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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Korean Style BBQ Sauce

In case you were wondering, I am completely not fluent in Korean. And I've read/seen enough of those clickbait-y type articles that show someone's tattoo that they thought was a Chinese/Japanese/Korean character for "Peace" or Love" or what have you and what it really meant (at least to some) was "Goofy White Person" or "I Have Three Nipples" or something along those lines. I have no idea if those are actually true.

So when I see some Korean tramp-stamped along the bottom back of Trader Joe's Korean Style BBQ Sauce, pardon me if I'm a little apprehensive. It's probably something really nice. But if it could be translated as "Silly Foodie Hack Blogger, Are You Really Going To Review Me Even Though You Never Had Korean Barbecue?" It'd be what I deserve.

Because it's true.

Yes, I know. Shame on me. I know Korean barbecue is a thing. A very popular thing. Presumably, a very good thing. Unfortunately, it's not a very present thing here in the Pittsburgh area, far as I can tell. So pardon me that TJ's is my first foray into this particular area of cuisine.

Since I have only its own merits to judge it on, I'll start off by saying I generally like the sauce...but now I'm very interested in trying to compare to something a little more authentic. I'd think the particular blend of flavors could be a little better executed. Upfront there's a heavy soy sauce-y hit met with a fairly sweet dose of sugar. What kinda struck me is how similar, in some ways, that the taste mimics regular barbecue sauce once that soy gives way, but there's no tomatoes involved. Instead, it's gochujang sauce for the main body of the flavor. What's gochujang? I barely know myself, but looks like a blend of cayenne pepper, miso, vinegar, pear puree, and water. And more sugar, of course. The sauce has a fairly smooth body, aside from smallish pepper flakes here and there, with medium/average consistency.

There's a good bit of spice on the back end, which honestly I didn't notice until trying a spoonful of the sauce by itself. Any of the heat seems to dissipate easily into the rest of the dish, such as the pulled pork we had the other night, or the burger I dumped some on top of tonight. That being said, I could see this being a little wild for those with a sensitive palette - my kiddos avoided after a small taste or two, for example. It's not exactly an even flavor throughout, and perhaps a little less soy/a little more spice would have helped in that regard.

Between the wife and I, we'll get the bottle finished without too much struggle, but we don't have a new favorite on our hands here, either. It'll do, and as stated, the TJ's sauce does make me eager to try out authentic Korean barbecue. For a tasty mealtime condiment and possible gateway sauce to a new food world, we're game.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Korean Style BBQ Sauce: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons.


  1. This will be amazing for summertime grilling, esp chicken wings and steaks.

    1. Why limit grilling to summertime? It's a year-round activity!! (And don't overlook the excellence of TJ's coffee garlic dry rub!)

    2. I read a recommendation to bake chicken (dark meat) in this sauce and serve with rice - makes a delicious meal.

  2. Next time you're at an asian or korean grocery (or sometimes in regular grocery stores) look for "bulgolgi sauce" which is thinner and not usually spicy, has a soy/sweet combo that is great as a marinade or sauce. I use it most on roasted veggies, especially cruciferous ones like cauliflower or brussel sprouts

  3. Authentic korean bbq doesn't have things like paprika or cayenne in the marinade, but this still looks interesting. The asian markets sell pre-bottled versions that are closer to the real deal.

    But making your own is fairly easy, as well. Some people add CocaCola when making their marinade. (It helps tenderize the meat.)

  4. Visit the North regions of Albania. Apart from the beautiful nature the food is delicious. They cook the most tasteful lamb in their traditional way


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