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Trader Joe's Korean Style BBQ Sauce

I basically jumped for joy when I saw this in the new products section a few weeks ago. 

And then I saw "style" in brackets and calmed down a little. Let's not jump to skewer (harhar) this product about how un-Korean it is. It's STYLE. Like a Halloween costume. It's supposed to be cool and fun and cute and not taken so seriously! Everybody calm down. 

Although the Korean on the back ("pa-pe-kyoo yang nyeum" aka barbecue sauce) confused me a bit too. Is it Korean? Is it not? Does slapping on some Korean words make it more Korean? Nah. I don't think that's how it works. 

Sugar, soy sauce, pear puree, ok looks normal-ish. But what is that miso doing in the gochujang? I smell trickery. 

For comparison's sake, you can read the ingredients list of the gochujang sitting in my fridge. Just ignore the MSG. My conclusion? Whatever the gochujang is in this sauce, it sure ain't gochujang. ;P

Right out the bottle, the sauce smells like teriyaki meets vinegar-ed sushi rice - very sweet and acidic.  The first time, we used it with shaved beef. (so convenient y'all. If you don't live near a Korean or Asian grocery with pre-shaved meat, TJ's has great shaved beef that's not too expensive). And if you haven't caught my message yet - this is definitely NOT bulgogi. It's an ambiguously Asian savory sweet sauce, with hints of miso and ginger. I couldn't really taste the miso, but A looked at me with this look, "how do you NOT taste the miso?!"

Now that we've established that this definitely isn't anywhere near the pre-made bulgogi sauce you can pick up at most major supermarkets these days - let it be known that this is actually a pretty good sauce. In fact, we happen to like it better with chicken than beef. Slather the chicken (dark meat is always on sale and more tasty) with the sauce, bake at 375 for about 40-45 minutes, and it comes out so nice and tender and delicious. It isn't really spicy at all. The sweet savory balance is just right, and the sauce goes so well with rice. I had leftovers for lunch at work, and the smell made people curious. 

If this sauce will interest more people in real Korean barbecue, why not? But just expect that the experience might be like the person who tries Olive Garden a couple times and then flies to Italy. Worlds apart y'all. But then you'll have your eyes opened to real good stuff and wonder what you've been missing out on all this time. 

In the meantime, this sauce at $2.99 per 19oz jar is indeed cheaper than most bulgogi sauces. A gives his repurchase approval as do I. 

TL;DR: Trader Joe's Korean {Style} BBQ Sauce. An introduction to Korean BBQ, via the-broad-but-ambiguously-Asian-ginger-miso-soy-sauce-it-sure-ain't-Korean-but-it's-still-tasty path. 7.5 out of 10. 


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