I can't cook, but I sure can Nuke!

Trader Joe’s Chicken Breast Medallions with Coconut Red Curry Sauce $4.99

Trader Joe’s Chicken Breast Medallions with Coconut Red Curry Sauce

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An outstanding Thai curry from Trader Joe’s that unfortunately suffers from odd packaging and cooking requirements.

DSCF0094_768x1024Okay, admit it – we are at best impatient and at worst lazy. C’mon, it’s why we use a microwave! Why else are you standing in Trader Joe’s right now, looking up information about a frozen meal? Which is why this particular dish is so infuriating – it’s delicious, but it’s frustrating to prepare.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m a huge fan of curry, and have a difficult time find restaurant-quality curry for the ‘wave. Trader Joe’s Chicken Breast Medallions with Coconut Red Curry Sauce, I’m happy to say, rises to the challenge. It’s not too thick or thin, has a nice spicy kick without being unbearable, has plenty of chicken, and luckily doesn’t have too much of the soapy taste that galangal adds. It’s quite perfectly balanced, and I didn’t even miss the pineapple that I normally have in my curry. To be honest, I really only have one gripe, and that’s that it doesn’t come with rice – a somewhat surprising oversight.

Now here’s the problem. Maybe I miss the rice because I expected this to be a microwave meal, intended for one or maybe two people. Looking at the package, it certainly looks that way – it’s made up of a black plastic dish with a cardboard outer wrapping, much like any other frozen dinner. But according to the nutrition info, the stated number of servings is 4, not 2. Now let’s be honest – there’s no way 1/4 of this (4oz) is going to be enough of a meal by itself for anyone that shops Trader Joe’s. And I must bashfully admit that I ate the whole thing, by myself, in one sitting. Ya I know, time for the treadmill.

So because I was expecting a single meal, the first problem was that I couldn’t get the darn thing open! I realize that sounds ridiculous, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t slide the tray out of the cardboard, even though it’s clearly designed to do just that. The reason was that at one end the cardboard is literally glued to the tray. Huh? So you have to tear the cardboard off, but then you also have to remove the glob of glue that will still be attached to the tray. And then when I did get it open, I unfortunately had it facing down (because I was getting the glue off the bottom), and the 1lb frozen packet of curry fell out and smashed my finger – ouch.

DSCF0099_768x1024After my recovery :), the next challenge was figuring out how to cook it. First the instructions say to place the pouch in a microwave-safe container. But get this – the container that comes with it says right on it, “Microwave reheat only.” In other words, you can’t cook it in the tray that it came with!!! Ironically it also says on it that it’s “Top rack dishwasher safe.” Go figure – I’d expect an hour in the dishwasher would be harder on it that a few minutes in the ‘wave, but I digress.

The second problem is that it says to pierce the top of the pouch 6 or 7 times. As I came to find out later, what I thought was the top was actually one end of the pouch. It’s not obvious while it’s in the frozen state what you actually need to pierce, and as it thawed, my piercings became little fountains of curry all over my microwave. Lovely. So after a couple of minutes I stopped the cooking, rearranged it so that my piercings were “up,” and got ready to cook it some more.

And then the final problem showed up – while the curry sauce was getting nice and hot, there was a ball of completely frozen meat in the middle of the pouch. I can’t see any way that it would have been cooked all the way through in the 3.5 minutes of recommended cooking time, even with the additional 3 minutes of rest time it suggested. You have to break it up, and since that’s hard to do while it’s in the pouch, I ended up opening the pouch and just pouring the contents into my bowl (since it’s going to end up there anyway, I might as well take the plastic out of the picture). That allowed me to stir it & break it up as it cooked some more, although it ended up taking a lot of intervention and time to prepare.

DSCF0095_1024x768Nutritionally, coconut-based curries are very high in fat, and saturated fat especially. So you really would have to eat just one of their serving sizes to keep those in check, but in my case I had 600 calories and 88% of my daily saturated fat – ugh. Sodium is also fairly high (27%/serving, 108% per package!), but the rest isn’t too bad. And as far as I can tell, the ingredients are all natural & relatively wholesome.

I’m willing to admit that I’m impatient and/or lazy, but this was a LOT more mess and effort than I’m used to. And then I tasted it and didn’t care. Awesome stuff, and worth the effort. 🙂 At the end of it all, the reward was worth the work, and I will definitely buy (and recommend) this again. But were it not for the frustrations, this one would definitely have gotten an Editor’s Choice award.

Calories per container: 600 (Caloric Density: 1.34)

EDIT: As others have pointed out, I should never have put this in the freezer, even though I got it from the frozen section. So if you buy it, please do not duplicate my mistake, and put it in the fridge instead. It still has much of the hassle factor, but it’s worth it. 🙂

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8 Comments

  1. My wife and I tried this yesterday by using the boiling method. I then use the boiling water to prepare the rice noodles to go with it. Our favorite food is Thai because of the curries and coconut milk. My wife and I were amazed how good this was it rivaled anything we have ordered at Thai restaurants.

  2. Your first problem is that you had it frozen! It comes in the refrigerated section and clearly says keep refrigerated.

    I microwaved it in the pouch and it came out perfect.

    • I bought some last week and it was in the frozen section at my trader joes.

      I laughed as I read your post because I had pretty much the exact same experience – so frustrating! I do agree it is pretty good, however it had too much fish sauce or whatever caused the fishy smell. I love Thai food, but I have a quick gag reflex when it comes to the smell/taste of seafood. I almost couldn’t eat it. But I’m glad I did because it does taste good. I just couldn’t stand to smell it as I ate it.

    • I had mine frozen too. I simply defrosted it in the micro. After having g NO problem getting it out of it’s cardboard sleeve. Then made my slits in a, clearly easy to see, top side of the bag. Placed it in a bowl and heated it. I opened the pouch, cut up the meat and threw it back in the micro for just another minute. I also had bought some Trader Joe’s microwaveable Jasmine rice, since it’s clear on the picture that there is no rice with it and there is no rice listed in the ingredients. I heated that up, put it in the bowl and yielded about 4 servings. It was delish and whoever wrote this post doesn’t seem to be
      all that bright. TJ’s should ask them not to write reviews for them.

      • I have a feeling some versions of this product are packaged differently than others – when I had it again, it did not have the glue on the bottom. Or maybe I’m just not too bright. 🙂

  3. Your problem is that you had it frozen! It comes in the refrigerated section and even in your picture it shows to keep it refrigerated. I microwaved it in the pouch and it turned out great.

  4. yupp. i’ve eaten this many times. very delicious. it actually does serve 4 people when you eat it with rice. and it’s definitely not supposed to be frozen before you cook it. packaging does -not- say “keep frozen.” so keep it in the refrigerator, not the freezer, and it’ll be easier for ya.

    i do think the boiling method over the stove is more effective and tasty but microwaving is decent enough when short on time.

  5. oops. forgot to choose a rating before i submitted haha

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