Rising up in Etobicoke, I spent a number of time with my hami and habi — brief for halmoni (grandma) and haraboji (grandpa) in Korean — who babysat me usually. Now 89 and 90, they want extra assist with day-to-day duties. Throughout the pandemic, my dad and mom needed to take time without work work to drive them to medical appointments, so in November I made a decision to sublet my Toronto condominium and transfer in with my grandparents in Oakville. I anticipated to be the one caring for them, nevertheless it shortly turned a symbiosis — us taking good care of one another.
Whereas I helped them kind out paperwork, manage the home, and drive from one appointment to a different, they shared with me tales from a spot they as soon as known as dwelling, which is now often called North Korea. My grandfather grew up in Jangyeon, Hwanghae-do, and remembers his grandfather leaving at daybreak on horseback to survey their property and never returning till dinnertime.
His household left for South Korea in 1948, two years earlier than the Korean Struggle. They knew it wasn’t secure being Christian (and having property) below a secular authorities. Mates and neighbours began to go lacking; as soon as they disappeared, nobody knew what occurred to them. Throughout the warfare, my grandmother left for South Korea on a fishing boat from Ongjin-bando along with her older sister. They by no means noticed the remainder of their household once more. Collectively my grandparents got here to Canada in 1971.
Each night, my grandma prepares dinner with banchan — there are eight to 10 facet dishes with each meal, at the least three of that are several types of kimchi. Like the remainder of her cooking, my grandma’s kimchi is restricted to North Korean delicacies. Within the south, kimchi could be very “jjah,” which implies robust flavour. It’s nearer to the ocean, so the kimchi is fishy and so they add extra salt.
Within the north, the place the local weather is cooler, they don’t want so as to add as a lot salt to protect meals, so the kimchi has a more energizing style. Watching my grandmother put together kimchi made me understand the significance of custom and the way it’s my duty to hold that on. I had by no means made kimchi earlier than I moved in with my grandparents, and in reality I didn’t spend a lot time cooking in any respect.
I eat a plant-based weight loss plan, so I wished to make kimchi with out utilizing the normal fish sauce and shrimp paste elements. I appeared into totally different vegan kimchi choices, and most don’t exchange the fish sauce or shrimp paste with something.
So I began experimenting and got here up with a kelp and shiitake-based inventory that brings again the umami flavour. There’s an earthiness to the shiitake mushrooms that gives depth, and the kelp brings in that salt from the ocean.
The purple pepper paste can also be normally made with flour, however I opted to make use of candy rice flour, so it may be gluten free and add a delicate sweetness. I’ve additionally added extra ginger and garlic, as a result of I feel they style nice and increase the well being advantages. That’s how I got here up with my very own kimchi, and Sonyo Meals Co was born.
Sonyo means “granddaughter” in Korean, which feels applicable. It’s about my grandmother passing on her custom and me making it true to myself. I launched my web site in December and ship kimchi all around the GTA. Proper now, it’s a one-woman present. I make all of the kimchi, design the labels, create and write the Instagram posts, and ship the product to my prospects.
I’ve had Korean prospects say, “This jogs my memory of how my grandma used to make it,” or “I used to dwell in Korea and this tastes identical to the kimchi my landlord used to deliver me.” Listening to issues like that provides me an immense sense of gratitude.
To this point, one of the best half about making my kimchi is carrying on this custom from my grandparents. It’s additionally been an incredible gateway to study extra about my id and share that with others. Dwelling with my hami and habi, I’ve gotten to know them higher — not simply as my grandparents however as people with unimaginable tales to inform. I’m so grateful to have the ability to share these tales by way of meals.
—As informed to Isabel B. Slone
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