Trader Joe’s “THAI WHEAT NOODLES”


NEW PRODUCT

I was so happy to see these packages of vacuum packed fresh noodles in Trader Joe’s NEW ITEMS area recently. I think sometime in the past Trader Joe’s sold some kind of fresh Asian noodle (rice noodles?) but none I can recall for a few years. Trader Joe’s “Thai Wheat Noodles” are a pretty typical Asian style noodle. Think Udon maybe? As far as these being “Thai” these are as much Chinese or Japanese as they are Thai. They do say Product of Thailand hence the name. These can be used for any kind of Asian dish. A 21 oz package is $2.99. They’re basically cooked and ready to use and come in 3 individual bags of about 1 portion each, ready to use in a recipe. Each bag has about 7 ounces of noodles. To me frankly that makes a skimpy portion of noodles for one and I wish these had just a bit more in a pack, say 8 ounces each for a more decent portion. I found one bag will make a portion for one for a finished noodle dish factoring in the other ingredients you will use. So I definitely suggest you “beef it up” with stuff: veggies, proteins, etc. For my dish (pictured below) I had a a few pieces of cooked chicken tenderloins in my fridge so I topped it with this chicken plus a lot of scallions and slivered cucumbers. I basically used the recipe they have on the box for “Sesame Scallion Noodles”. TIP: Right out of the package these noodles are really stuck together into an almost impenetrable noodle brick. To get them unstuck and loose I really had to work at them using chopsticks and tongs to get them loosened when I added the liquid sauce ingredients. It was not easy to get them loosened up. So I experimented the next time I made them with hot/boiling water first. You can use very hot or boiled water, rinsing them in a bowl / colander. I used my fingers/chopsticks/tongs to get them as unstuck as possible. Then rinsed them in cold water and drained them. That worked better to prep them before adding them to your dish so suggest you try this.

You can of course also use these noodles in any stir fried dish of your own choosing. Some other ideas for toppings would be some grilled pork (Cha Siu?), grilled shrimp, or even just a fried egg on top with some Gojujang. I would say these wheat noodles are basically the same as Japanese “Udon” – so you could use them in Japanese cooking, say you could make “YAKIUDON“. I did a kind of YAKI UDON with these and it worked. The recipe on the box for “SESAME SCALLION NOODLES” worked fairly well when I made it. Another tip: The recipe on the box is for just one package so double or triple the recipe if you are making more than one otherwise you will not have enough sauce. The recipe on the box is a basic recipe that you can modify as you wish. I added a heaping tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter to it, to make it more “Thai”. I also used a little Bomba to spice it up. These noodles are handy and not bad at about a buck a portion, even if they don’t match up to fresh raw noodles you would find at an Asian grocery. One more thing I just thought of, you could say add these to Trader Joe’s GINGER MISO soup and come up with a noodle version of that! I really hope TJ’s keeps these around so check them out so they see they are selling!

I would buy these again.

VEGAN

My finished noodle dish with slivers of cucumber and scallions and topped with some slices of chicken. Very tasty!
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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). You can make a fast easy sauce which will match well with the strips with it and give it a little bit of sweet heat. You can either sauté these and cook in a little Gochujang or put it on top after cooking which is what I did (see below)

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

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

To best enjoy these, what I strongly suggest is don’t do this lazy thing I see on the ‘net about these TJ Beefless Bulgogi strips where people say all they do is microwave this package and put them on top of a bowl of rice. People exclaim “this is the bomb”. Wow, that is a such a low bar. Makes we wonder if these folks ever tasted real Korean cooking where a dishes flavors can explode all over your taste buds? Anway, to me just nuking the package and putting this on rice may be edible but that is so boring people! I suggest you think of these strips as an ingredient, as the main protein to cook up into a dish with. Make a stir fry for instance using these strips which will take you ten minutes of work, most of which is cutting up veggies. Below is one recipe stir fry idea for these vegan strips. First off, these will taste better if you get a nice sear on them, so suggest don’t just nuke them, you should definitely cook them in a pan or wok to brown them up a bit. You can throw a dish together in about 10 minutes with just a little effort. Defrosting needed?! Yes. TJ’s often says “Heat From Frozen” on the package. I disagree about cooking food from frozen – something TJ’s often recommends on their packages (again, geared towards making everything “easy”?) Anyway I do suggest defrosting these before cooking. They defrost fairly quickly. 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. See below for a Stir Fry recipe featuring the “Bulgogi Strips”….

So how close is this to actual beef Bulgogi? First off I should state I’m and omnivore, not Vegan. I adore real Bulgogi especially in a smoky Korean BBQ restaurant using old school charcoal. These Beefless Strips don’t compare but THEY ARE pretty good and do slightly resemble beef though they won’t fool an omnivore that they’re beef. However frankly my Korean wife ate my Stir Fry dish and until I told here this was Vegan and not real beef she she didn’t know at first. What they got right here, is the chewy texture, which is good, it’s a little “beefy and chewy”. But I totally recommend you fix them up as mentioned above and cook them into something tasty, where they are an ingredient and not just the star of the show. A package was $3.49. (Yikes. they went up since I wrote this; now 4.29?) If real beef, at least 10 or 12 bucks I would guess.

Note: While this is Vegan it is NOT Gluten Free as it contains Wheat Gluten. In fact Gluten is what gives this the nice, chewy texture. Buddhist have been using Wheat Gluten to make Vegetarian Mock Meat for a thousand years. This is what “Seitan” is.

RECIPE – EASY BEEFLESS BULGOGI STIR FRY : Put a tablespoon of TJ’s Toasted Sesame Oil (or any oil) in a wok or pan. On medium heat, add the defrosted bulgogi strips in a single layer and let them brown and get seared (maybe 3-5 minutes?). Don’t move them around until they are seared. When they are, add vegetables* of your choosing, cut into bite size pieces. In the dish 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.

TJ’s ARTISAN ORGANIC FUSILLI CORTI BUCATI PASTA


RAVE

This is a great new pasta Trader Joe’s recently introduced with a great shape. It’s a “Fusilli” (corkscrew) curly shaped pasta with a little hole (bucati) in the center. This shape is very good and will hold lwhatever lovely sauce or ingredients you use with it. You can tell it’s a premium quality pasta just by looking closely: the exterior is not smooth but rough indicating it was *bronze die cut, and produced by a high end artisanal Italian manufacturer (closeup below: note the rough texture). This pasta has a fast cooking time, the package says 7-8 minutes. I just cooked it and at around 6 minutes it was al dente, meaning if I’m going to finish this with the sauce in a pan the way Italians do, I would fish the pasta out at around the 5 minute mark – a minute under al dente.

closeup

I just cooked some to taste, quite simply with butter, grated cheese and pepper. It was excellent. This is indeed terrific pasta. This corkscrew hollow shape should be great with many sauces, either tomato based and I think especially with a pesto sauce (green or red)

Trader Joe’s ORGANIC FUSILLI CORTI BUCATI PASTA. Imported From Italy. Organic Durum Semolina Wheat. $1.99. Try this if you see it, it’s really good. Me, I will buy a bunch for our pantry.

* Bronze dies make better pasta as they give pasta rough edges which makes for better sauce adherence.

RECIPE: I made a Tuna Pasta dish with this fusilli. It was excellent.

COLD TUNA PASTA too. (Pasta, One or two cans tuna, drained. Capers, Lemon, Olive Oil, A little mayo, chopped parsley.)