VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY KIT (aka Yakisoba)


VEGETABLE AND SOBA NOODLES STIR FRY KIT (or Yakisoba!)

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

You’ll find this in the refrigerated vegetables / salads  section. This convenient $5 package is basically most of the makings of Japanese YAKISOBA minus a few ingredients that one could add to make that super tasty dish. So when I saw this at TJ’s in the veggies section I said to myself, “Great I’m making Yakisoba tonight”.

YAKI means grilled. SOBA means buckwheat (noodles). YAKISOBA is one of Japan’s most popular homey dishes, both eaten out and made at home. Or school. Japanese kids grow up on it.

Sure you could just make it As-Is and it will still make a decent Vegetable and Soba Noodle Stir Fry. But with a few additions its very easily made into a Japanese Yakisoba dish. The main thing missing would be some kind of protein. Plus some fresh ginger and garlic.

Protein: If you are vegetarian, you might add some BAKED TOFU, sliced up into strips and grilled with the veggies. Possibly also add some sliced mushrooms, either shiitake, crimini or white mushrooms, would be nice for more “umami”.

If you are not vegetarian, protein options are sliced or ground pork which is quite traditional (even thinly sliced pork belly). Chicken strips could work or even ground beef. Any meat you can stir fry with the veggies will be fine. I used sliced pork tenderloin from TJ that I first got a nice sear on both sides then set aside to add back at the end.

TIP: The noodles come cooked in plastic bags, and when you open the bags the soba noodles are all jangled together in a very firm doughy block, that you can’t do anything with yet. You must prep them ahead of the other cooking. Soften 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! 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.

YAKISOBA: In a non-stick pan, sauté some ginger and garlic with the Main (slicked pork, meat or tofu)  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. Green Dragon Hot Sauce if thats your style. Stir 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 with for authentic Japanese Yakisoba. Amazon sells Katsuobushi.  As well as BENISHOGA (Picked Red Ginger)

sobastirfry3

Advertisements

Trader Joe’s ZHOUG SAUCE (SPICY!!!!)


RAVE

Trader Joe’s ZHOUG SAUCE is a green, fresh, deliciously spicy Middle Eastern / Yemeni green sauce. When they describe it on the package as “very spicy” in this case TJ is not kidding! Repeat – this is “VERY SPICY” as in, will knock your socks off level, spicy.

Green and herbal from cilantro, spicy from jalapeno and chile, seasoned with garlic, cumin and cardamon, this stuff is simply the most bloody wonderful condiment. I’ve put it on just about everything you can think of…chicken, tofu, eggs, fritattas, pasta, fish…. you name it. You can’t go wrong with this on just about anything you put it on, it will make you smack your lips, oh yeah yum. I suspect it would be good on shoe leather.

You will probably use this in quite small amounts, as its so spicy a little goes a long way, especially right out of the box. Frankly this was even a bit too spicy for me, kind of a rare statement! So unless you are a total chile-head, capsaicin obsessed, death-head sauce freak, you might want to “tame” this sauce a tiny bit, as I did. I added some olive oil and lemon juice to cut down the heat ever so slightly. I also use it mixed into either Greek or regular plain yogurt. Yogurt and Zhoug is a fantastic combo and makes a wonderful sauce. Adjust the ratio of yogurt to zhoug till its perfect for your personal taste. I likethe Zhoug tamed a wee bit as I can use it more generously. As is out of the container just a few small dollops is enough to make your lips burn. Again, if you’re a chile-head, go for it.

ZHOUG SAUCE is in the refrigerated section, and comes in an 8 oz container. It costs $3 which is a steal, people. TRY THIS STUFF! This a Top-10 TJ product IMHO.

Here’s a DIY recipe I found if you want to try your hand at making ZHOUG yourself.

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/diy-trader-joes-zhoug-sauce_n_5b96758ce4b0511db3e480d0

SHISHITO PEPPERS


Shishito Peppers are a Japanese pepper variety, quite popular and common in Japan and  just getting a bit known in the U.S. finally. But that might change soon, as they’re quite delicious — and especially now that you can find them so easily in your local TJ’s Produce Section, instead of having to look for them at a specialized Japanese grocery.

Shishito peppers are even a new “it” food you will see in upscale and trendy restaurants these days.

RUSSIAN ROULETTE PEPPERS – NOT SPICY -vs- SPICY!! 

As a rule Shishito Peppers aren’t spicy. That is until you get a Spicy one! The general saying about them is: “1 in 10 will be spicy”.  When you get a spicy one (my favorites) I would say they’re a bit less spicy than a jalapeño in level of kick. Meaning, yes it will be pretty spicy. So be warned, if you’re feeding them to your kid and grandma. If you bite into one and its spicy and you don’t like spicy, just put it to the side and the next one will in all likelihood be mild.

