Trader Joe’s Tempura Chicken. This is probably my last non holiday related food item for 2012. Soon it will be time for Turkey and stuffing! Anyway, I’m a nut for all things Asian from Trader Joe’s there are some hits and a lot of misses. The biggest in my mind is the Mandarin Orange Chicken which is nothing more than fried chicken with a sweet and hot sauce poured on top of it. I’ve had authentic Mandarin Orange Chicken from one of the best Chinese restaurants in the Seattle area and it’s like night and day, but I digress…
We are hear to talk about the Trader Joe San Tempura Chicken with a Sweet and Sour sauce. Looking at the bag and knowing Trader Joe’s track record with these frozen Chinese meals in a bag dishes and I am a little skeptical, but this is one of those products that has been in the freezer at Trader Joe’s for years and thought, why not try it and stop avoiding it! I’m glad I tried it, but not because it’s any good or anything like that. I finally got to cross that one off my list.
I have pretty low expectations on this dish. I eat a fair amount of Japanese food as there is a pretty large Japanese population here in the Seattle area. I love sushi and we do get tempura occasionally. Like I said with the Mandarin Orange Chicken, this is basically hunks of white chicken meat breaded and then you bake/stir fry and then pour a sauce over it. Simple is that! Unfortunately, this is not what traditional Japanese Tempura should look like at all. The breading on this is pretty thick and should have a nice snappy crispiness to it. Not a doughy, spongy like texture to the breading on the outside. Then the sauce should not be this sweet/sour sauce of likes I’ve never seen in a Japanese restaurant.
The way that you prepare this is to put it in the oven or the microwave, but seeing how the microwave usually renders the breading on the doughy side, I opted for the oven method. While the chicken is baking, get the sauce packet and warm it up on the counter top or between your hands until it’s thawed out. When the chicken comes out of the oven, but it in a bowl and pour the sauce over the chicken.
OK, how should I rate this dish??? On one hand, this not traditional Japanese tempura. The batter on that should be light and airy and served with a soy sauce based dipping sauce. The batter on the outside should be light and crispy and not doughy, but I don’t thin that most people that are buying this dish care one way or another if it’s a traditional tempura dish or not. It’s just not for me because I really don’t want to eat doughy balls of breaded chicken for dinner. The “tempura” is much softer and less weighty than the Mandarin Orange Chicken, that’s for sure. The meat is more recognizable as hunks of white meat chicken. I suppose in a former life I would’ve eaten this like crazy when I was younger and not as picky as I am now. I think Trader Joe’s biggest mistake was calling it “Tempura” it should really just be called Sweet and Sour chicken and just be done with it. The moniker “tempura” is a little misleading, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy this dish. Which I don’t know if I would sit down and eat it straight up like it is. I would serve it for a party with toothpicks and a couple of different dipping sauces.
Alright, I’m not sure I’ll ever buy it again. It’s just not my cup of tea, but many of you out there will probably enjoy it more than me. But this is my blog… and I am going to rate the Trader Joe’s Tempura Chicken 7 Bells.