I love Asian food. I love American food. We are blessed with a large Asian food base here in the Seattle area. Authentic Chinese restaurants dot the landscape here and I can get high-quality, authentic regional Chinese food just about every day of the week.
When I was growing up, I lived near Baltimore. I know it’s not Philadelphia, but we went there enough times during the first 30 years of my life that I know what a real Philly Cheesesteak tastes like. I love the fusion of cuisines when they are done right. A great example of this was the California Pizza Kitchen and their Kung Pao pizza. I thought that was done really well. But then I’ve had some truly awful things like Korean Tacos that made me say, WTF was that?
I saw this in the freezer section the other day and thought, Trader Joe’s you crazy store. Look what gone and did.
Bao buns are traditional steamed buns, usually with a pork filling but I’ve seen everything from beef, chicken, shrimp, and even chocolate. They should be light and fluffy with a good mouthful of meat in the middle. The classic way to prepare these is in a bamboo steamer of a pot of boiling water and serving them piping hot.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a bamboo steamer and I couldn’t find my metal steaming basket so I opted for the microwave directions. There are 4 medium sized Bao in the box. You need to take them out of the plastic and put them on a microwave-safe dish and microwave them for 45 seconds if just doing one, add 15 more seconds per Bao. I did the whole thing in 90 seconds. They came out piping hot. Be careful biting into them and give them a minute or two to cool off. Cutting them in half speeds up the cooling process.
What did I think? Well, the bao was well-formed and fluffy, no problem with that. I actually like the flavors that the Philly cheesesteak brought to the party. But as you can see from the pictures, it was a meager amount of filling. It just left me wondering “Where’s the beef?” to quote an old commercial. More importantly, I could barely taste the cheese and hardly saw any of the other components of the cheesesteak which are onions and green peppers.
While I appreciate what Trader Joe’s was trying to do here, it just fell a little flat. I wanted more filling and more of the flavors that I associate with Philly cheesesteaks. I’d give Trader Joe’s a 10 on imagination and about a 5 on execution. It was just OK and I was hoping for more Wow.
At the end of the day, I will give Trader Joe’s Philly Cheesesteak Bao only 6 Bells!
unbleached enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, seasoned shredded beef (beef, water, salt, sodium phosphate, natural flavorings, cane sugar), pasteurized process American cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, water, salt, sodium citrate, color added [paprika extract, turmeric extract], microbial enzyme), onion, cane sugar, soy protein concentrate, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, soybean oil, sunflower oil, onion powder, yeast, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, cornstarch, sodium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate), sea salt, garlic powder, caramel color, black pepper.