The usual way to make Shishito peppers are grill them in a pan over medium fire with a pinch of oil (sesame oil would be great) until they blister or get a tiny bit of char on one side, then turn them to the other side and do the same till cooked.

Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and they’re ready to serve. They can be a great little side dish, so they will go great with most anything you might serve as the Main. In Japan they are famous as a drinks snack served to go with beer or sake. You can also use them as an ingredient in foods, just as you would put in some green pepper.

LINKS

https://www.foodandwine.com/vegetables/shisito-pepper-recipes#charred-shishito-peppers-garlic-herb-oil

SHISHITO / WIKI

TJ’s sells a bag of them for $2.29 so they’re pretty affordable to try out…

We really love them in our house, and you might too. Give them a shot.

IMG_0673

Trader Joe’s Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce


“Trader Joe’s Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce is a delicate blend of coconut milk, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, galangal, coriander seed, Thai lime peel, ginger, turmeric, cumin and basil”

I should start with the fact that I can make a decent Thai curry from scratch, having been taught by some Thai friends. In fact its pretty easy IF you use a pre-made canned curry paste (a Thai brand) and add in coconut milk. 

When I saw this jar of “Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce” which says “Made in Thailand” on the shelf at TJ’s I immediately had to try it and give this product a taste test. First, here’s a link to TJ’s Fearless Flyer post about the product so you can see what Trader Joe’s says about it.

TJ’s “Thai Simmer Sauce” is not bad – in fact I like it! However I do need to  warn you if open this up and expect as I did at first, expecting you are going to taste an authentic, powerful Thai-level SPICY Green Curry, you will be disappointed. Lets be honest, this classifies (to me) as barely spicy. This sauce fits into a mild baby-level Thai and is something that I could easily imagine some Thai Mom feeding to their two year old!

So that is why the say its a “delicate blend” – It is just that. A mildly seasoned coconut milk based green curry sauce with a small level of spiciness. Still, though mild in spiciness, this sauce is actually VERY TASTY and full of nice Thai flavors. It can really make a decent base for cooking a meal very quickly just by opening up the jar of this and adding some ingredients as the label says to do: “SAUTÉ ABOUT A HALF POUND OF YOUR FAVORITE PROTEIN. ADD AN EQUAL AMOUNT OF VEGETABLES AND SAUCE AND SIMMER”.

Now if you happen to have a can of some authentic Thai curry paste you could add a spoonful or two and make it into a more powerful curry. And if thats too much trouble just add a few tablespoons of Trader Joe’s GREEN DRAGON HOT SAUCE if you want to turn up the heat some.

Last night I used it to make a Thai Seafood Curry which was actually quite tasty. (“No-Recipe Recipe”: I sautéed some celery, carrots, onions, garlic and cubed potato for 10-15 minutes, then added a jar of this sauce and simmered for about 5-10 minutes till all was just tender, then added some shrimp and “krab” and simmered it for another 2 minutes, serving with some white rice. It was quite Yummy!)

You could use just about any protein: chicken, fish, beef, or tofu, plus a slew of veggies. Experiment! Pair the curry with rice or rice noodles. A 12 oz. jar is $1.99. “INGREDIENTS – Coconut milk, water, green curry paste, sugar, rice bran oil, food starch, green chili, salt. Product of Thailand.” This is worth a try if you like Thai flavor, and is a good thing to have in the cupboard for whenever you get in that mood.

TIP: The label says “add a 1/2 pound” of your main ingredient. So figure this jar is for about 2 servings? So for 4 people, I would double everything: a pound (or more) of the main ingredient, same of veggies, and 2 jars of sauce.

RAVE

TJ’s “South African Smoke” Seasoning Spice Blend


Spices – Not something that may first come to mind when you think “Trader Joe’s” stuff but actually they have shelves and shelves of spices. They are well priced, if you compare them to a regular supermarket, and always seem fresh to me.

I seem to especially like some of their spice “seasoning blends’  that are pre-mixed blends of whole spices. They are sold right in their own cleverly made grinder, which by the way are very practical and easy to use (even easy to re-use, they have screw tops). As you may know, grinding a spice just prior to using it is the way to get a spice’s optimal flavor.

