Phone number (808) 354-0609
If my last name hasn’t already made it very clear, I am Korean.
But it wasn’t until I took two years of the language to fulfill graduation requirements at UH Manoa that I felt a connection with that part of my heritage. Since then, I’ve become somewhat of a purist about whatever part of Korean culture I expose myself to. Yeah, I’m that person.
So when I heard about this new kimchi brand on the island called Nani Kore, I was simultaneously interested and confused. It was an oxymoron of sorts to me, and I immediately began wondering how a Japanese brand could possibly conquer such a simple-yet-complex Korean staple.
After giving it a try, I am a believer.
It is a collaboration between Kyoko Yokouchi, Jeff Kim and Victor Jian. All have experience in the restaurant industry and sought to create a new concept.
But why kimchi? “Why not?” says Kim. “You don’t have enough kimchi out there.”
Their operation has been underway for only a few months, and currently Nani Kore offers two variations: mild and spicy.
The group works with small batches, and unlike traditional kimchi, it is fresh, not fermented. The kimchi is comprised of more than 20 ingredients.
The mild kimchi is sweet, though it retains some heat. Additions such as pineapple not only cut through its potential spiciness, but also give it a different, almost candy-like flavor.
It was my favorite of the two. The spicy kimchi was good, and certainly packs some added heat, but the mild kimchi brought out flavors I never have experienced with kimchi before.
Just know, though, that if it’s authentic Korean kimchi you are looking for, you won’t find it here.
“It’s more of a local island flair, rather than Korean-style kimchi,” says Kim.
Really, it’s a reflection of the different ethnicities Yokouchi, Kim and Jian represent, and their sense of place. The response so far, they say, has been great.
Nani Kore does not yet have a central location, but you can find it weekly at various farmers markets and events. At some of these, they bring a griddle and cook up items such as kimchi fried rice and pork belly kimchi sliders. These items, Kim says, allow people to see how kimchi can be incorporated into meals as more than just a side dish.
Those all sound good. And I do want to try them, but as someone who eats kimchi for breakfast most days, that’s what really mattered. And all I can say is that I want more.
For updates on Nani Kore’s location, follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @nanikorehawaii.