Trader Joe’s Mini Chicken Tacos

Because I’ve focused mainly on specialty food and restaurant reviews, I’m always getting asshatted comments on my fast food posts that start with “snob” and end with “mother’s basement.” The truth is, they’re very different ends of the same tasty spectrum. And I can honestly say that I enjoy them both equally. The middle end of that spectrum is a dead zone, though. It’s the abandoned frozen foods and mediocre snacks that I’m also compelled to write about, though with less than satisfactory results.

Miss Love and I are not teenagers, nor are we men, so it’s unlikely for us to keep around appetizer and snack foods to graze on throughout the day. When I’m at my parents’ place, though, there’s always something fun around to try that we wouldn’t normally purchase back home. We found these mini chicken tacos from Trader Joe’s and thought they’d be tasty enough.

For all the ease of Trader Joe’s products, these are atypically annoying and labor-intensive to make. There are three different ways to make these, though the one with the coveted “best results” award is the deep-fry method. Four tacos is 190 calories. The ingredient list is roughly the length of a Tolstoy novel and the tacos were soft and salty-smelling out of the box. Kind of a far cry from my shredded chicken and tomatillo salsa tacos, but whatevs. The instructions said to fry these at 350 degrees for 1-2 minutes, but after 3 minutes, the tortillas were still soft and squishy. These finished cooking after 8 minutes. I flipped them once and drained them.

These are awkward with a side of awkward turtle to prepare. Sr. Jose recommends splitting these open and cramming them with toppings, which strikes me as counterproductive. They’re also molten hot and spewing oil all over the place after being drained in an oak’s worth of paper towels. Why bother going through the process of deep-frying what basically amounts to tortilla chips and chicken paste if you’re just going to put condiments all over it? It feels like a waste of calories and time. Unfortunately, the technique makes sense. These are pretty flavorless. Predominantly oil and corn, with a half teaspoon of uniformly textured, salty and cumin-heavy filling. No tomatillo tang. No cheesy goo. Just salt and oil.
So I split them and put in some sour cream and habanero gold jelly, one of my absolute favorite condiments. It’s a habanero and apricot spread that I love to use with savory foods. And lo and behold, the tacos tasted like sour cream and pepper jelly. Surprise surprise. If you’re looking for a greasy vehicle for condiments and want to feel like you’re doing more than just slapping nachos in the microwave, maybe these are right for you. As for me, I can eat better things with more flavor. These just missed the mark.

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