Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

Search This Blog

Monday, June 24, 2013

Trader Joe's Dried Kimchi

I've mentioned my feelings about kimchi in one or two previous posts. It scares me. It's foreign, it's fermented, and it's cabbage. It's just a bit intimidating. 

And it's not just kimchi that terrifies me, but all forms of fermented cabbage, like sauerkraut.

But you can't say I'm not a trooper. I've eaten sauerkraut on hotdogs and with porkchops. I've tried kimchi in fine Asian restaurants, mostly Korean barbecue places. And I've tried multiple different kinds of it. I did appreciate some of the varieties a little more than the traditional cabbage-based one, but none so much that I'd snack on them on any normal occasion. I just can't get into it.

Recently, an excellent article about fermented foods by Ellen Byron went up on the Wall Street Journal site. (If that link takes you to a "Get the Full Story" screen, that means they've placed the article behind their paid subscriber wall). And it really got me thinking. It got me thinking that if a delicious condiment like Sriracha is actually fermented, a fact I was previously unaware of, that maybe I should give this whole kimchi thing another whirl. 

I thought that maybe the dryness of this Trader Joe's product would cut down on the grossness of the kimchi. When it's all wet, I just can't get it out of my mind that it's cabbage being broken down into a liquid slowly by millions of little bacteria. So, after postponing the consumption of the dried kimchi as long as possible, I finally decided to be brave and open the bag. There were dozens of chunks of dried kimchi with a dusting of a powdered version of the traditional red spices you'd find on any regular kimchi. It looked and felt like the bag of kale chips I reviewed a while back. The taste, however, was very different from the kale chips.

Chalk it up to my aversion to kimchi if you must, but I simply can't recommend this stuff like I did that delicious bag of dried kale coated in a weird nacho sauce. This stuff STILL TASTES LIKE ROTTING CABBAGE!

I found it a shade more palatable when I ate it in a bowl of ramen instead of straight out of the bag, but in the former case, it gets wet again. I imagine that the millions of little bacteria responsible for the sourness of the cabbage have been in suspended animation for months, and then when I drop it into my bowl of warm soup, they come to life again like a package of Amazing Live Sea Monkeys and begin swimming about, devouring bits of cabbage and ramen, rushing to establish a culture of their own in my bowl before I can gag them all down and digest them.

My wife Sonia, who generally appreciates regular kimchi, felt like TJ's Dried Kimchi was mostly flavorless. I disagree. I think it tastes sour like authentic rotting cabbage. And I also tasted the spices, which I might have actually enjoyed if they were sprinkled onto, say kale, instead of ... rotting cabbage. Neither Sonia nor I could ever feature ourselves buying this again, but perhaps for slightly different reasons. I can only recommend trying this product if you're a big fan of regular cabbage-based kimchi. I know you kimchi fans are out there, and I wish I could join your ranks. But this is one food I fear I may never fully develop an appreciation for.

Sonia gives it 3 stars. I give it 2.5.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

20 comments:

  1. Why would TJ's invent something like this??? dried kimchee? come on.. I'm an American born Korean.. so were my parents and they wouldn't eat anything like this- especially dried... TJ has gone off the deep end as far as some of their so-called Korean items which btw aren't true Korean. Who are they trying to fool now?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good point, KBF. A lot of their "foreign" foods are very Americanized. Or they're new concoctions that they're trying to pass off as traditional.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. have u done reviews on their so called Thai products? If so, what do u think of them?

      Delete
    2. Well, this stuff was not so good:

      http://www.whatsgoodattraderjoes.com/2011/03/trader-joes-true-thai-vegetable-pad.html

      But we kinda liked:

      http://www.whatsgoodattraderjoes.com/2011/11/trader-joes-vegetable-thai-kao-soi.html

      Delete
    3. I think I have seen both.. maybe its the packaging- it just doesn't look too good...

      Delete
  3. As a Korean, I also find this product a little strange. I've seen it at TJ for a while now but haven't had the courage to try it. I don't imagine it would be anywhere near as good as "normal" kimchi, but I can see it coming in handy in any situation where you want to have kimchi around, but don't want to store a stinky jar. For instance, I might like to have it at my office to put on ramen, and I can't keep kimchi in the office fridge here without raising a stink, so to speak.

    Also -- I just want to stick up for fermentation and good bacteria! Just some of the foods created by bacterial action: wine, beer, liquor, sake, cheese, olives, pickles, sourdough bread, chocolate, and all kinds of cured meats. Good bacteria are our friends!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for your input, Edward! And you're absolutely right about fermentation...I just have a weird psychological barrier against certain foods.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Nathan,

    Just wanted to point out that this item is not vegetarian (shrimp)! If it was I would be guzzling it...I love kimchee.

    Thanks,
    Akilah

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw that too...not vegetarian. Good catch. :)

      Delete
    2. Oh wow...I just saw these comments. Vegetarian label is gone from the post. Thanks!

      Delete
  6. BTW, there is one usage this worked out O.K. for me: addition to simple cheese quiche.

    (But, no, I would never "snack" on this thing---texture is wrong, and it's too salty on its own.)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am a great lover of kimchi, and when I read the title of this all I could think of is "...what???" drying kimchi just sounds like a terrible, disgusting idea to me. if this was even a remotely good idea I'm sure I would've seen kimchi chips in every convenience store in korea, but among all the foreign strange-sounding snacks I encountered, dried kimchi was not one of them. a pox on whoever decided this was a good idea to make.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm taking this backpacking this weekend. Seems like a great way to enjoy kimchi on the trail...it's light, requires no refrigeration, you can throw it into ramen, etc. Always looking for ways to add more vegetables to trail food.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really like kimchi, and I enjoy eating novelty foods that many may find unpalatable. This stuff is disgusting.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm an LA native and I have not seen this dried version at TJ's, although I have seen the fresh Kimchi. I tried it, not that great, but appreciated that they collaborated with a factory in Korea. Fermented foods are not for all, and I appreciate your valor in trying various kinds of Kimchi. There are over 500 different kinds varying per season/combined. All the best!
    ps - who the hell would want to eat Kimchi jerky? Nope. BTW, I am Korean and some things are best kept as is!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL. Thanks for your thoughts. Yeah...Kimchi jerky. That's basically what this is.

      Delete
  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Tj's dried kimchee is terrible on its own, in my opinion. Think like a contestant on "Chopped" when using this. It could just be that tart, spicy element your dish is missing. I've used this product and a squeeze of lemon juice to finish a simple asian style stir fry of asparagus and cherry tomatoes. It was really good! Granted, I did buy it FIRST and THEN tried to find use for it. Try putting it in a food processor with crystallized (candied) ginger, garlic, lemongrass and a chicken bouillon cube. The resulting powder combined with water makes a great braising liquid for all kinds of stuff. I like braising brussels sprouts in it ;-)

    ReplyDelete