I FOUND MY WHITE WHALE. So, five years ago I went to the Costco in Seoul’s Yangjae neighborhood and bought a bulk box of frozen “Naanwich,” which are little sandwiches made with naan and stuffed with chicken tikka masala. I was pregnant with Isa at the time and following my discovery, I ate two or three of these things a day. Then, the next time I went to Costco — and every other time since — THEY WERE GONE. Poof. It was as if they never existed.
I have been searching for Naanwich at Costco for five years. Today, when I braved the non-Costco grocery store to stock up on (mystifyingly) $400 worth of groceries (I guess I really do have a lot of mouths to feed), the shelves were picked over, as is the case during these pandemic times. However. When things are ransacked, they reveal. And on a frozen food shelf near the end of the aisle with employees make every shopper queue up in one single file, appropriately-spaced line, I found ONE SINGLE BOX OF … NAANWICH.
2020 has devastated me and will likely be one of the hardest years for all of us, ever. But it also makes stark the simple joys of reunions. This year not only did I reunite with my high school economics teacher, Mr. Coates, who had a singular influence on me, but I FOUND NAANWICH, my white whale.
Thank you for sending in your Trader Joe’s love on Twitter! Overwhelming deliciousness lives in this reply thread. As promised, I put everything you recommended on one master list.
I also classified your recs so it’s easier if you go/when I go shopping. Overall, there’s a lot of love for the frozen Mac and Cheese, the gnocchi, the dried fruit, the cheeses, the nuts and those peanut butter-filled pretzels with crack in them. (Not really but maybe really.)
Dairy and Gluten free home style pancakes
Sweet potato gnocchi
Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burger
Mandarin Orange chicken
Parmesan Pastry Puffs (aka the puff pastry-wrapped hot dogs)
Vegetable Penang curry with jasmine rice
Sage gnocchi meal
Trader Giotto frozen pizza
Organic Woodfired Sicilian Style Pizza
Burritos of all sorts
Raw chicken tenders
Indian frozen meals and samosas
Coffee Bean Blast Ice Cream
Cold brew latte dessert bars
Cookie butter ice cream
Mac and cheese
Mini sheet cakes
Key lime pie
Mini ice cream cones
Lime Fruit Floes
White truffle potato chips
Jerk style plantain chips
Multi seed Tamari soy sauce crackers
Thai lime and chili almonds
Honey butter potato chips
White cheddar corn puffs (TJ’s Pirates Booty)
Beef jerky, original flavor
Chili lime cashews (Are these the same as the Thai-spiced ones? Y’all mentioned both.)
Nacho cheese tortilla chips
Crispy, Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Triple Ginger Snaps
Peanut butter-filled Pretzels (I prefer the kind with salt but reasonable people can disagree)
Maple Leaf Cookies
Sesame honey almonds
Jumbo raisin medley
Dark chocolate covered pretzels
Dark chocolate peanut butter cups
Dark chocolate covered cherries
Chocolatey Coated Chocolate Chip Dunkers
Dark chocolate covered peppermint joe Joe’s
Aussie style licorice
Chocolate-covered espresso beans
Sea salt dark chocolate almonds
Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean Mini Sheet Cake
Alphabet cinnamon crackers
Dried baby bananas
Dried baby pineapple
Tart dried cherries
Just mango slices
Jumbo raisin medley
Seasonings, sauces and spreads
Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning
Sriracha Roasted Garlic Barbecue Sauce
Chili lime spice
Peach Bellini Jam
Grade B Maple Syrup
Red pepper spicy hummus
Two buck chuck wine
Cupcake vanilla vodka
Coconut cold brew
Organic Sumatra coffee medium dark roast
Joe’s medium roast
Hendricks Gin, for the TJ value
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Beverage
Breads and Buns
Overnight Pain Au Chocolat
Brioche buns (these double as awesome hot dog buns)
Garlic and herb pizza dough
8 Mini Croissants (also overnight rise)
1: cultural modification of an individual, group, or people by adapting to or borrowing traits from another culture; also: a merging of cultures as a result of prolonged contact
I’m back in Korea after a harried two weeks in the states. We hadn’t gone “home” to DC in nearly 10 months, so I was highly conscious when I returned, like a little baby that had just entered the world, already in progress. DC felt incredibly small and quiet. The nation’s capital is always unusually quiet during the holidays, as its denizens flood out to their real homes or on vacation. And it is geographically small — something like only eight miles across. But after being in Asian megalopolises for most of 2015, DC felt like Tulsa. The streets were narrow and the sidewalks were wide, rather than the other way around.
Here are the other reverse culture shock observations:
Everyone speaks English! I chatted up anyone who would talk to me and resumed saying hello to random people on the street. They always responded when I said “Happy Holidays” or “How ya doing?” So great.
Damn, there are a lot of breakfast cereals and yogurts to choose from. The number of kids cartoon-themed yogurts alone floored me.
I can get drinks larger than eight ounces?!
Why does my alcoholic beverage cost three times my lunch?
There are so many countdowns simultaneously splashed across the screen on domestic CNN. I can’t keep track of what they are counting down to. Is Armageddon nigh?
The internet feels slow, but at least I’m not censored from visiting North Korean news sites.
The clothes dryers are marvelous. I hadn’t properly dried my clothes in so long that I did a load of laundry every day just to take advantage of the quick dry cycle and how efficiently it dried my clothes, which came out so soft and fluffy.
Why don’t any of the escalators work on DC Metro?
So many women walk around in yoga pants. You never see a Korean woman walking around publicly in yoga pants.
Stores are open before 10am. This revolutionized our time in DC because we were with our tots, which meant we could actually take them out of the house HOURS before we can in Korea.
Spacial awareness: While shopping at grocery store Harris Teeter, I was pushing my cart and came within a six foot radius of another woman, who promptly apologized because we’d come so close. In Korea, you can be blatantly stepped on or, in our toddler’s case, mauled, and the other party doesn’t even notice.
Now that I’m back in Korea, I’m feeling a little sad because I’d just gotten used to being in America again, and then we left. It was fortifying to see so many of my bestest pals, even though our visits were compressed into a short time window. I don’t want to go back and forth too much, however, because the cultural whiplash — not to mention jet lag — might wipe me out.