Trader Joe’s Kimchi Fried Rice


 

TJ’s Kimchi Fried Rice

Disclaimer: I only tried this at the Sample Station. In fact I confess the Sample Station is the locus where I usually gravitate to almost immediately after I enter Trader Joe’s. I check out if they have something interesting to taste that day, and of course to grab myself a little cup of free coffee. Don’t you? Truly the Coffee Station is one of the best things about Trader Joe’s, isn’t it? Every supermarket should copy them; going shopping would be much more fun.


Kimchi Fried Rice is a fairly new item and TJ’s seemed to be promoting it quite a bit. Recently it was the product “on sample” 2 or 3 times that I had been to TJ’s of late. What I found funny was they had a sign next to the samples: Its said something like, “Warning: Spicy! Try at your own risk! If you can’t take spicy food, be careful!” Then I tasted it and my first thought was “Huh? This is spicy?”. Seriously to me it was about as spicy as baby food (I can take the heat). I started discussing this disconnect of the “WARNING” sign with the TJ employee who was in charge of the Sample Station at the time. He was of the same opinion – the Kimchi Fried Rice is not spicy at all! He cracked me up when he told me however how many people actually complained “Jeez this is so spicy” after they tasted the Kimchi Fried Rice on sample. So many that they put up the “warning, spicy” sign!

So here is what I thought after tasting the Kimchi Fried Rice. My wife is Korean-Japanese. So I knows me some Kimchi Fried Rice (the authentic Korean kind). I adore it. I can even cook a decent version myself. So if I compare that taste to this stuff, I just have to say this is a pretty bland, insipid version. The two times I tried it was soft and fairly mushy, plus it had barely any kimchi taste; To me, its flavor profile was just weak, which I attribute to an industrial production of such a “homey” dish. For one, truly Kimchi Fried Rice needs real garlic flavor, as well as Kimchi. This barely even had any garlic nor Kimchi flavor for me. The real thing is a fantastic dish, and this? Frankly to my tastes perhaps it would be suitable for babies (ok maybe Korean babies). Now having said that – Trader Joe’s does have a decent “ethnic” fried rice. TJ’s JAPANESE FRIED RICE is actually pretty good. In my years,  I’ve eaten tons of both Kimchi fried rice and Japanese fried rice and know what these should taste like, and I can cook decent versions of both.

So, sorry Trader Joe’s but in my opinion your KIMCHI FRIED RICE is a big miss!

If you try it, also try the JAPANESE FRIED RICE next time and see which you prefer. Pretty much same as TJ’s another new “Korean” addition, Trader Joe’s Kimchi, which I found such a poor product I actually “returned” it! Perhaps those who don’t live in a city where you can buy real kimchi sold at a Korean market, might think “so this is kimchi, tasty”.  Actually if you had real Kimchi you would know this stuff is not even close to being as tasty as a real Korean-made kimchi – for example this brand (Tobagi) of Napa cabbage kimchi I get at H-MART supermarket on 32nd Street (Manhattan’s Korea Town). If you A/B taste tested this prepared kimchi vs. the Trader Joe’s version? It would be almost a joke, its just no comparison! Anyone who’s been to a Korean restaurant will know the real taste of kimchi. At $1.99 (10 oz) you can try TJ’s version and see for yourself. Let me know what you think.

RANT

Kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi fried rice in Korean...

Kimchi bokkeumbap, kimchi fried rice in Korean cuisine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

TJ’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks


nori

RAVE

Wow these are good! But what is “Trader Joe’s Roasted Seaweed Snack”? If you don’t have a clue, these are basically Japanese nori (seaweed dried into sheets) – actually these are “yaki” (roasted) nori, however I can tell these are not Japanese but the Korean version (and no doubt come from a Korean supplier). Korean ‘nori’ have other ingredients, such as sesame oil added which gives a wonderful aroma and nutty taste. They are also ‘looser’, more delicate and not as dense structurally as Japanese nori, so break apart very easily. Therefore they are harder to roll stuff up in, the way you would do with sushi for example. But I do find the Korean kind tastier. And these “Roasted Seaweed Snacks” are so delicious. Yes you can eat them as “snacks” as named; eaten like this, a package will vanish FAST! They are addictive. However they are good any way you would employ nori. I have made sushi hand-rolls with them (very carefully so they don’t fall apart). Fantastic.

A pack of these goes for the magical TJ price of 99 cents (and yes I’ve seen better prices for similar ones at Korean supermarkets but you might not have one of those near you) Its still not a bad deal at all as they give you a good number of these small square sheets.

Now I have read this is a “polarizing Trader Joe’s product” meaning you either love it or hate it. Huh? Me, I love them and would say if you haven’t tried these, pick up a pack and check them out for yourself. They are a “healthy snack”. As with so many TJ items, you may be instantly hooked and grab them every time you see them (and no I don’t get paid for this folks, or get free samples. I wish!) My local TJ’s is actually putting them right by the Checkout line… next to the chocolates! That must mean something!

Do as the Japanese do: Try making thin strips of them. Take 2 or 3 sheets. Cut into strips as thinly as you can. Sprinkle strips on top of…. well almost anything. They will add interesting flavors to: rice, salads, fish, chicken, meats…experiment! Try wrapping some food in them too, instead of bread or a taco (maybe two together for added strength?) I love them with “Spicy Tuna” and some sushi style rice. Put a sheet in your hand, top with some rice and top that with some Spicy Tuna. Gently fold into a tube and pop that tasty morsel into you mouth. Yum Yum Yum!

I found a very good post about them on this blog; take a look.

If you are want more information including the Nutrional Info, I found TJ’s product description for them online (PDF) – turns out I was right about guessing Korean origin.

Here’s what TJ’s has to say:

THE ROASTED SEAWEED SNACK STORY

It all started under the sea with an edible red algae (genus Porphyra), which is now commonly known as nori. Around the 8th century, evidence of nori surfaced in Japan as a type of culinary paste. It wasn’t until the Edo period (1603-1868) that sheets of nori were invented through a method of paper-making. Skip forward a few hundred years, and nori becomes a sensation across the globe—for sushi, snacking and seasoning. So Trader Joe’s knows, it’s now or nori. Our Roasted Seaweed Snack features nori from Korea that is roasted with a touch of oil (sesame & canola) and sea salt, then cut into strips. That’s it. It’s light, crunchy, ocean-salty and nuanced with an intriguing nutty flavor. It’s so good, it proves hard to keep in stock. Especially at 99¢ for a package.

UPDATE!

PS – I found this and had to add it…. this is hysterical!

“Korean flavored nori is increasingly popular in Japan, also as a topping for white rice. You could also eat flavored nori just on its own, but you should resist the urge to do it when in polite company: eating flavored nori as a snack is considered fairly vulgar (which doesn’t mean people don’t do it!)”

 see mid page about flavored nori ; original post:    http://kanakoskitchen.com/whatyouneed/seaweed/