When Trader Joe’s introduced its own rendition of kimbap only a few months ago, people on the internet went berserk. Those who grew up eating kimbap — a traditional Korean dish often made from cooked rice, vegetables, fish, and meat rolled in dried sheets of seaweed (also known as gim) — found comfort in TJ’s vegan offering. On the flip side, those who were just trying it for the very first time found their new favorite, simple weeknight meal.
It didn’t take long for TJ’s kimbap to go viral across social media, namely on TikTok. And like clockwork, news broke out that the $3.99 Korean rolls were slowly selling out before they were officially declared out of stock until at least October. Many people were gravely disappointed: “Guys please stop buying the frozen kimbap…” wrote one user on a subreddit dedicated to the product. “I have been going every day to buy some and they have been sold out EVERY DAY.” But a few were hopeful that it would return soon.
Some stores are finally reporting restocked supplies of the product, but many customers still haven’t had a chance to try it.
TJ’s, the beloved California-based retailer, has made a name for itself over its selection of international, frozen meals. Some are incredibly stellar, like TJ’s Mini Chicken Tikka Samosas or its Paneer Tikka Masala with Spinach Basmati Rice. Others, however, are pretty unsatisfactory. Taste is subjective, of course, so there’s always some kind of online discourse about the meals that TJ’s puts on its store shelves.
Per its many glowing reviews, kimbap falls into the former category of stellar TJ’s meals. It’s not hard to see why. TJ’s kimbap contains sesame oil-seasoned rice alongside “an assortment of sautéed greens, crunchy root vegetables, and crisp pickles around a base of braised tofu,” according to the store’s website. Everything is wrapped in a layer of rice and seaweed and then sliced into two-or-three-bite-sized rounds.
It’s kimbap’s simple list of ingredients that makes it so well-loved and easy to whip up yourself. The best part about making kimbap at home is that you can enjoy it fresh! That isn’t to diminish the quality of TJ’s offering but rather, to provide a bit of optimism amid the ongoing shortage.
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To make your own kimbap a-la-TJ’s, start by preparing the rice (short grain works best here) with salt and toasted sesame oil.
In the meantime, prepare the fillings — TJ’s specifically uses tofu, braised burdock, carrots, spinach and pickled radish. Season the carrots with salt and then pan fry, making sure they still maintain their bright hue. For the spinach, start by blanching them, squeezing out all the excess water and then seasoning them with salt and toasted sesame oil. As for the tofu, cut firm tofu into thin, one-inch slices before frying.
To assemble the kimbap, spread a layer of rice on a sheet of seaweed and arrange the fillings horizontally. Slowly roll the seaweed, making sure the rice and fillings don’t spill out. If need be, wet the tips of your fingers to prevent the rice from sticking to your fingers. Once the kimbap is fully rolled, slice it into three-or-four bite-sized rounds. You can also enjoy the roll whole — whatever your heart desires!
Although kimbap is packed with flavor, it doesn’t hurt to enjoy it alongside your favorite sauces. The rolls pair well with sriracha, gochujang sauce and soy sauce. Trust us when we say this will be your favorite go-to meal and snack. And even though it isn’t made directly by TJ’s supplier, “a kimbap expert in the Republic of Korea,” these homemade kimbaps come pretty darn close.
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