January 22, 2010
Trader Joe's Chicken-less Strips
First of all, these got put in the freezer, even though the box says keep refrigerated. This made them stick together like nobody's business, but I doubt it had any effect on the eating experience. My plan for these was a stir-fry, so I threw the frozen block of strips into a pan with some rice bran oil (very neutral flavor, and a high smoke point - check this out if you get a chance) and tried to get them to unstick from each other. This took a while. Finally, they were all separated. They looked great. I'd say they looked just like chicken.
While I waited for them to thaw out, I read some of the copy on the box. Wow - whoever wrote that stuff probably had never eaten chicken, and was definitely in love with these things. A few memorable quotes: "And they're tasty. Oh, they are," "they are as pleasing to the palate as their partial namesake," "Everything about these strips stirs up excitement." I knew right away that these strips could never live up to the hype the box was trying to whip up. I charged ahead anyway.
So, my rice was finally done cooking, my chicken-less strips were all nice and warm, the frozen asparagus stir-fry veggie mix was all toasty as well, and the sweet and sour sauce left over from a different day was mixed in, and I was ready to try these super-exciting chicken-less strips from Trader Joe's. I dug in, and was immediately slapped in the face with a truly horrifying flavor. I don't really know how to describe it. The sauce couldn't disguise it - the vegetables couldn't mask it - the rice couldn't even mellow it out. It was the flavor of disappointment.
I made myself eat a second piece, just to see if it was something I could get used to, but the second piece was even worse. Then I realized that I hadn't gotten a good read on the texture of it, so I had to put a third piece into my mouth just to chew it, trying not to let it touch my tongue (failed!) and then swallowing it as fast as I could, washing it down with some homemade hard cider. This product is gross. There's just no way around it. Maybe if I hadn't eaten meat in at least a decade and had forgotten what chicken was supposed to taste like, I could accept this. But that's not on my agenda. So there you go - it looked great, the texture actually was fairly chicken-y, but the flavor… oh, the flavor!
Texture - actually not too bad - had a nice chewiness to it
Flavor - so terrible
Maybe some day I'll try these again with a more aggressively flavored sauce - like a BBQ sauce, or some taco seasoning, but don't hold your breath.
Final grade for this attempt: D-