This “Iconic” Snack Changed the Way I Shop

CARROLLTON, TX, US-JUL 1, 2018:Customers enter and exit H Mart supermarket. An American supermarket chain, specializes in providing Asian foods, operated by the Hanahreum Group, Lyndhurst, NJ
Credit: Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock Credit: Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock

As a rule of thumb, I’m on a mission when I go to H Mart. The supermarket is so vast — teeming with so many pyramids of shiny fruit and fresh vegetables, aisles of colorful instant noodles, and racks on racks of snack bags, cookies, and crackers. I have my list and I’m sticking to it, or else I’ll come home and wonder, What is this shopping haul? When will I ever eat this frozen impulse buy, and how did I forget the scallions I actually needed?

I especially do not get distracted by adorable packaging. Anything that’s marketed with a cute cartoon character is a negative in my book. Surely they must be compensating for something. There’s no way that product could be any good, and it seems like it’s just designed in a way to appeal to that kid in me (or, you know, the actual kid in your shopping cart if you got one of those).

That is, until I walked into H Mart and this Kakao Friends-themed seaweed pack immediately caught my attention.

Kakao Friends Seaweed Snacks on H Mart shelf
Credit: Irene Yoo Credit: Irene Yoo

What’s So Great About KwangcheonKim x Kakao Friends Crispy Seaweed?

First off, how cute?! Look at Ryan, trying to get that silly starfish off its back. Or Apeach, giving me starry eyes and blowing me kisses? These guys are Kakao Friends characters, originally emoticons created for the Korean messenger app KakaoTalk but have since blown up into their own subsidiary industry. They’re truly everywhere in Korea: massive flagship stores hawking Kakao Friends plushies, clothing, camping gear, and mobile phone gadgets; their own animated kids’ series; and countless collaborations with makeup brands like MAC, K-Pop groups like Twice, and food brands like Nongshim.

KwangcheongKim is a Korean seaweed (kim/gim) company that’s been around for over 50 years, specializing in a slew of roasted seaweed products like seaweed snacks, kimjaban (seaweed flakes), and kimbap rolling kits. The company’s had this collaboration with Kakao Friends since 2019, branding its signature seaweed snacks with the iconic characters.

And the best part of the KwangcheonKim x Kakao Friends Crispy Seaweed? It comes with a free reusable shopping bag, also branded with a Kakao Friends character!

You might think, Whoop dee doo, another reusable tote bag? Well this one is not only cute, but it also folds down into its own compact, pocketable pouch (the importance of this in a reusable bag cannot be overstated). Its bright color, vinyl durability, and extreme roominess makes it seem like something that could easily be sold at a Kakao Friends store for the price of the whole seaweed pack itself. So it’s like buying a reusable tote bag for under $11 (although it’s slightly more online at $16.99) and getting 27 packs of seaweed free!

What’s the Best Way to Use KwangcheonKim x Kakao Friends Crispy Seaweed?

Each individually wrapped seaweed pack is also emblazoned with an endearing Kakao Friends character on a joyful colored background, making opening each one a little frisson of joy during an otherwise ordinary lunch. The gim is delicious, to boot. The seaweed is crisp, flavorful, and thick: I don’t love when gim is so thin that it just disintegrates into a salty wisp, and this one holds its own.

I’m always looking for reasons to incorporate it into a dish — it’s perfectly sized for wrapping around a spoonful of rice, or to crumble into a pan of kimchi fried rice. I’ve been known to stash one in my bag as a quick snack on the go as well.

I keep coming back to the KwangcheonKim x Kakao Friends Crispy Seaweed pack whenever I need to refresh my stash of gim at home. I’m also on a mission to collect all the different tote bags; so far I’ve scored the pink Apeach one and a yellow Muzi, but holding out for a Ryan and the elusive green Tube. Along the way, it’s made for an excellent friend gift too: I bought a pack recently for my sister as a New Year’s gift, and am planning on stocking up to dole out for the Lunar New Year!

Find it in stores: KwangcheonKim x Kakao Friends Crispy Seaweed, $10.99 for 27 packs at H Mart

Have you tried these adorable seaweed snacks? Tell us about it in the comments below.