Many a good salad have I reviewed from Trader Joe’s, but always am I on the prowl for more – ever hunting, never satisfied. So it was that, in my endless roaming, I cam across Trader Joe’s Honey Glazed Miso Salmon salad – an Asian-style salad with pretensions to greatness, but which settles merely for good.
Before we dig into this salad, it’s important to note which version of Trader Joe’s Honey Glazed Miso Salmon on Salad Greens I’m talking about. Running contrary to the feeling of friendliness and openness that Trader Joe’s cultivates is their shadowy, behind the scenes operations. The goings-on of Trader Joe’s corporate offices are famously private – cloaked from all public scrutiny due to orders straight from the owners, Germany’s ultra-private Albrecht family.
Despite the rather sinister tone all this evokes, Trader Joe’s seems to be a mostly a force for good – at least in the supermarket world. One way that it continually surprises me, however, is through the continual reformulations that TJ’s is carrying out invisibly, beneath our very noses. Last month I found myself staring rather blankly at my old friend Turkey Bacon, not sure who he was anymore. The packaging was the same, the product copy was the same, but these were undeniably different strips of meat – leaner and with a different, less tasty, flavor profile. Can I prove that this was a reformulation? No, I have no proof, nothing beyond my own vanishingly subjective experiences, and Trader Joe’s won’t comment. Is this how the hegemony convinces us that our protestations are merely symptoms of madness? By replacing our bacon? Time will tell, I’m sure.
Rather more noticeably is the face lift that the miso salmon salad in question went through. A previous product of the exact same name but of totally different formulation used to sit on Trader Joe’s shelves. This previous iteration, in addition to having different packaging, was served over lo mein noodles and had an inferior salmon. The version I’m reviewing today has no noodles and a better cut of fish – overall a change for the better.
There’s a lot to love in this salad actually – salmon, first of all, is a wonderful salad accompaniment. Not only is it flavorful and healthy, but it flakes easily under the fork, a highly desirable quality for a fork-only food. That said, salmon can be a difficult fish to do right – doubly so when you’re packing it cold into a refrigerated salad. Trader Joe’s does a reasonable job delivering the salmon here. It’s a generous hunk of fish, and clearly some love went into the cooking process, in particular the miso-honey glaze. The miso honey glaze is nearly as good as it sounds, a sweet and tangy drizzle of flavor that gives your taste buds a pleasant zing. That said, the salmon itself is somewhat on the bland side, possibly over boiled. In any case, it’s the glaze you’ll notice, and the salmon passes by more or less as wallpaper.
The rest of the salad delivers a similarly satisfactory experience. “Matchstick” vegetables simply means that everything has been julienned into long veggies strips, strips that include such elegant additions as daikon (a mild Japanese radish) among the carrots and broccoli. The slivered almonds are also a nice touch, giving a bit of toothsome crunch to the proceedings.
The biggest problem, for me, was the salad dressing. The honey ginger vinaigrette included with the salad wasn’t bad – but I found it too oily, and tending toward bland where it should have been zingy. Not a death stroke, certainly, but a problem in that it’s hard to find a good dressing to pair with the honey-miso salmon. Apart from this one little misstep, this salad was a welcome change of pace to the chicken dominated salad fare that makes up most of Trader Joe’s other selections.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, but bring your own dressing.
Would I Buy It Again: Yes, and I might try TJ’s Asian Sesame Seed Dressing with it next time.
Final Synopsis: A good, Asian salad with average salmon on it.
The statement “I love jerky” is pointless and trivial. Of course you love jerky, we all do. In addition to jerky, many people also love smoked salmon. But these are two very different foods, and in my life thus far, as wild and adventurous as it has been, I have never been tempted to combine the two. Someone was however, and of course that person was an employee of Trader Joe’s. God bless those crazy mad men.
I’m sure that you, like myself, have encountered jerky in many forms beyond the simple “beef” of yore. Turkey jerky, elk jerky, emu jerky, gator jerky, even alien jerky (if the market shills in Barstow, CA are to be trusted at any rate) – all seem to taste, in the end, basically the same. That’s the miracle of jerky, you get some meat, jerk the hell out of it, dehydrate (or smoke) ‘til dried, slap it in some burgundy-colored bag and mark it up 500%. Bam, jerky. The tang of the spices is what you’re paying for, the meat itself never seems to make that much of a difference. But terrestrial animals are one thing – what about fish? They are, for one, famously fishy tasting. There is something of the river or ocean inherent in the meat of the fish that is not easy to simply jerk and dry away. Or is it?
There are a couple things that immediately stand out about Trader Joe’s Wild Salmon Jerky. One is the texting cowboy riding the giant fish (miniature cowboy riding regular sized fish?) which is fine, whatever. Considerably more interesting are the ingredients that are going into our wild salmon snack – a brine of brown sugar, caramelized sugar, molasses, maple syrup and a touch of salt. Sounds a little sweet, doesn’t it? “But” you might be thinking, “Using salmon for jerky is novel enough – surely they aren’t making sweet salmon jerky.”
Hold onto your pants, because they damn well are.
Trader Joe’s Wild Salmon Jerky is, hands down, the sweetest, most sugary jerky I’ve ever had. Your fingers come away tacky with molasses from each bite, that’s what we’re talking about here. And why not? If you can have BBQ jerky and Teriyaki jerky and “X-box presents: Call of Duty 4: X-trm Habenero” Jerky, why not a fish jerky reminiscent of pancakes?
Honestly, I like this stuff. I like its moxy. I like that TJ’s doesn’t give a flying fig about what everyone else is doing, they’re going to put sugar on salmon and call it jerky. Now, the flavor is not my favorite, but I’ve also never been a fan of teriyaki jerky and plenty of people love that. There’s nothing wrong with the taste – it’s intriguing and new – it’s just not my taste.
That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out a couple of points.
One, there is a strong odor at play here, and not an entirely pleasant one. Open the bag and you’re hit with the combined smell of dried fish and maple syrup – try not to think about cat treats, it does taste better than that.
Two, the pieces are thick and hard. The texture is very different from what you get with long, thin pieces of beef jerky. The salmon jerky is much chunkier, and the toughness of the pieces don’t have the pleasing give to the bite that other jerky does, it’s much more work to chew one of these guys up.
Would I Recommend It: Certainly, if you’re a sweet jerky lover – not that I’ve ever met any of those.
Would I Buy it Again: I’ll stick to my beef, turkey, deer, bison and ostrich jerkies, thanks.
Final Synopsis: An experience that’s more novel than pleasant, but just might tickle the pallet of a sweet jerky lover.