Trader Joe’s CHICKEN CILANTRO MINI WONTONS


Trader Joe’s CHICKEN CILANTRO MINI WONTONS

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

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

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

Trader Joe’s THAI SHRIMP GYOZA / DUMPLINGS


Thai Shrimp Dumplings / Gyoza

First to clarify, there are no “Thai seasonings” in these, nor are they spicy. They’re “Made in Thailand” hence the name (Gyoza being Japanese for dumplings BTW). TJ’s THAI SHRIMP GYOZA are frozen dumplings, with shrimp as the first ingredient listed along with cabbage and other vegetables, in a thin yellow wonton type wrapper. You can either steam, pan fry or microwave them. The skin is thinner than the “regular” TJ” dumplings. Taste-wise, these are well, OK, if nothing to write home about. One might say the shrimp flavor is “delicate”. Or one could say they don’t have a very distinct shrimp flavor. I also wish the shrimp in the filling were even more coarsely chopped with bigger pieces texture-wise, or they used a few whole baby shrimp in the mix. These shrimp dumplings are not going to compete with a shrimp dumpling from a good Chinese restaurant. Interestingly, out of the package you will notice they have browned bottoms as if they were already slightly browned or cooked. If you can, do pan fry these, perhaps a little bit more effort but worth it, as the more you brown the bottoms I think the tastier these will be. A bag of these Shrimp Dumplings now go for $5.50. There are about 15 dumplings in the 1 lb package. The funny thing is I’ve read people say these Thai Shrimp dumplings taste almost the same as TJ’s “Thai Vegetable Gyoza” the vegetarian version of these. Therefore the real question for me is since these don’t have a really distinctive taste of shrimp, are they worth the higher price versus the cheaper regular bags of Chicken or Pork dumplings Trader Joe’s has. If for variety, sure, or maybe you are a pescatarian. Frankly however the regular dumplings are better value (they were $2.99. Now $3.49) The wrappers on those are a little thicker which is more to my personal preference. Which is why I usually buy the big blue or red bags of frozen TJ dumplings as opposed to these “fancier” pricier, dumpling that are in boxes or colorful pouches. Anyway, try these at least once and decide yourself if they are worth the extra price. Funny enough I think if you made a few Red Shrimp to serve with these that would be a great combo!

Dipping sauce: I would not go a strong sauce with the shrimp dumplings, you probably want to keep it on the light side. Maybe a bit of low-sodium soy sauce with a teaspoon of vinegar (or lime juice) and some fresh ginger added. If you have Fish Sauce (Nam Pla, etc) around, a little bit might be good to give these a little more of a shrimp-y taste. Trader Joe’s once carried an excellent brand of fish sauce, Red Boat, but they stopped carrying it unfortunately.

Ingredients in the Thai Shrimp Gyoza include: Shrimp, White Cabbage, Chives, Scallions, Ginger, Garlic. Made In Thailand, No Preservatives, No Artificial Flavors. They’re in the frozen section.

RATING: “Meh”. Chinese restaurants have nothing to worry about.

Trader Joe’s CHICKEN / PORK GYOZA DUMPLINGS


Chicken and Vegetable OR Pork and Veg. Gyoza Pot Sticker Dumplings – Perfect for now (currently Chinese Lunar New Year) or anytime of course.

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 Gyoza Pot Stickers that TJ carries in their frozen Asian section. They’re good! They’re cheap. $3 bucks a bag. Wow.

Now I am not going to say that these dumplings can measure up against my favorites dumpling joints. Never the less the fact is I buy these bags of dumplings all the time to have on hand in the freezer for whenever I get a dumping craving and don’t want to leave the house (which let’s face it is all the time right now in the middle of Covid-19!)

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 steal. 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 dumplings. Buy a bag of both and see which you prefer. They’re both good. Now the stuffing of both versions are too finely ground up for my personal dumpling preferences. In any handmade dumpling you would usually be able to see chopped up vegetables which one can’t in either the pork or chicken dumplings.

These are a tiny bit on the blandish side but a good dipping sauce can really make up for that with some nice Asian flavors in it. My first choice is to make these in a pan as Gyoza or Pot Stickers. Pot Stickers refers to first frying the bottoms, and then adding liquid to steam 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: One can boil these but personally I make these mostly as Pot Stickers or 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 2 of neutral vegetable oil in the pan with medium heat. Put your frozen dumplings in bottoms down, careful they don’t touch each other or they will stick together. You will hear them start to sizzle in a bit. 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 however you do want very browned bottoms, Well I do! When they are browned, toss about 3-4 tablespoons of water (or stock) into the pan and immediately put a cover on! Stand back of course as they may spit or really steam up at you. Lower the heat a little. If you have a clear glass cover that’s 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 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 to fill up with a few more when we finished the first ones. That way you always eat warm 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 always eat dumplings with a dipping sauce. One classic sauce might be Chinese Black Vinegar* with lots of julienned ginger. Or soy sauce plus vinegar, sugar, ginger and garlic. TJ sells a bottle of “GYOZA DIPPING SAUCE” which is fine if making your own sauce is too much trouble. I frequently use TJ’s diping sauce and add just add a few things to it (like Lao Gan Ma, chili sauce) If you like fresh cilantro it’s wonderful with dumplings. Something spicy to add a kick if spicy is your thing, like me. Green Dragon hot sauce for example is great with these! TJ’s Sweet Chili sauce is also lovely! I mean a bit mixed into your dipping sauce.

While I can’t say these TJ frozen dumplings compete with the best Chinese homemade dumpling places I have gone to, 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 $2.99 a bag (UPDATE: now $3.49). 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 cheaper bagged versions. I 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! go if you get a chance).

  • Chinkiang Black Vinegar can be found at most Chinese or Asian groceries (5-6 dollars?) If you can’t find it and don’t mind paying through the nose Amazon sells it. It’s a classic, pantry item.

SIDEBAR: In New York City if you want terrific pan fried or boiled dumplings I check out VANESSA’S DUMPLING HOUSE which I first enjoyed 20 years ago in her original tiny hole in the wall joint on Eldridge Street where no more than 4 people could fit. Her product was fantastic and word grew about her amazing dumplings which went back then for the amazing price of 5 for $1! 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 really good dumplings taste like. They do cost more though now! Finally, if you really are interested in learning more and maybe trying your own hand to make dumplings you will find lots of great info here

https://carlsbadcravings.com/potstickers/

and if you are REALLY inspired, make these yourselves!

VEGETARIANS – TJ does have vegetable dumplings too ! (boxed, frozen)