I have to give Trader Joe's credit. The California-based grocery chain noticed the increasing chic of 한식 hanshik (Korean cuisine) in the U.S. and went headlong into offering private-label prepared meals — 갈비 kalbi (marinaded beef ribs), 불고기 bulgogi (sauteed beef), 비빔밥 bibimbap (vegetables mixed with rice) and 김치복음밥 kimchi bogeumbap (kimchi fried rice).
The chain also sells 30-sheet packets of 김 gim/kim (sheets of roasted, dried seaweed), which has become a popular children's snack in the States, especially in California. The grocer even got a bit experimental by offering dried kimchi.
However, I believe that Trader Joe’s Authentically Korean Seaweed Salad with Spicy Dressing is probably the chain's boldest step into Korean cuisine.
Upon opening the package, you will find five different kinds of dried seaweed. After rehydrating for at least 10 minutes, the marine mix is bathed in the enclosed sauce, which is based on 고추장 gochujang (spicy red pepper paste). There is a lot of dressing in the package, so you don't have to use the entire package. Just use enough for your own taste.
I got some childish glee out of the fact that the white agar-agar "sticks" turned a bright orange after I smothered them in the spicy Korean sauce packet.
If you end up enjoying the seaweed but not the salad dressing, consider these seaweed salad dressing options.
I enjoyed the different colors and textures of the various seaweeds in the bowl. I also enjoyed the spicy kick of the dressing. But I have to admit that this is not the kind of Korean seaweed salad most are accustomed to eating at Korean restaurants. Some might doubt that product is Korean, but the package says, "Made in Korea."
The salad mix is vegan, which means no shrimp paste (or other fish based ingredients) will be lurking in your Trader Joe's Korean seaweed salad.