Trader Joe’s CHICKEN POT STICKER DUMPLINGS


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

Chinese dumplings are one of my very favorite things to eat. 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, 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 (which you can buy in Asian markets). However when you just get a craving for Pot Stickers, of course you can buy them, frozen, ready to cook like these frozen Chicken Gyoza Pot Stickers that TJ carries in their frozen Asian section.

Now I am not going to say that these dumplings can go up against my favorites of my dumpling places, but I do buy these dumplings all the time to have on hand in the freezer so I can easily enjoy some for whenever I am in the mood, and don’t want to leave the house (which let’s face it is all the time now of course.) 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. 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 these 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 refers to first frying and steaming them, giving one the best of both worlds texture-wise in a single bite, with the wrapper both a bit crispy and also soft. The skins on these TJ dumplings are not too thick, nor too thin, and are acceptable in proportion to the filling. If I make them myself they would have thicker skins and be 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!)

I make these mostly as Pot Stickers 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 (important!). You will hear them start to sizzle. Cook without touching them till they are nice golden brown on the bottom, maybe 4-5 minutes, checking one every once in a while as you don’t want to burn them but you do want a deep golden brown. When they are, you toss about 3-4 tablespoons of water (or stock) into the pan and immediately put a cover on! 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 steam them until the water is just about all evaporated, which may take about 6-8 minutes. Check when you think they are done. If they don’t look done (skins) just add another teaspoon of water and cook for another minute or two. When ready, if you put a tiny bit more oil when the water is all gone 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 get stuck on. If they are a bit stuck use a spatula to gently help release them, being careful not to tear them.

You should to eat these Gyoza right away while they are 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.

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!

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 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.

  • 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!

Argentinian Red Shrimp (frozen)


(from the package) Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp are caught off the southern coast of Argentina. They have a sweet lobster like flavor and texture. Grill, barbecue or sauté…”.

I now regularly buy these frozen shrimp at Trader Joe’s. These are very good shrimp. They’re wild, raw Red Shrimp (aka Patagonian Red Shrimp) that have been de-shelled, cleaned, deveined and flash frozen, seperately.

If you are interested in learning more, here’s info about “Patagonian Red Shrimp”

If I am not using the whole bag, I just take out as many shrimp as I need, then put them back in the freezer double bagged inside another ziplock freezer bag.

One can cook these Red Shrimp any way that you would normally use fresh shrimp after defrosting them of course. So first things first, best ways to defrost these. First off, leaving them to slowly thaw in the fridge overnight or the day before. If you have less time, you can put them in a zip lock bag, and submerge the bag in a bowl under a trickle of cold running water. In a pinch I have put some shrimp right in a bowl and covered them with 2-4 inches of cold salted water, stirring them even 5 minutes or so. I confess also in a pinch I have done an fast “emergency defrost” where I run the frozen shrimp under cold water in a colander till they are de-iced and mostly defrosted and then very SLOWLY warmed them on the lowest fire possible in liquid (salted water or some broth or whatever sauce I am cooking them in). If you are say using a sauce, you can simmer your defrosted shrimp slowly in the sauce at the very end cooking them maybe 2-3 minutes (turning them over once).

Whatever method you use, be sure not to overcook them. These Red Shrimp actually cook faster than other shrimp. I sometimes cook them, remove them when nearly done and then add them back in at the very end. These cook quite quickly, basically in a 1-3 minutes. As soon as they are no longer translucent and firm, to me they are done, or at least should be removed at that point and then added back to your dish at the end as mentioned. Cooking them just so will keep them tender and juicy and plump, which you want. If you over cook shrimp, they shrink up and become tougher. These shrimp are great in pasta, or sautéed in garlic and butter, or any shrimp dish. I made a nice curry with veggies and Thai Red Curry sauce and added the shrimp at the very last few minutes.

TJ’s Wild Red Shrimp cost $10 for a 1 lb. bag (20/25 count). They are a good size (aka Large). If you find these Patagonia Red Shrimp frozen or fresh they are usually double that price elsewhere. (UPDATE : TJ recently raised the price $1 not long after I posted this; they are now $10.99 – Feb 2021)

These Wild Red Shrimp are well worth trying.