I am now particularly fond of this Spice Blend called “South African Smoke” seasoning blend:

20130619-230820.jpg

The ingredients are listed as “smoked paprika (which are large flakes), sea salt, garlic, basil” Well though it doesn’t sound so exotic on paper, when you grind this onto almost any food, you get a heavenly smoky aroma. I couldn’t even begin to list all the foods this is good on, because it is so tasty it might make even a slice of wet cardboard taste good! But if you try it on almost any food (meat, chicken, tofu, veggies, rice, potatoes, pasta…. you name it)… then you will agree with me — This stuff is the bomb.

A jar costs about $2.29. I even added some coriander and fennel seeds into the jar, which I thought made it even better. So you could experiment a little too with these jars of spices, added some of your own spices too.

Here’s what “Trader Joe’s themselves had to say about this on their site:

Our travels take us to some of the world’s most interesting regions, where we have the opportunity to taste foods we may never have encountered on our home turf. (Full disclosure: this is the royal we, as it refers to our buyers and not, alas, to certain writers of food-related information.) Among our recent “discoveries” is Trader Joe’s South African Smoke seasoning blend, one of the more unique items we’ve come across.

South African Smoke begins with African-grown paprika that is slow-smoked for 48 hours over a sustainable African hardwood called Acacia Saligna, commonly used as barbecue coals. This process enriches the paprika with a smoky, roasted flavor that evokes the South African braai, or barbecue. The smoked paprika is blended with sea salt, garlic and basil and packaged in a grinder, giving you fresh-ground flavor in every twist. Use it as a rub for meats or veggies prior to cooking, or keep it on the table in place of everyday salt & pepper. You’ll find this spice blend only at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s, where we’re selling each 1.76 ounce grinder for $2.29.

My only complaint about this stuff is it goes too fast in my house!

THIS PRODUCT GETS A RAVE!

 

UPDATE SUMMER 2014 –

NO NO NO !!! NOT ON SHELF. DID TRADER JOE’S DISCONTINUE!?!

ANOTHER GREAT PRODUCT,  GONE !? RANT!

 

ANOTHER UPDATE : SUMMER 2015 …ITS BACK ON THE SHELF AT MY TJ’S !!! GRAB IT WHILE YOU CAN ?! ONE READER REPORTS ITS SEASONAL FOR SUMMER ONLY (grilling)

SO STOCK UP IF YOU SEE IT.

Trader Joe’s Virgin Coconut Oil


So I’ve been hearing about Coconut Oil, once considered highly unhealthy, being re-evaluated from a health standpoint.

Coconut Oil has been getting a fair amount of buzz this past year. I had read an interesting piece in the NY Times by Melissa Clark about cooking with it.

I saw this jar of Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil in the NEW PRODUCTS shelf at my Trader Joe’s. I thought, I should see what all this is about and made a mental note to pick up a bottle and try it.

Its an interesting product as it has uses both ‘Culinary’ and ‘Health & Beauty’ Or as I think of it – its skin cream you can eat! Or Cooking Oil you can use as Hair Dressing. No really, its good for all these things. In fact, it has so many uses!

English: Coconut oil in solid state.

English: Coconut oil in solid state. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I opened the bottle and sniffed it, it was just amazing…WOW! It has an intense smell of COCONUT. I mean you smell it and your mind instantly thinks ‘Tropical Beach’. Just smells yummy and wonderful. I heard it was great in cooking especially good for sauteeing vegetables, as Melissa Clark wrote about. So I peeled and sliced up some Carrots (TJ Organic Carrots) and tossed them in a pan with about a tablespoon of the Coconut Oil. Again, an amazing smell wafted through the kitchen. Tossed in the sliced carrots and let them sauté for about 10 minutes or so. After the carrots were slightly browned I tasted one. It had a wonderful under-note of (yes) Coconut. The sauteed carrots tasted delicious, and I could imagine many vegetables benefitting from being cooked in coconut oil. Melissa Clark mentions roasted sweet potatoes – that sounds great – and she has a number of interesting recipes listed in her piece, which you can try.

Coconut Oil when it’s kept at a cool temperature appears white and in a solid state. If it warms up it, will become clear and liquid.

Traditional bullock-powered coconut oil mill. ...

Traditional bullock-powered coconut oil mill. Dried coconuts are crushed and oil is squeezed out. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Additionally of course this is good for other things, like putting on your hair too. And it is wonderful to rub on dry skin as a moisurizer. I even read its a natural antiperspirant (you put a drop or two under your arms).

What a useful product. The question may be Where to keep the jar?! In the Bathroom or the Kitchen?!!

A jar costs $5.99 for 16 ounces. Check it out. I’m just beginning to experiment with using it. And yes, it truly makes your hair beautiful and smell wonderful too.

UPDATE: (Spring 2019) They lowered the price. It’s now $4.99 !

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)

Previous Older Entries