“We would like a chance to accurately represent kimchi for those individuals who may not have a Korean mother around”. It is almost like Matt Choi understands my dilemma. Matt is the business half of Choi’s Kimchi, which is not only a new business at the Portland Farmer’s Market, but a brand new start up altogether. Despite the rush to get ready for their first Market, Matt was kind enough to take a time out from all the excitement to talk about his family’s new enterprise and help explain the importance of kimchi at the Korean table.
The Chois were unsatisfied with mass-produced varieties kimchi and decided to do something about it. Drawing from Chong Choi’s 56 years of kimchi making, the family began their own line of fermented vegetables. Matt elaborates, “These recipes have been handed down from generation to generation. With each generation there has been a little something different added to each recipe to make it the special type of kimchi it is today…Kimchi is something that my mom grew up around and had helped make all her life, and it is something very dear and special to her.”
For most of us, kimchi appears on our plate when we indulge in Korean food. In Korea, kimchi is the staff of life; according to the Korean Food Research Institute (really) it is prepared in 187 varieties, as a food it accounts for over 10% of daily calories (over 40lbs per person annually). Despite this nearly Olympian intake, in Korea, kimchi is still largely handmade, at home, by the aforementioned mother or in neighborhood get-togethers of women, called kimjang/gimjang. As Matt explains, “The process of kimchi making was an ancient practice where all the neighborhood ladies would gather and make kimchi together, which lends itself well to high-quality kimchi making in the present. [We] honor that tradition when we make our kimchi.”
Although Choi’s Kimchi is new to Portland, their products fit right in with the Portlandia ethos. Matt even likens the small batch approach his family employs to brewing craft beer. Fresh ingredients are the cornerstone of their product line. Sourcing locally (from Cereghino Farms) not only matches the philosophy of Portland Farmers Market, but it also matches the Choi’s thinking about quality. Matt understands why Choi’s Kimchi relies on local foods, elaborating, “[We] believe in using the freshest and finest quality ingredients available, which can only be produced by local farmers”
Choi’s Kimchi is one of the nearly dozen new businesses that will be found at Portland Farmers Market in 2011. You can meet Matt and Chong and better yet pick up some of their kimchi when the Market opens at PSU, Saturday March 19th.