of amba to yogurt.

*GREEK YOGURT & AMBA SAUCE

Mix about 1/2 cup of plain Greek Yogurt with about a 1/3-1/2 cup of Amba Sauce. Add chopped garlic mashed with a little salt. Fresh ground pepper. Stir to combine and let it sit in the fridge for a bit. For a GREEN SAUCE version of this which I made, just add chopped parsley or arugula or baby kale, chopped very finely. Let flavors meld in fridge for at least a 1/2 hr or more. Serve on fish, chicken, meats, grilled tofu, or over basmati or jasmine rice, or practically anything! Adjust the ratio of amba and yogurt to your exact liking.

 

TJ FEARLESS FLYER INFO ON AMBA SAUCE (CLICK)

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC TOFU (& RECIPE)


I can tell by the stats that a good number of visitors to the site are interested in posts about Tofu.

Therefore I’ve been wanting to write up a post reviewing this tofu that I always buy at Trader Joe’s most anytime I go there, along with a simple basic recipe on how to prepare an easy tofu dish. Interest in tofu is well deserved of course, as tofu is an excellent, high-quality protein that is plant-based and is inexpensive. So what’s not to like?

Even if you, like yours truly, are not vegetarian, tofu is a good thing that you should be eating for so many reasons. Tofu is healthy, good for you, good for the planet, and is versatile and easy to use in many ways. If tofu is not already on your typical “mains” or  “proteins” list when you go shopping I would suggest tofu be added to your list. How about Meatless Mondays? Thats a good start! In our house we usually make a Japanese “tofu steak” type recipe once a week or so.

“Trader Joe San’s ORGANIC TOFU” in the pink & white package is a good tofu. Not too soft nor too firm, it takes well to being cooked up as described here. Not for most of us Americans tofu pretty much seems to have “no taste” on its own. However what tofu does quite well is absorb flavors. What flavors should you think about? Obvious ones are all Asian flavorings: Soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, cilantro…. You can not go wrong with these flavors cooking tofu. What about texture? I like cooking my tofu till its “golden brown” and develops an outside surface texture with a slight bite to the tooth, which it can get if cooked in certain ways. So one of the ideal ways for me to make it is to grill it until golden brown to improve the texture and then serve it with some kind of sauce.

Here’s a very basic and easy recipe to make grilled or sautéed tofu.

1. Take the tofu out of the package, pour off all the water, and set it over a colander or strainer to drain as much water as possible. Let it sit for about an hour. I sometimes put a few plates for a little weight and pressure.

2. Cut the tofu carefully. First into slices about 1/2 inch thick, then if you want smaller pieces, cut those into half. Heat up a non-stick or cast iron pan till it is good and hot with a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil and add the tofu slices (a little sesame oil added now is great for extra flavor). Let it cook for about 10 minutes at medium heat until the tofu looks golden brown when you check it. Flip the slices over and cook the other side till also golden brown. In the picture below I’ve sprinkled on some fresh ground black pepper too.

3. When the tofu slices are browned, now is when you either go one or two ways with sauce or flavoring. One way is to add the sauce (ingredients) to the pan and cook in the sauce till they are absorbed mostly. The other way is to remove the golden brown slices of tofu to a serving plate, then make your sauce and pour it over the tofu and around it. Both ways are good and I would suggest trying both methods and see which you prefer (the pouring over keeps the crispy texture of course a bit more). I like both ways and make it both ways depending on my mood.

How to Make a Basic Sauce: Sauté freshly grated ginger and chopped garlic for a few seconds till fragrant in some veg or sesame oil, then add your liquids: 2-3 tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce (Trader Joe’s sells this).  Maybe some veg or chicken stock too. A teaspoon of Sesame Oil (TJ). Optional: Mushrooms, Oyster Sauce, Sriracha, Fish Sauce, chopped scallions, pinch of sugar or honey, and Cilantro if you like it. If its very liquid you can add a little cornstarch/water slurry to thicken up the sauce.

Lazy options: If you prefer to just buy a sauce for your tofu steak: Try TJ’s SOYAKI or TJ Ginger Soy salad dressing. Sriracha and Soy. Anything flavorful that might go well with it.

A package of this tofu feeds 2 or 3 with other things (rice, sides) and costs around $2. Cheap!

Marinating also is a good technique for flavor. Here’s a good sounding recipe for Baked Tofu.

Easy Baked Tofu with Sesame and Soy Sauce

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