Grab and go from Trader Joe or trade up for the real deal

Traditional spring rolls from The Eggroll Ladies come full to bursting with pork, shrimp, rice noodles, cucumbers and lettuce. Try them with the traditional fish sauce for dunking. Photo: Duane Tinkey

Writer: Hailey Evans

What’s for dinner? It’s the same question every day, but the answers are countless.

If you’d like to spice up your routine, you can find plenty of global flavors right here in the middle of the Midwest. Here are three popular dishes you can grab at Trader Joe’s, enjoy at an authentic local restaurant or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make at home.

Chicken Tikka Masala

There are tons of variations on this spicy-creamy favorite that originated in India or, more likely, among Indian immigrants to the United Kingdom. In most versions, the chicken is marinated, then roasted, then slathered in an orange-colored sauce of tomatoes, yogurt and smoky warm spices like cumin, coriander and chili. It’s a mouthwatering, multicultural mashup at its finest.

Trader Joe’s This frozen meal has been a fan favorite since its release in 2009. It’s packaged as a single serving, with basmati rice. 6305 Mills Civic Parkway in West Des Moines.

India Star There are a handful of good Indian restaurants in town, but this one comes recommended by Tej Dhawan, an Indian native who came to the United States in 1987. He sang its praises at dsm’s Discover Diverse Des Moines event in 2022. If you order the chicken tikka masala for dinner, we can bet you’ll have leftovers for the next day’s lunch. 5514 Douglas Ave.

Konark Grocers Online recipes differ, but you can find all the ingredients you’ll need at this South Asian grocery store. Make sure to pick up a spice blend called garam masala, some clarified butter called ghee and plenty of naan flatbread. 3828 100th St. in Urbandale.

Spring Rolls

The exact origin of the humble spring roll is up for debate, but its popularity spread across East and Southeast Asia over centuries. Specific fillings and preparation techniques varied from one country to the next, depending on available ingredients and cultural customs. So now, for example, Vietnamese cooks wrap their rolls in delicate rice paper while their Chinese counterparts fry them up in oil during the annual Spring Festival feasts.

Trader Joe’s These pre-packaged rolls come in boxes of five. They’re Chinese-style but include Americanized updates like kale, shredded tofu and edamame.

The Eggroll Ladies Owner Trang Pham moved to Iowa from Vietnam when she was 6 years old, studied at DMACC and Upper Iowa University, joined the Iowa Army National Guard and began selling her homemade spring rolls during the pandemic. She upgraded to a food truck and then in 2023 a full-blown restaurant, where you can order five kinds of spring rolls, including lemongrass teriyaki chicken, marinated pork and build-your-own. 5548 N.W. Second St.

New Oriental Food Store At this longtime Asian store in the East Village, you’ll find plenty of fresh produce to fill your spring rolls and rice paper to wrap them up nice and snug. 515 E. Grand Ave.

Tamales

Food historians estimate that early Central Americans were eating tamales as early as 8000 B.C.E., partly because they were easy to transport during hunting trips, battles and periods of migration. The other reason for tamales’ staying power is more obvious: They’re delicious.

Trader Joe’s You’ll find pre-made cheese and green chile tamales that make an easy option for lunch or a snack.

La Baja Cocina Mexicana The owners of this Mexican restaurant on the South Side are committed to keeping their dishes traditional and homemade. You can order trios of chicken or vegetarian tamales, with a choice of red and green salsas. 1938 S.E. Sixth St.

La Tapatia Grocery This always-bustling market sells all kinds of fresh and dried chiles, meats, cheeses, salsas and moles to customize your tamales, plus the fine-ground corn flour you’ll need for the masa. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the pre-made tamales they sell, too. 1440 Des Moines St.

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