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”)

“MEH”

We know eating fermented food is good for you, right? So we should eat foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and of course kimchi on a daily basis for their probiotic benefits.

Personally I love kimchi. And I confess I’m a bit picky about it. I want the good stuff, meaning kimchi that someone who is Korean would say “that’s good!”. As someone who has Korean in-laws, and happens to love and have eaten a ton of Korean food, I have had the chance to eat a good deal of excellent varieties of Kimchi. I have been taught to taste really good Kimchi from just “OK” kimchi.

Kimchi is tricky to make and sell commercially. It’s a very specific preparation and Korean taste, and let’s face it, the best would probably be made by your Korean “Omma” (mom) if you had one. For commercially made Kimchi to be good, they must get everything right in manufacturing it in bulk, plus it’s a tricky food to distribute as it keeps fermenting. It can build up pressure as it sits on the shelves. I once bought a bottle of a really expensive brand at Whole Foods called Mother In Laws Kimchi that practically exploded like a shook up Coke when we opened it up, and made a real mess all over our kitchen!

Historically Trader Joe’s has tried their hand with Kimchi a few times and in different packages. Over the last few years, I would notice a Kimchi at TJ’s… then it would seem to vanish for a while..? 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) and also in a glass jar.

Frankly I have never been super impressed when I tried TJ’s Kimchi usually saying “not great but OK”. So my short review of of TJ’s latest kimchi is still “it’s just OK”. It’s decent but not very good kimchi. I think this one is better than the ones they sold previously? It’s better than no Kimchi if you can’t find kimchi elsewhere where you live. I can’t say this latest version of TJ’s kimchi is equal to most that you would find at a Korean supermarket, like H-MART (see how many kinds H-MART has??!) So on the plus side this latest Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have that tangy kimchi fermented taste (from lactic acid, which interestingly is listed on the label as an ingredient?) It doesn’t list any fish products which many Korean kimchi has for umami (oyster, squid…). So this is a vegetarian kimchi. It does say its “Made In Korea”. Though it says “spicy” I don’t find it terribly spicy though I imagine this is a highly personal opinion. One thing about this kimchi though. By the time we get it, to me it’s already what I would call a bit on the “older kimchi” side. I like my kimchi on the “fresher” side (1-2 weeks) This TJ one tastes like kimchi that’s been around maybe 3-4 weeks? As kimchi ages it gets more fermented, and the taste gets more sour and the kimchi gets softer. In our household we describe kimchi like this as “a little old”. Let’s face it, this was shipped all the way from Korea and then had to be distributed by truck I assume all over the US (don’t get me started on the carbon footprint this must have). When my own homemade kimchi* or any kimchi we buy gets this about this fermented what we do is usually start using it in cooking rather than serving it raw. However some people actually prefer kimchi that is a bit older or even “aged”. In Korea you can even get specially aged kimchi, 1 or even 2 years old (!) and that stuff is quite pricey.

I’m glad TJ is at least trying with selling Kimchi and Korean foods in general (though their pre-marinated package of bulgogi beef I tried once was terrible, as tough as shoe leather).

So to sum up if you can’t get a better Kimchi anywhere else this TJ kimchi is “not bad”. It’s about $4.50 for a 10 oz. jar. At least Trader Joe’s carries kimchi, and maybe eventually they will find a terrific Korean kimchi vendor even one in the US. Until then we can at least make do with this. And definitely try cooking something with Kimchi. Try making kimchi fried rice, which is very yummy, especially with a fried egg on top. Cooking kimchi mellows it out and adds great flavors to whatever you are making. Especially if you’ve had the kimchi for a while and its getting too funky for you as-is.

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

Eat some kimchi with your Pot Stickers. Great combo with a little rice.

Besides eating kimchi uncooked you can use it for cooking in some dishes. This Kimchi may even work better cooked. For example “Buta Kimchi (Stir Fried Pork with Kimchi)”

(recipe here: https://uncutrecipes.com/EN-Recipes-Japanese/Buta-Kimchi.html)

You could make a Kimchi Jigae (stew) with pork, tofu, and kimchi.

