I'm a big fan of the condiment section at TJ's, not because everything is ridiculously good but you can really find some hidden gems and get a good bang for your buck. ;D
I cannot vouch for all of the spices and condiments - like salt, soy sauce, sriracha (no I haven't tried TJ's brand sriracha) I would buy elsewhere. However, because most of the spices have the same $1.99 flat price, you can get decent deals on things like curry powder, turmeric, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon sticks, and ground ginger.
Ginger and umami paste in a tube debuted at TJ's maybe a few months ago. I haven't been able to review them until now because it has been rather difficult to figure how what to do with umami paste. In hindsight, it was a completely impulsive buy. For the blog of course.
Tomato puree, red wine vinegar, anchovy paste, mushroom powder - so a bit of fermentedness, saltiness, and savory goodness to produce that umami taste. What is umami? It's that 5th taste, the savory richness that I need in my food, but not something that I readily identify in my food. Y'all know around here, when I eat a nice snack, I say to myself, "salty, a little sour, yum." But I don't really say "ooo umami. nice."
More importantly, if I eat umami foods all the time, why do I need umami in paste form? I don't. But since I have a tube of it, I gotta figure what to do with it. Especially since normal umami paste retails anywhere from $10-$20 per tube. $1.99 here is a ridiculous deal.
I tried it in pasta and didn't detect a noticeable difference, probably because that pasta contained both parmesan and mushrooms that are already rich with umami flavors. I never thought to put it in my soup broths, because if I'm going to make real soup, I try to make it properly. Did not think about the umami paste until I tried making my version of mason jar ramen, which in case you didn't know is like the coolest, gentrified, and healthified version of cup noodles.
Sadly, I discovered that I did not actually have any miso paste on hand. Homegirl cannot be bothered to leave the house in these cold temps for one measly ingredient. So I tried a squirt of umami paste, a squirt of ginger paste, and some chicken broth paste. Add hot water. Was not salty enough. Added a spoon of soy sauce. Still tasted like...really bad Americanized soup broth. Added a spoonful of gochujang. And voila! It tasted like a passable soup broth. I wouldn't pay for this broth at a ramen shop; in fact, I would stay away from any ramen shop that tried to serve this. But it's not bad for something thrown together in a pinch.
Time to clean out my fridge - great way to use up leftover chicken and veg. Top it off with some noodles, leftover chopped cilantro, and sesame.
Not bad. Decently filling.
As for the ginger paste, I can dream up a few more uses. It smells legit. I think it's usable in just about any recipe that uses grated or finely minced ginger. I'll probably use it to make Japanese-style miso-ginger salad dressings. **Edit: The ginger paste has made making this dressing that much easier! Substitute it for grated ginger. I used rice wine vinegar instead of lemon and mixed it up in a mason jar. Magic!
Repurchase verdict? Maybe the ginger paste. Until I figure out more ways to use this umami, I'd probably hold off. Do share if you have any handy tips or ideas of how to use umami paste!
TL;DR: Trader Joe's Umami Paste. Umami in a tube. Still don't know what to do with it. 6 out of 10.
TL;DR: Trader Joe's Ginger Paste. Convenient ginger flavor! 7 out of 10.