“It was kind of spontaneous,” says Matt Choi, describing how he and his mother, Chong Choi, started their own kimchi company.
“My mom and I would go to the Farmers Market at PSU on Saturday and stroll through. I had just graduated from college and was working a suit-and-tie job. My mom had the idea that she wanted to start a kimchi company.”
“Kimchi is a generic name for a traditional fermented pickled vegetable with a variety of seasonings,” explains Matt. Some common types of kimchi include Napa cabbage, daikon radish, and cucumber seasoned with garlic, red pepper or red chili pepper flakes.
When she was growing up in Korea, Chong used to help her mother make kimchi.
“It was a no-brainer — I thought that we had an advantage because she makes the best kimchi around,“ says Matt.
In March 2011, Matt and Chong started Choi’s Kimchi Company. Appropriately, they introduced their first products at the site that inspired them: the Portland Farmers Market at PSU. Since then, their business has expanded and their products are available in many stores including Whole Foods, Uwajimaya, Zupan’s and others.
Chong uses her mother’s recipe, which was popular among friends, family and neighbors, to create the products sold by Choi’s Kimchi Company. “Now, a lot of people like my kimchi,” says Chong. “I am proud of Matt and myself. I am so happy.” (Check out our slideshow above to see how Chong makes kimchi with Napa cabbage.)
According to Matt, kimchi’s taste becomes more sour, a little tangy and softer the longer it ferments. The Chois had their kimchi tested in a microbiology lab and were told that their kimchi should last up to a year in the fridge.
Cook it at Home
- Watch our video to see Matt and Chong cook kimchi fried rice.
Many people ask Matt if it is common for kimchi to bubble or pop.
“The kimchi you have in your hands is fermenting and it’s in an active state,” says Matt. “Kimchi is very much alive … so that’s what makes kimchi so great. So it’s okay — don’t be afraid of your jar of kimchi.”