RAVE

Below is a picture of a tasty curry dish I made with these shrimp plus lots of veggies using TJ’s Thai Red Curry sauce. I added the shrimp at the very last few minutes and served it with Jasmine Rice. Shrimp curry is yummy, and worth trying (a basic recipe is at the end)

Another dish: You can see I used these shrimp in a bowl of ramen (Roy Choi style instant ramen with a slice of cheese and butter. Sounds crazy but works, see video below). For this dish, which was a dinner I made a veggie stock instead of using the packet of seasoning* and added some fresh mushrooms. I added the shrimp at the very end of cooking, and only cooked them about a minute. You can see they look juicy and are not shriveled up from being overcooked. TIP: * Be careful with that little flavor packet in instant ramen bag. Read the label; they are just loaded with Sodium! Better is if you use some stock of your own and just a bit of the flavor packet. Worst case, use only half the packet and if it taste too flat, add something (a dash of low sodium soy sauce or a drop of Nam Pla (fish sauce)

ROY CHOI’S INSTANT RAMEN WITH CHEESE

There are so many ways you might use shrimp, so here’s one more idea: Why not Shrimp Rolls (like a lobster roll)? These shrimp are “lobster-y” so would be perfect in a a shrimp roll. Gently poach them then, put some on some lightly toasted buttered Brioche bread or aloha buns, with cut up shrimp, a little mayo, some Old Bay seasoning or dried dill… I bet this would be great, and you can pretend it’s lobster!

Another idea? Vietnamese style rice paper shrimp rolls (search Asian markets for the rice wrappers) https://justasdelish.com/vietnamese-shrimp-rolls-peanut-hoisin-sauce/

Want one more idea? Fried rice using some shrimp

THAI STYLE SHRIMP CURRY – Sauté onions and garlic in oil for 5 minutes, throw in chopped carrots, celery, potatoes (mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, scallions) …saute 5 minutes, throw in 1/4 cup liquid (water or broth) simmer for 10 minutes, toss in a jar of Thai Red Curry, simmer about 10 more minutes till tender. The last 2 minutes add shrimp and cook gently in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Serve with jasmine rice.

AHI TUNA


ahi3

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

Ahi = Hawaiian for Yellowfin Tuna. Its tasty! AHI TUNA STEAKS are in the frozen fish section at Trader Joe’s. From the package (“Wild Caught, Spain”) it sounds like it was fished from Spanish waters.

How To Cook: Most important, a slow defrost overnight in the fridge is the best method. Slow defrosting is best = but in an “emergency” you try putting the package in a shallow dish and running under the faucet with Cold water. Do not nuke it whatever you do, that will ruin it for sure. The package states you should “remove from package before defrosting”. Huh? I’m not quite sure why… does anyone have a clue why they would say that? Anyway I defrost it in the fridge, and once the fish is defrosted I put it in a container to marinate it for a half hour to an hour. As far as a marinade 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 or for extra Asian flavor a teaspoon of TJ’s dark roasted sesame oil. You can add some type of acid if you like: a touch of cider vinegar, lemon juice, or sake if you have it. You will serve it with some citrus (fresh Lemon or Lime)

Cooking Ahi Tuna: It is crucial that you don’t overcook tuna. Tuna is easily overcooked so be very careful with your cook time. Personally I think AHI is best cooked in the Japanese “Tataki-style” way being  searing the outside on all sides and leaving the center barely cooked, a bit pink. I 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. Flip it to cook the other side for a minute. If you want you can use tongs to sear the sides of the fish (but again be careful not to overcook it) Take the fish out of the pan. Let it rest for a few minutes before you slice it, against the grain like a steak. Be sure to save the pan juices and any juice that runs out on the cutting board and pour that over it.

Deglaze the pan with some water, rice vinegar, or 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, make a sauce fresh to serve with the fish. Here’s some ideas….

“Butter – Shoyu” (Soy Butter Sauce) Put a dollop of butter in the pan along with a little soy sauce, a great combination. Pour over the Ahi and serve with slices of fresh lemon or lime.

PONZU SAUCE: Combine Soy sauce and Lemon Juice. Great combo!

The photo shows my finished dish.

It should end up just seared on the outside and pink in the center…just how pink is up to you. I like mine like it is in the center in the pic (pink! just this side of raw) while my wife likes it as it is cooked on the ends (medium). 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 delicious. You could even try it as “poke” I guess (ceviche style). I am willing but my (Japanese) wife won’t let me make it that way, as she says this is not “sashimi grade tuna” –  which costs three times as much, selling for about $25/lb instead of this at $8/lb. So at 8 bucks a pound for a nice fish dish, 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 a neutral 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 (defrosted) for at least 1 hour, turning it once. Cook as desired.

