Asian Sensations from Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s has been one of my favorite specialty stores for well over a decade when my mother first scooped my brother & me up from school to do some light grocery shopping. Vinny & I always really enjoyed the snacks they offered, not to mention their free samples, but trips to Trader Joe’s were rare in comparison to trips to Lucky’s, which was “married” to Albertson’s, another large chain grocery store. My mom claimed that she loved Trader Joe’s, but complained that it was too expensive. Until I was granted a driver’s license, I was under the impression that TJ’s was expensive, but I was dead wrong. Technically, my mother’s wrong, but let’s not get technical here. We is all human.
For starters, some of the more well known products sold at TJ’s are all under $5. There’s 2 Buck Chuck, a cheap high quality wine, which is formally known as Charles Shaw, based in Sonoma, California. They raised the price to $2.49, but it’s still the best cheap wine around. It’s the perfect for all you starving college students who need a cheap buzz.
Recently, Trader Joe’s started introducing some new asian items, much to my Asian delight. To prevent this post from being a short story, I’ve designated two products per post as I have a feeling TJ will release other new Asian products with time. We must be patient, young grasshopper.
The original Sriracha sauce by a Chinese-Vietnamese man named David Tran who founded Huy Fong Foods, is an incredibly popular hot sauce that has taken America by storm. While I studied abroad in England, there was some dinky version of it that was sold throughout Europe. Many of my Asian friends were outraged by this impostor’s shameful façade as the original Rooster Sauce. It was bad & it should feel bad.
Being a staple in nearly every Vietnamese, Chinese, whatever-nese home, I grew up on this red sauce & I’ve splattered it on hot dogs, pasta, soup, rice, eggs, bread, & everything that isn’t dessert. Trader Joe’s created their own Sriracha sauce which has a total of 13 ingredients: ground red chili peppers, water, sugar, ground garlic, salt, 2% or less of garlic powder, cultured dextrose, vegetable extract (potato), natural flavor, vinegar, citric acid, & xanthan gum. These ingredients are nearly identical to Huy Fong’s without the preservatives. Naturally, I had to have it. TJ’s rehashes a lot of American classics like Oreo’s, Poptarts, & GoGurt that turn out to be better & healthier than the original, so it couldn’t possibly hurt to try the alternative Sriracha, hoping they wouldn’t royally duck it up the way its European counterpart did.
So how does it compare?
Consistency: More watery, less pasty, still thick.
Price: $2.99, but Sriracha can be anywhere from $1.49 to $3.49 depending on the grocery store.
Spirit Animal: Dragon vs. Rooster. Dragons are pretty cool.
Taste: Strong kick of garlic & mildly spicy. Warning! I find Tobasco equivalent to the spiciness of ketchup so I’m not exactly the best person to consult on how mild or spicy things are. Things get spicy for me when they’re as hot as a habañero. Anything below that & tongue doesn’t register it as spicy. Might’ve burned my tastebuds off with Sriracha as a child.
10/10 Would Recommend?: Yes, absolutely! A Korean friend of mine says she likes it better than the original Sriracha & ever since I’ve bought the first bottle, I haven’t had the original in my apartment since, in other words, it’s been 4 bottles of TJ’s Sriracha & no one’s complaining. I certainly enjoy TJ’s Sriracha for its kick of garlic that seems a background aftertaste in the original Sriracha. I think the original is still the best, but I do really like TJ’s version.
Kimchi is one of my favorite pickled foods, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought of dehydrating it to use as a crunchy condiment or snack. I purchased it wondering what I could do with this other than sprinkling it over a bowl of rice. Turns out it goes fantastic on a salad, ramen, & fried rice!
Consistency: Crispy & thin
Taste: What you’d imagine kimchi would taste like dehydrated. Bold with flavor that’s mostly salty, first bite causes your sinuses to clear a little because your throat has suddenly been sprinkled with kimchi powder.
10/10 Would Recommend?: Meh, I personally like it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. I think it’s good to try if you have $3 to spare & love kimchi & all of its derivatives, but to those that aren’t adventurous or lack experience in Asian food (but why, it’s amazing), I’d probably suggest something else.
More recipes, albums, shenanigans, & more Trader Joe’s products in the future! Check back in a month, maybeeeee.
P.S. Did anyone notice how Huy Fong’s website looks like it’s stuck in ’95?