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MILKimchi, spreading the word one jar at a time

July 11, 2012 - 19:48 By Korea Herald
Authentic flavors, chic packaging put U.S.-based artisanal kimchi on the map

Want to know how Korean cuisine is going global in America?

From a microcosmic point of view, people like Lauryn Chun, founder of MILKimchi, play an important role in spreading the word, and the grub.

After losing a marketing gig during the financial crisis of 2008, Chun parlayed her experience in wine and French cuisine into an artisanal kimchi business.

Her mother, who has been running a seolleongtang (oxtail and brisket soup) restaurant in California since 1989, and her establishment’s kimchi formed the foundation for Chun’s spicy pickled cabbage and daikon radish.

According to Chun, she based her kimchi recipes on those of her mother’s restaurant. 
MILKimchi founder Lauryn Chun (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Chun then brought label-and-bottle know-how accumulated while working in the wine industry to create cute-and-chic packaging for her kimchi.

Sending a nod to her mother’s restaurant Jang Mo Gip (which means “the husband’s mother-in-law” in Korean), Chun christened her enterprise Mother-In-Law’s Kimchi a.k.a. MILKimchi.

After launching in 2009, Chun said her business started to take off about a year later. She recalled how she used to deliver kimchi by hand via subway.

MILKimchi has come a long way from those early door-to-door days. Her kimchi is sold nationwide in offline stores and has popped up in Elle magazine, The New York Times and USA Today.

“There is such a curiosity and wanting to learn about Korean food,” said Chun, 42, who was in Seoul on a personal trip this week. “They really see Korean food as the next kind of big trend in terms of Asian food to take the spotlight in America.”

“Americans really understand that sourness and they really like the tanginess,” Chun put in her two cents on the allure of her kimchi.

Chun keeps her product line simple. She has napa cabbage, daikon radish and vegan napa cabbage kimchi.

Of her vegan version, Chun said, “it was really about taking out salted shrimp and anchovies” and substituting it with onions and apples “to give it a natural sweetness.”

Though Chun is not afraid to fiddle with recipes to suit the diverse needs of her customers, she does not “water down” her kimchi.

“I really wanted to show it in its most authentic form.”

Chun explained how she had a test group of non-Korean participants tell her, “just put something that’s real out there.”

“Everybody in their 20s and 30s now and the access (they have) to information and travelling and whatnot. They really want the most authentic, real thing.”

That said, kimchi has yet to be a completely familiar fixture on today’s American table, according to Chun.

“Most of what I do is education,” said Chun, who teaches people about kimchi at various events.

Chun will be reaching an even wider audience when a cookbook on kimchi, which she worked on with Sassy Radish blogger Olga Massov, hits shelves this November.

Chun revealed that the book is divided into three sections ― one will teach readers how to make spring-summer kimchi, the other will be on fall-winter kimchi and the third section will be about how to use kimchi in dishes.

Chun said that there will be a mixture of traditional Korean and fusion recipes that use kimchi.

Chun revealed that she hopes the cookbook will speak to the average American reader.

“It should be about how you apply kimchi in your everyday life.”

Spicy Kimchi Bloody Mary

Courtesy of MILKimchi


● 1/2 cup tomato juice

● 1/4 cup MILKimchi (juice)

● 1 teaspoon of soy sauce

● 3 oz. vodka

● 2 ice cubes

● Garnishes: celery stick, lemon slice, MILKimchi, pearl onion, cucumber


Combine first 5 ingredients in processor. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a chilled glass. Add garnishes and serve immediately.

By Jean Oh (