Trader Joe’s KIMCHI


Trader Joe’s KIMCHI (Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage)

Ingredients: Napa Cabbage, Radish, Onion, Red Pepper Powder, Salt, Garlic, Vinegar, Lactic Acid (Made in Korea)

I love kimchi. OK I’m a bit picky about it too. I want the good stuff, meaning something someone who is Korean would say “that’s good kimchi”. As someone who has Korean in-laws, and adores Korean cuisine, I have eaten a good deal of different – and excellent – varieties of Kimchi so I can really taste whats good Kimchi from “just OK”. Kimchi is tricky. It’s a very specific preparation and Korean taste. It’s probably best made by a Korean grandma. For commercially made Kimchi to be good, they must get everything right in manufacturing it in bulk. It’s tricky to sell as you have to rotate stock. It can build up pressure as it sits on the shelves too long (I have had a brand called Mother In Laws Kimchi almost explode on opening like a shook up Coke)!

Historically Trader Joe’s has tried their hand at selling Kimchi in their stores a few times and in different packages. Over the last few years, I would see Kimchi at TJ’s and eventually it seemed to go away(?) Either they discontinued it for a spell or maybe they were finding other vendors and changing the packaging, or all of the above. Before TJ’s current version sold in this red plastic jar, they carried kimchi in a soft plastic bag (see link) as well as a glass jar.

Frankly I have never been super impressed when I tried TJ’s Kimchi usually saying “not bad, it’s OK”.

So my short review of of TJ’s latest kimchi is still “it’s OK”. It’s not great but it’s decent. I think this one is better than the ones they sold previously? I have to be honest that it’s better than no Kimchi, if you can’t easily find kimchi where you live. I’m glad TJ at least is trying with Kimchi and Korean foods in general. I can’t say this latest TJ kimchi is as good as kimchi you would get from a Korean supermarket like H-Mart or even a small Korean owned fruit and veg grocer where the owners sell kimchi themselves. I have a Korean owned fruit and veg store near where they sell kimchi which is quite decent.

So on the plus side this Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have that tangy kimchi fermented taste (from lactic acid, interestingly which is listed on the label as an ingredient?) It says “spicy” but I don’t find it terribly spicy though I imagine this is a personal opinion. So to sum up if you can’t get Kimchi anywhere else this is one is “not bad”, its fairly decent (though my wife says otherwise). Its about $4 for a 10 oz. jar. Honestly I’m happy that at least Trader Joe’s sells kimchi, period. Maybe they will eventually find a terrific Korean kimchi vendor. Until then we can at least make do with this.

And definitely try making some kimchi fried rice! That will turn out well as cooked kimchi mellows out and adds great flavors.

https://www.thekitchn.com/trader-joes-has-kimchi-here-are-6-ways-to-use-it-183085

Besides eating kimchi uncooked you can also make some dishes with it. Kimchi is great as an ingredient, cooked. For example “Buta Kimchi (Pork & Kimchi)” (recipe: https://uncutrecipes.com/EN-Recipes-Japanese/Buta-Kimchi.html)

And especially KIMCHI FRIED RICE. Or BIBIMBAP.

Finally, think about some DIY Kimchi! It’s not hard to make actually. If you buy a few ingredients at a Korean grocer (like Kochugaru, Korean ground red pepper) its not terribly hard to make your own kimchi and I bet the result will be better than TJ’s and make you feel like a star when you impress people saying “I made it”. Aaron & Claire on YouTube have a good “easy kimchi” recipe made from regular cabbage (it’s a “summer kimchi”) I made it and my (Korean-Japanese) wife who has always said the TJ kimchi is no good told me the cabbage one I made based on Aaron& Claire’s recipe was amazing. It’s great one day later and will be improve more and more being just amazing in two weeks as it ferments in the fridge. Seriously, if you want good kimchi, you will be surprised that you can make really good stuff on you own! Thanks Aaron & Claire for a super recipe.

You can find Sesame Oil at Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find Korean GOCHUJANG (chili paste) easily where you live, you can at least find it on AMAZON : https://amzn.to/3lf7IYg

As well as Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – needed for making kimchi

https://amzn.to/2UYxh5p

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