Trader Joe's Asian-Style Ground Chicken

The first Food Network shows I ever watched were Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals and Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade. Both shows, especially the latter, honed in on this idea that you can put together a homecooked meal in a short amount of time that tastes good (at least it could look good on TV?) while utilizing premade shortcuts. Which is pretty much how many meals worked in my house. Instant mashed potatoes anyone? I can't say I love those shows anymore and I can't say that the idea of a slow-cooked mishmash of canned goods sounds particularly appealing, but I'll admit there is a time and a place for shortcuts. Not everyone has the energy or luxury of being able to make things from scratch, so to each his own. In my mind, part of Trader Joe's appeal is the fact that they offer a bunch of easy-to-use items that can be transformed into delicious semi-homecooked meals. No they don't pay me to say that - I wish. :P 

1) My baseline bias - I can season my own ground meat with spices and seasonings from my own pantry better than any premade grocery store stuff. Except for maybe Korean barbecue meat. Thank you H-Mart and Bibigo. :D

2) There's a lot more you can do with ground meat besides what has been suggested here. The suggested lettuce wrap meat, stir fry, and burger/meatball options reflect the current state of the New American diet. As an Asian-American, I immediately thought of homemade dumplings. I think the Crazy Rich Asian hype has kind of died down, but that movie was fresh in my mind when I picked this up. 

3) You can totally use this to make your own dumplings or wontons, but you'll have to pick up the wonton wrappers separately from an Asian grocery store. 

I have no idea what rosemary is doing in an Asian-style meat. Also, there's a suspicious amount of vinegar in the ingredient list. 

For the record, I didn't go out to buy wonton wrappers for the explicit purpose of making TJ's Asian-style wontons. The last time my in-laws came over, my mother-in-law brought wonton ingredients and we made two trays (of the best stuff y'all) to stock our freezer. Actions speak louder than words y'all. So the wrappers here were leftover from that wonton-making fest. I was very tempted to doctor the meat, but for the sake of the review I left it as is. 

Take a wrapper and put a small spoonful of the meat into the middle. Not too much because wontons are dainty classy little things, not a contest of how much meat you can stuff into a dumpling before it explodes.

Wet two adjacent sides of the wrapper and fold it in half in a triangle shape. Press and pinch together to seal. 

Grab the two bottom corners of the triangle and bring them together. Use a bit of water to seal the corners together. It's not hard! Just practice! 

Yay so cute. 

I made a simple wonton soup using a chicken broth base and lightly seasoned it to taste. Green onions and cilantro if you have to make it look like mother-in-law's. BTW don't use the miso ginger broth unless you want it to taste like a Panera soup base. 

Obviously I didn't expect this to taste anywhere as good as my mother-in-law's. That's an unreasonable expectation. I just didn't expect that the meat would be sooooo..bad. It's edible but the flavor leaves little to be desired. While the raw meat didn't smell too suspicious (smelled pretty legit actually), the cooked meat itself had this unpleasant sour smell. Like...not expired or rotten but so sour it should be. I know rice vinegar is a token Asian seasoning, but who thought it was a good idea to use it as a primary seasoning? Can't taste the rosemary. I can sort of taste a vague hint of garlic, soy, and maybe sesame, but the vinegar overpowers everything. I don't mind dipping cooked wontons or dumplings in a vinegar-spiked sauce, but marinating meat in vinegar? Not good for taste or texture. The meat itself was simultaneously dry and mushy - dry cuz it's chicken, mushy because it has been sitting in vinegar for too long and the proteins have denatured and then some. 

And just to make sure it wasn't because I boiled the wontons, I cooked the leftover meat in a skillet, like any old ground meat. It was still dry, mushy, and way too sour. I think a scrambled block of tofu (that has been pressed first to release the excess moisture) has better texture than this. I mean, if you're looking for a dry protein to smother in sauce to make the dryness undetectable, then maybe this is the product for you? Like maybe a barbecue sauce or something with sweetness to correct the sourness? BUT if you're going to do that...why even bother getting pre-seasoned meat in the first place? 

I ended up freezing the entire batch of wontons that I made so that we wouldn't have to eat this all at once. And every time was just as bad as the last. Not repurchasing. $4.49 for a pound of this stuff is totally not worth it. I can't think of any circumstance under which it would be justifiable to purchase this product. Seriously, if you want Asian-style or "Asian-tasting" meat, you are better off buying ground meat and dousing it with an Asian TJ's sauce of your choice. Soyaki. Korean style. Or even straight soy sauce or coconut aminos with some toasted sesame oil. Anything but this. Any seasoned meat I'm sure could be morphed into a much better tasting lettuce wrap, burger, stir-fry, or wontons. 

TL;DR: Trader Joe's Asian-Style Ground Chicken. A proper sham. One-dimensional. Sour. Pretty useless. 3 out of 10. Mantou Joe Repurchase? I put this in the anti-repurchase category. No repurchase - plus I'd be tempted to ask for a refund.