An empty stomach, a moderate salad craving, and a new product sign led me to this discovery!
I've tried quite a few Trader Joe's salads, but I don't buy them too often. They're actually decently portioned, but that small box makes me think I'm not getting "enough" food. I feel like a Japanese person sometimes when I eat TJ's salad, with that "eat until 80% full" philosophy. You eat a seemingly small portion but end up surprisingly satisfied. Of course, A vehemently disagrees. He prays for his salad that it may fill his stomach.
They got this spot on with the product name - Vietnamese style salad. In other words, it's not claiming to be Vietnamese! That changes everything, because now I KNOW I'm expecting fusion cuisine, which I approach with an entirely different set of expectations. The result? A surprisingly pleasant party in the mouth.
Disclaimer: if you happen to be part of the population thinks cilantro tastes like soap, you will not like this salad. But for the rest, you might like it! Especially if you like "asian-inspired" salads. I found this fresh (that's the lime, mint, and cilantro), exotic (by American standards), full of complex and complimentary flavors and textures, and [decently] filling! Perfect for spring! Homegirl would have eaten this under a cherry blossom tree had I not been too
lazy tired to walk to the park. I'm not sure where TJ's salads are prepared, but it's definitely not on store premises. But this was so fresh and crunchy, it *could* have been tossed together in the TJ's backroom. I mean, this salad had actual sprigs of mint - stems and all, reminiscent of how Vietnamese restaurants serve entire sprigs of Thai basil with your pho. I really could care less for the cashews, but they contributed to the nice crunch along with the carrots, cucumber, and red cabbage. The rice vermicelli added some nice bulk, so you feel like you're eating more than some lettuce and 4 pieces of shrimp, which is about how many shrimps I counted in my salad. Nutritionally, it's pretty healthy, except for the sodium but that can't really be helped.
I must say they nailed it with the vinaigrette. If those spring rolls came with this dressing, I'd rate them higher. It was a tad spicy (serrano chili and sweet chili sauce) and very tangy (lime juice, rice vinegar, and FISH SAUCE. YES. FINALLY. FISH SAUCE. The wonderfully, smelly ingredient that makes southeast Asian cuisine taste southeast Asian!)-- pretty much everything I like in a salad dressing and hot sauce for that matter.
The salad was delicious enough that I didn't even mind the fact that it only came with 3, maybe 4 measly shrimps. Kind of stingy if you think about it, but I can't ask too much at $4.49 for one serving. Not terrible. Found my new favorite TJ's salad y'all.
TL;DR: Trader Joe's Shrimp Vermicelli Vietnamese Style Salad. Asian [fusion] done right! In salad form! Crunchy, fresh, tangy, and [wedding] diet friendly. 8 out of 10.
Perhaps I spoke too soon. VERY IMPORTANT EDIT. LOOK AT THIS UNEDITED PICTURE! Yes, people edit their blog photos to make the food look more enticing. But I purposely left this in its natural state.
Didya do a double take like I did? THIS AIN'T THE SAME SALAD Y'ALL. Clearly, I did a blind grab and toss into the basket without examining the product for defects! I thought I could rely on TJ's for consistent product quality but apparently not!
- A lot of little mini shrimps versus 3-4 normal-ish-sized shrimp. Meh. I can deal with that.
- Too much cabbage. Not enough romaine lettuce.
- Little to no lime, mint, or cilantro. Goodbye fresh spring taste.
- Undercooked vermicelli. Yuck.
- Unimpressive dressing. Sour and oily. Fish sauce not apparent. Spiciness nonexistent.
I'm feeling moderately gipped. Had I had THIS particular salad as my first salad, I would not have recommended this salad as highly. Definitely would have rated it lower, probably a 5.5 or a 6. This is not the same product at all. It lacks everything I raved about from the first salad, and the color looks off. Kinda like how you get sickly and pale-looking from hibernating all winter. This salad could use some pep in her step. I hope it was an intern or some newbie that made this salad, because it can't go on like this.
Of course, I'll have to buy this again to make sure this was some fluke. Not anytime soon though - I need some time to get over the disappointment. Pretty sure TJ's would have given me a refund had I taken it back to the store. But too late. #feedanursesavealife