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Trader Joe’s COFFEE BEAN BLAST Ice Cream


Do you love coffee?

Do you love ice cream?

Then this is for you.

OMG amazingly good. Very good coffee flavor.

TIP: I improved it even more by sprinkling a little bit (or more) of very finely ground espresso coffee on top. Double Yum!

About $4 if I remember. Worth it.

Excellent TJ product.

 

RAVE

Trader Joe’s Kimchi Fried Rice


 

TJ’s Kimchi Fried Rice

Disclaimer: I only tried this at the Sample Station. In fact I confess the Sample Station is the locus where I usually gravitate to almost immediately after I enter Trader Joe’s. I check out if they have something interesting to taste that day, and of course to grab myself a little cup of free coffee. Don’t you? Truly the Coffee Station is one of the best things about Trader Joe’s, isn’t it? Every supermarket should copy them; going shopping would be much more fun.


Kimchi Fried Rice is a fairly new item and TJ’s seemed to be promoting it quite a bit. Recently it was the product “on sample” 2 or 3 times that I had been to TJ’s of late. What I found funny was they had a sign next to the samples: Its said something like, “Warning: Spicy! Try at your own risk! If you can’t take spicy food, be careful!” Then I tasted it and my first thought was “Huh? This is spicy?”. Seriously to me it was about as spicy as baby food (I can take the heat). I started discussing this disconnect of the “WARNING” sign with the TJ employee who was in charge of the Sample Station at the time. He was of the same opinion – the Kimchi Fried Rice is not spicy at all! He cracked me up when he told me however how many people actually complained “Jeez this is so spicy” after they tasted the Kimchi Fried Rice on sample. So many that they put up the “warning, spicy” sign!

So here is what I thought after tasting the Kimchi Fried Rice. My wife is Korean-Japanese. So I knows me some Kimchi Fried Rice (the authentic Korean kind). I adore it. I can even cook a decent version myself. So if I compare that taste to this stuff, I just have to say this is a pretty bland, insipid version. The two times I tried it was soft and fairly mushy, plus it had barely any kimchi taste; To me, its flavor profile was just weak, which I attribute to an industrial production of such a “homey” dish. For one, truly Kimchi Fried Rice needs real garlic flavor, as well as Kimchi. This barely even had any garlic nor Kimchi flavor for me. The real thing is a fantastic dish, and this? Frankly to my tastes perhaps it would be suitable for babies (ok maybe Korean babies). Now having said that – Trader Joe’s does have a decent “ethnic” fried rice. TJ’s JAPANESE FRIED RICE is actually pretty good. In my years,  I’ve eaten tons of both Kimchi fried rice and Japanese fried rice and know what these should taste like, and I can cook decent versions of both.

So, sorry Trader Joe’s but in my opinion your KIMCHI FRIED RICE is a big miss!

If you try it, also try the JAPANESE FRIED RICE next time and see which you prefer. Pretty much same as TJ’s another new “Korean” addition, Trader Joe’s Kimchi, which I found such a poor product I actually “returned” it! Perhaps those who don’t live in a city where you can buy real kimchi sold at a Korean market, might think “so this is kimchi, tasty”.  Actually if you had real Kimchi you would know this stuff is not even close to being as tasty as a real Korean-made kimchi – for example this brand (Tobagi) of Napa cabbage kimchi I get at H-MART supermarket on 32nd Street (Manhattan’s Korea Town). If you A/B taste tested this prepared kimchi vs. the Trader Joe’s version? It would be almost a joke, its just no comparison! Anyone who’s been to a Korean restaurant will know the real taste of kimchi. At $1.99 (10 oz) you can try TJ’s version and see for yourself. Let me know what you think.

RANT

Kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi fried rice in Korean...

Kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi fried rice in Korean cuisine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TJ’s FRENCH GREEN BEANS (Haricots Verts)


UPDATE! SUMMER 2019 – out of stock all year, this product has finally is back in stores !

 (Updated, Nov 2019) This product is in stores!

RAVE

These can easily be on any Trader Joe’s Top 10 List.

Easily best “first try” of a TJ product in a while, I was quite impressed with the quality of these frozen green beans. These are are extremely high quality French Haricots Verts (“green beans”). They are “IMPORTED FROM FRANCE”. These Haricot Verts are the real McCoy and a super bargain. 

