Trader Joe’s does cutesy things with their product names. If one wishes to wolf down microwaved lo mein before an eco-conference, one needs to look no further than the Trader Ming line. Or, say, if one has a date with that attractively pierced barrista from down the street and it’s hailing outside, simply turn to that Trader Giotto’s pizza that’s been lying in the freezer.
Now, I’m sure I don’t need to preach about failed product lines and subsequent names by bringing up soul food or badly drawn German cuisine clip art, or the oft-imitated, occasionally regurgitated Indian food. This particular entree is simply of the Trader Joe’s variety.I’ve never heard of a cuisine raise more controversy amongst friends than Freedom fries or the Bread Riots of 1725, but Indian food does it. Suggest it to friends over 60 or people who are virgins to the cuisine and they’ll immediately deny it, denounce it, and write it out of their will. Why is it so unapproachable? Trader Joe’s alternative to ordering off the menu presents a pretty mild, yet authentic set of dishes.
The channa masala came in a large portion, enough for two to easily share, and was chock-full of magical chickpeas that didn’t turn to mush in the microwave. They took up the bulk of the package and were surrounded by tasty, savory sauce with pieces of tomato and herbs abound. This was really flavorful, and I appreciated the texture of the chickpeas, as it was the majority of the dish.The chicken tikka masala actually came in a partitioned container with jasmine rice. The tikka took up about 3/4 of the package, but unfortunately came with only four chunks of chicken. This may have been adequate for one person, but I would have preferred more than four pieces, because it left quite a bit of sauce leftover. Luckily, that went to good usage. The rice, though moist and cooked well, was rather bland and we turned to flavoring it up with sour cream and extra sauce to improve it.
I liked the flavor of the tikka masala. That’s really what brought it from “meh-sala” to “masala,” in my opinion. The spices were prominently hot, giving just enough of a kick to make you want to grab a beverage, but not too much kick to overwhelm. The chicken was tender and the sauce adhered to it well.
Overall, these were quite sustaining for the two of us to share, and couldn’t have been easier to make. As sides, we crisped up some tortillas for instant naan, and mixed some sour cream and paprika into the rice. I highly recommend these as an easy meal when you don’t feel like cooking or eating out, as they’re cheaper and easier to prepare than the actual dish. I’m excited to try more of Trader Joe’s international entrees to see how they compare, both in price and in spice, to the authentic dishes.