Community·OTTAWA PROFILES

How kimchi brings us together: 4 questions with Hana Jung

CBC In The Kitchen introduces you to local chefs, at-home cooks and food lovers in our city to inspire the conversation as we ask what food and community mean to you.

New CBC Ottawa series inspires conversation about food and community

Hana Jung and her husband Iruk Cho prepare kimchi and sauces in their production kitchen before bringing everything to their downtown location and their food cart. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

When Hana Jung and Iruk Cho came to Canada from Korea, they wanted to start a business. 

They decided to open a Korean food cart and restaurant in downtown Ottawa. 

But there was just one problem: neither of them knew how to make kimchi. 

They had grown up eating it at home but never learned to prepare it themselves. It wasn't until they decided to open Raon Kitchen that they put their kimchi-making skills to the test, experimenting and perfecting their recipe.

If you want to know if he or she is a good cook, then you need to check his or her kimchi.- Hana Jung

As part of the new summer series CBC In The Kitchen, we met up with Jung and Cho at their preparation kitchen and spoke with Jung about Korean cooking and community. 

Her answers have been edited for length and clarity. 

New CBC Ottawa series inspires conversation about food and community. 1:37

Where did you first learn how to make kimchi? 

The funny thing is everything started after we arrived in Canada. In Korea, we didn't need to make kimchi. 

And even my mother tried to teach me how to make kimchi. I wasn't paying attention to her teaching at all. I was listening, but I was not really paying attention to it because we can buy it.

Tell us how you taught yourself. 

Well actually, we experimented many times and [Iruk]'s quite creative and he has a talent for cooking. 

He just started making kimchi and we experimented many times and it turned out okay at first and was getting better.

Iruk Cho prepares the kimchi by covering cabbage in a thick paste. (Kate Tennehouse/CBC)
Like this. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

How does food bring people together? 

Hana Jung says kimchi is an essential part of Korean cooking. (Illustration by Ginar Ogbit)
Well that question reminds me of one traditional Korean event. It's annually happening called Gimjang, which is all about making kimchi. 

At the end of a harvest season, just right before winter, we need kimchi before the winter season but it's a lot of work. So friends, families all get together. 

I still remember my mother used to make one hundred [or] two hundred heads of napa cabbage kimchi just for the winter for our family, which is just four members only. 

People get together and prepare everything and make kimchi and at the end of the day, we make other foods to share together with kimchi and then we divide the kimchi and bring it home, which is really a lot of work, but it was fun. It was like a feast.

How important is kimchi in Korean cuisine? 

Kimchi is an essential part of our Korean cooking. 

Sometimes we say, 'If you want to know if he or she is a good cook then you need to check his or her kimchi first.'

Jung says there are more than 200 different types of kimchi. (Kate Tenenhouse/CBC)

Over the next few weeks, CBC In The Kitchen will introduce you to local chefs, at-home cooks and food lovers in our city to inspire the conversation as we ask what food and community mean to you. 

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