Fermented Fervor

Minnie Luong of Chi Kitchen Foods dishes on kimchi and Korean cuisine

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“South Koreans eat an average of 40 pounds of kimchi in a year and enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world – is there a connection there? I’d like to think so,” says Minnie Luong, owner and “Chi-EO” of Chi Kitchen Foods. Maybe, says the chef, this is why the savory fermented cabbage has caught on so quickly throughout the United States – it’s good for our bodies, and so, we instinctively crave that umami flavor. Over the past decade, the number of Korean eateries and food products has increased dramatically here in Rhode Island, and Minnie’s food company is an essential part of this exciting trend. “We want to help raise the profile of kimchi and fermented foods here in Rhode Island because it is a delicious, easy, and satisfying way to maintain gut health.”

The idea for Chi Kitchen Foods was born years ago in Los Angeles, when Minnie decided that her passion was to start a healthy Asian food company. Following her career epiphany, she quit her job in California and moved her family to Providence in 2015 to start Chi Kitchen. The business was incubated at Hope & Main and now, after successfully selling her products one by one at farmers markets, her kimchi can be found in over 100 retail stores in New England.

For those unfamiliar with the iconic Korean pickle, Napa cabbage is salted and fermented and then covered in an aromatic paste of ginger, garlic, onions, and red pepper, giving the condiment a vibrant red color. The word kimchi in Korean translates to “salted vegetable” in English. The salting step is critical according to Minnie, because it fosters the growth of probiotic lactic acid bacteria already present in the vegetables. Along with this healthy digestive bacteria, Chi Kitchen’s products are non-GMO and preservative- and additive-free. There’s also a vegan option made without fish sauce to accommodate those on a plant-based diet.

Chi Kitchen Kimchi can be found at Pantry at Avenue N, Greenline Apothecary, East Side Marketplace, Stock PVD, Olive Del Mundo, Urban Greens, Dave’s Market, and Whole Foods. 512-555, Mineral Spring Avenue