Translating 5 Trader Joe’s Products into Their Real, Cultural Names

Trader Joe’s loves to make knock-offs of anything and everything. While that can be great in some ways, it can also quickly turn into appropriation. When Trader Joe’s removes all cultural context of a food, it doesn’t give credit where credit’s due, makes the eater less educated, and, in my opinion, makes the food taste worse. If you’ve ever tasted something from Trader Joe’s and thought, “How did they think of this delicious item?” I’ll tell you how they thought of it: They didn’t. Somebody else thought of it! Here are just a few Trader Joe’s products that you should know more about.


Garlic Spread aka Toum
trader joe's garlic sauce
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / iStock

The internet absolutely lost it when TJ’s introduced their Garlic Spread. The creamy white dip is vegan, gluten free, and it’s keto. What some people didn’t realize is that Trader Joe’s didn’t invent this. It’s actually a Lebanese dip called toum. Trader Joe’s sells out of this stuff regularly, so hit up your closest Middle Eastern restaurant to have the locally made version. It’s especially good with chicken (shout out Zankou Chicken).

Thai Banana Fritters aka Kluai Khaek
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / iStock

These Thai Banana Fritters are new to Trader Joe’s shelves, but have been popular in Thailand forever! Eaten as a traditional Thai dessert or snack, kluai khaek has a crunchy, doughy outside and soft, creamy inside. While typically deep-fried, the TJ’s version is perfect for your air fryer at home.

Kimchi & Tofu Soup aka Kimchi Soondubu Jjigae
kimchi tofu soup
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / iStock

The new Kimchi & Tofu Soup lives in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s. Seeing it frozen is bizarre because I’m so accustomed to receiving it boiling in a stone bowl at my favorite Korean restaurant. While there is much debate about exactly when this soup came about, everyone can agree that it has been around for an incredibly long time and it’s actually shocking that Trader Joe’s took so long to make their own version.

Bread Cheese aka Juustoleipä
bread cheese
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / iStock

Trader Joe’s has not one but two different types of bread cheese: garlic and pizza (which Sporked writer Danny Palumbo tasted and loved). According to WisconinCheese.com, “Juustoleipä, or ‘bread cheese,’ is a buttery, slightly sweet cheese native to Scandinavia.” Similar to halloumi or paneer, bread cheese doesn’t melt when you heat it, instead it gets a delicious crusty exterior and a chewy, gooey interior. Whether you buy it from TJ’s or grab some on your trip to Scandinavia, this cheese is best served warm.

Crunchy Chili Onion aka Chili Crisp
chili crisp
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / iStock

Chili crisp is a popular Chinese condiment that has gotten the viral sriracha treatment over the last few years. NBC News even called it one of the “MVP[s]…of the pandemic.” Trader Joe’s rendition includes onion, but Lao Gan Ma, one of the most popular brands, makes a wide variety of chili crisp flavors. If you like the Crunchy Chili Onion and want to upgrade to the real deal, I would recommend trying chili crisp with black bean (my personal favorite).


About the Author

Jordan Myrick

Jordan is an L.A.-based writer and comedian who believes all food should come with extra sauce. When they're not writing for Sporked, Jordan is at the movies or sharing an order of french fries with their elderly chihuahua.

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  • Is there a difference between chili in oil / chili oil and chili crisp? I love chili in oil on broccoli but I’ve never heard of chili crisp!

    Reply
    • Hi Mark! To my understanding, chili crisp has more crunchy stuff in it that you are intended to eat, giving it more texture. Chili oil can have some stuff in it or be strained so that it’s just the oil.

      Reply
  • This would be a lot more fun (and more “Mythical”) if Jordan could leave the politics out of it. I’d like to know how you liked the FOOD, not if you think someone is “appropriating” it. That’s just a popular cliche’ term. If you don’t believe it then just look at Jordans ridiculous PC comment that it “makes the food taste worse”.

    Reply
    • Less authentic renditions of food made for general masses who aren’t willing to try new things are blander and do taste worse. Get over it, Ralph.

      Reply