French “Haricot Verts” are better and higher quality bean than our usual standard green beans. Haricots Verts are a skinnier French green bean variety, thinner and more tender than our regular US green beans.. These are the expensive-ass skinny green beans you get next to that $35 entree you ordered when you go to an expensive restaurant. When I see fresh HARICOTS VERTS, imported from France, at a top green grocer like Fairway for example, which does carry them, they are always quite expensive, something like $8-10 per lb? As opposed to $2/lb for our “normal” fresh green beans. I always think ‘who can afford to buy these 12 bucks a pound green beans?! They must have money to burn.’ Well now thanks to Trader Joe’s great buying skills, all of us non-Rockefeller normal folks can afford to buy these wonderful French green beans, just they’ve come flash frozen.

TJ’s sells a package of the frozen HARICOT VERTS in a 24 oz bag. (1.5 lbs) for $1.99! Do the math, thats comes out to about $1.50/lb so thats about the same price or LESS, than I might buy regular fresh green beans (a price check followup in April 2012 show this is still the same price!) 

These are those same wonderful thin, french haricots verts, all prepped and ready to use, which have been flash frozen. Dark, nice green color. Blanched for a few seconds prior to being flash frozen. Certainly easy to use: they are all prepped (tip and tailed) which you would spend time doing with fresh beans. This is a big time saver as prepping beans is the one thing I don’t like about when I buy fresh green beans, they take a bit of work to tip and tail a pound of beans. These come trimmed and cut into bite size lengths, ready to use. Handy. To cook, throw them in boiling salted water.

Or you can also just toss the beans into a hot sauté pan with some butter and oil (and garlic?) Cook either way for only 1-2 mins till just tender. Don’t overcook these! You can easily ruin them. With a bit of minced garlic and butter you have a nice French side dish of haricots verts, ready in minutes. Salads? Yes! I threw them into a salad after boiling them for about 45-60 seconds, dumping them in a colander and running cold water to cool them, and they were really good tossed with some good Virgin Olive Oil and White Balsamic vinegar…Delicious. Toss in some diced hard boiled eggs, and parsley, and you have a nice “salade composé”. I also use these a lot by just adding them to any dish I’m making, generally breaking them in half first as I add them to stews, soups, etc…..

haricots verts cocoCategory:Green beans

haricots verts cocoCategory:Green beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To sell at this price, I can only imagine these are one of those items TJ’s makes a huge deal with the farmer or vendors. TJ’s purchases in such huge quantities directly from the vendor and they say pays in cash for the next crop and thats how TJ’s makes deals so they can sell products at such bargains (case in point is Olive Oil, right? They buy HUGE massive quantities from vendors all over the world)

Anyway TJ’s FRENCH GREEN BEANS (Haricots Verts) are my new favorite vegetable, and are now on my “always these have on hand” Trader Joe’s List. I now always buy a package to have in my freezer at all times. Right next to TJ’s Frozen Peas and Frozen Edamame, also all staples in my house.  These are very versatile things to have on hand at all times. Try them, you won’t be sorry.

RECIPEHaricots Verts With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

(If you make this remember the recipe assumes using fresh haricots verts so adjust the cooking time down)

Have you tried this product?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!

NOTE: THIS WAS M.I.A FOR SOME TIME AS NOTED BY MANY READERS. I INQUIRED ABOUT IT WITH THE CAPTAIN AT MY LOCAL TJ (NYC) WHO TOLD ME THE PRODUCT WAS NOT DISCONTINUED, THEY RAN OUT OF IT, AND HADNT BEEN AVAILABLE FROM THE SUPPLIER. HE TOLD ME THEY WERE WAITING FOR THE NEXT HARVEST AND SHIPMENT TO COME IT. IT SHOULD AGAIN BE AVAILABLE IN JUNE (2019) – As of July 2019, I still don’t see it

AUGUST 2019 – I think I found it again finally!!  Package looks different (white bag instead of clear) and instead of “Trader Joe’s” label says “DU JARDIN” but seems to be the Haricot Verts “extra fine green beans” “Product of France”…. so this must be it?…Except now bag is 16 oz instead of 24 oz and its $1.99. So price went up. Of course.

UPDATE2 (SEPT 2019) This product (original package) is back in the stores!