Tip: you can use TJ’s pork tenderloin

And especially KIMCHI FRIED RICE. This would be excellent use for this kimchi.

https://food52.com/recipes/80922-what-to-do-with-old-sour-kimchi-kimchi-fried-rice

DIY HOMEMADE KIMCHI

Think about making your own DIY Kimchi! No really. An easy kimchi version that not terribly to hard to make. If you buy a few ingredients at a Korean grocer (like Kochugaru, Korean ground red pepper) you can make your own cabbage kimchi and I bet the result will be better than TJ’s kimchi not too mention you will feel like a star when you impress people casually tossing out “You like it? I made this kimchi myself”. Aaron & Claire on YouTube have a great “easy kimchi” recipe using regular cabbage (it’s a kind of “summer kimchi”). I made it and my (Korean-Japanese) wife who has always said the TJ kimchi is no good told me the cabbage kimchi I made based on Aaron& Claire’s recipe was the most amazing kimchi she had in the U.S. It’s great one day later and will be improve more and more, tasting pretty amazing in a week or two 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 (red chili paste) easily where you live, you can at least find it on AMAZON : https://amzn.to/3lf7IYg

It’s a must have ingredient to do any Korean cooking. As well as Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – needed for making kimchi

https://amzn.to/2UYxh5p

Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing


This is one of those “only at Trader Joe’s” products, or at least I’ve never seen another type of product like this one.

I’ll start by saying one could say I am a little bit of a “Sriracha freak”. I mean I love the stuff, and in general I love “the Spicy” but in no way would I deem myself to be one of those chile-head types who go for sauces with “Death Head” logos on the label.  No thanks.

Me, I want a balance of heat AND flavor. Therefore I love – and I mean LOVE – the original Huy Fong Foods SRIRACHA sauce, which is one of the greatest food products on the planet. Its a product who’s fan’s are legion. I will put it on lots of different things. Still I never tried it on SALAD. So guess what? Sriracha Salad Dressing is actually a terrific idea! And Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing  is a terrifically marvelous unique product.

Its a ranch-style salad dressing, which is very spicy. How spicy? Well in its original version, which Trader Joe’s has changed and toned down since I first tasted it, I would have to use this stuff sparingly, as mere dollops. It was actually far, far spicier than actual Sriracha or most hot sauces for that matter. I used to mix it with some yogurt or mayo to tone it down a wee bit, but that is no longer the case. I’m talking about when it originally came out – a year ago? Can others please confirm this change to tone down the heat? I have a feeling people complained it was just too spicy, and they reformulated it with much less of a heat level. Anyway I just bought a bottle and it doesn’t seem nearly as spicy as it used to be, though it is still spicy, and still very good! Not only is  this ranch dressing good on salad or greens of course but it has many, many more uses on all kinds of foods. You can put a little on the side as a sauce for most anything, for instance grilled chicken, or shrimp, or fish, or grilled tofu, or what have you.

In fact you can use this as an ingredient to cook with it. For instance, try brushing this stuff on chicken which you would bake, broil, or grill. Its awesome on hamburgers, mixed with some ketchup for some homemade spicy “special sauce”. Try a little on some asian style noodles… with some chunky organic peanut butter on top? In fact try this on just about anything you think might be better with some spice to it. You will come up with some interesting tests.

So congratulations on a fantastic product, Trader Joe’s. Some chile-heads might be disappointed that you toned down the heat a bit for mere mortals. (But folks, you can mix some Sriracha sauce with this, if you want it spicier still, or add some cayenne pepper and it will be like it used to be). It sells for $2.99 (16 oz. bottle) which is not bad since most TJ salad dressings are 8 oz bottles?

So try this, its one of those love it or hate it type TJ products! Do I love it? Yes, yes, yes!

I’m giving this product a:

RAVE

54860-organic-sriracha-ranch-dressing

By the way, the story of HUY FONG FOODS SRIRACHA and it’s founder Vietnamese refugee David Tran, is one of the best American immigrant success stories there is!

ADDITIONAL LINKS

http://nextshark.com/sriracha-hot-sauce-david-tran-vietnamese/

https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/14-things-you-didnt-know-about-sriracha-including-its-proper-pronunciation

https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-10-22/story-how-one-hot-sauce-huy-fong-sriracha-got-so-hot

UPDATE: AUG 2020 – Reported as Discontinued, during Covid-19!!!