Kitchn Love Letters

This $6 Trader Joe’s Shortcut Helps Me Recreate My Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home

published Jan 16, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

I often take inspiration from memorable meals I’ve had at restaurants when cooking at home. It lets me practice with ingredients I’m unfamiliar with, and helps make otherwise mundane dinners feel more special. My partner and I can also reminisce about some of our favorite date nights from the comfort of home, for a fraction of the cost. 

There are a select few items, however, that I’ve realized are too time-consuming for me to prepare at home — and pork belly is on the top of that list. Even though pork belly is my partner’s first choice of protein (he will suggest we order it if it is on the menu), it’s a pretty laborious process to make at it home. Or, at least, it was until I found the pre-cooked meat in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe’s. Since then, it’s become a regular in our meal rotation. So much so, that we keep an extra box in our freezer at all times.

Credit: Kurt Suchman

What’s So Great About Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Pork Belly?

Trader Joe’s pork belly makes it so we can cook our version of my partner’s favorite Thai dish — pad see ew — in less time than it takes to have it delivered. We cut the pork belly into cubes and fry them until golden-brown and crackly on the outside. Then we add it to the rice noodles, garlic, and Chinese broccoli cooked in the rendered fat with a dash of dark and light soy sauce, chili oil, and sesame oil for a dinner that comes together in 20 minutes.

What’s the Best Way to Use Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Pork Belly?

In addition to stir-fries, pork belly makes a succulent sauce for pasta when sautéed with onions, garlic, and canned tomatoes for a pork ragù that tastes fresh out of a traditional trattoria. It also makes a fancy-feeling filling for tacos (in place of ground beef), or try adding thin slices on top of a steaming bowl of ramen or tucked into a bánh mì. The meat will practically melt in your mouth.

When our favorite bistro, Sawyer, closed earlier this year, we committed to figuring out how to make its pork belly steamed bao at home. (Spoiler: We did it!)

Find it in store: Trader Joe’s Fully Cooked Pork Belly, $6.49 for 12 ounces 

What Trader Joe’s shortcuts are you regularly adding to your cart? Tell us in the comments.