"Kimchi is ubiquitous in Korea," says Gina Kim of Mrs. Kim's Kimchi, "like bread on American tables. But most people don't have time to make it, so they buy a basic, satisfactory version. My mom thinks kimchi is the centerpiece of a good meal, and she'd always spend the time to make it at home. Nothing else even comes close."
Her mother, Hee, the eponymous Mrs. Kim, had gotten bored with retirement last year at the same time that Gina had noticed a growing interest in Korean cuisine. "I thought, 'I have to introduce my mom's kimchi to the world.'" Mrs. Kim's Kimchi launched in October 2011.
The namesake product itself "is very red in color because my mother is generous with the ingredients and isn't afraid to make it spicy." While some kimchis downplay strong fermented flavors, hot peppers, and funky dried seafood in the hopes of appealing to a broader range of palates, Gina and Hee opted to bring a full-octane version to market.
The choice has paid off for them and the food lovers who taste their wares at Smorgasburg. "My mom was shocked, surprised, happy that people are so open to spicy, sour kimchi," Gina says. The positive reaction led them to plan for a full line of Korean delicacies, starting with jangajji, soy-pickled jalapenos, radish, and garlic. "It's sweet, tangy, and has a nice crunch to it. You can make a great, spicy salad dressing out of the brine."
Recipe development is a big part of the business too. "We try to have a new recipe every week at Smorgasburg, like kimchi cream cheese, kimchi stew, kimchi mac and cheese..." She adds, "People don't realize you can cook kimchi. I actually prefer it cooked—more of the flavor comes out."
In addition to Smorgasburg and occasional other food events, Mrs. Kim's Kimchi will be available in stores this summer; follow them on twitter for more information.
About the author: Stephanie Klose has more mustard than you. You can follow her on twitter at @sklose.