I am currently a poor part-time student with a part-time job. I am soon to be a poor full-time grad student with no job. Anything that keeps me from spending extra money — be it on junk that I don’t need, junk that doesn’t work, or takeout (a very serious personal weakness) — is both necessary and appreciated. Since I am absolutely addicted to reading others’ reviews of items I am thinking of buying, I figured that I would put my own two cents in here to benefit you, dear reader. Please find below the first in a series of occasional reviews of things that I purchased and tried. Here’s to trying to assuage our #poormillennialproblems.
My first thought upon removing the cooked Trader Joe’s Cha Siu Bao from my steamer basket was that on the outside these *looked* roughly as good as the ones from my favorite Chinese dumpling provider. Upon taking a bite, I found these to be fluffy, warm, and very satisfying. The pork filling is sweet (and tasty) but less acidic/spicy than my favorite delivery place. Nonetheless, I WILL TAKE IT. The bao are very pillowy when you bite into them and the dumpling dough has a very pleasant sweetness to it. The filling is a slightly grayer color than my usual delivery dumplings but that is not necessarily a flaw – probably just a function of different seasoning. I found the pork to have a nice, meaty flavor that smells slightly more peppery than it tastes. Three or four of these are actually a really satisfying meal for one person.
To accompany these, I made a very serviceable dipping sauce from soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, and honey that I found in my cabinets. SUPER TASTY. The next time I make it, I will figure out the approximate measurements and post a recipe.
Ease of prep: Easy!
If you’re steaming these, they are SUPER easy. Like boiling water easy. And it takes under 10 minutes, entirely unattended. I also appreciate the parchment squares on the bottom of each dumpling. When I steam dumplings, I usually have to cut myself a parchment liner for the steamer basket so that all my dumplings are not destroyed when I remove them. The attached parchment obviated the need for this.
I tried microwaving the bao per the directions on the package and it. Was. A Disaster. I heated the dumplings for 1 minute, covered with a damp paper towel – this was 15 seconds longer than the package directions instructed. Dear reader, the dumpling filling was still frozen when I removed them from the microwave. (To those wondering: I actually have a very high-powered microwave, so this was surprising.) I microwaved the bao for another minute (still covered with a damp paper towel) and had okay results. The microwave method resulted in a tougher, less-pillowy outer dumpling skin. I would still recommend steaming (on the stove) if you can.
These are $2.99 for 4 at my local Trader Joe’s. This is the price of one bao at my local favorite Chinese place. And I did not have to wait for or tip a delivery driver.
Comparable to delivery, which is way better than expected.
There are no really good bao places in my current neighborhood (I get my favorite delivery bao when I’m at work), so the discovery that I can buy such a solid substitute at Trader Joe’s is a game changer. I plan to purchase these and keep them stocked in my freezer for as long as Trader Joe’s chooses to sell them. They are a solid fast + tasty option on nights that I would otherwise opt for takeout.
And, because taking it from (just) me is always a questionable way to live your life, here are some other thoughts on Trader Joe’s Cha Siu Bao from around the internet:
The Fearless Flyer
Have you tried these? What did you think? Slash do you have any other awesome takeout-replacement foods? Let me know in the comments!