Inspired by her love for Korean cuisine, this girl is Lahore’s kimchi pioneer

Inspired by her love for Korean cuisine, this girl is Lahore’s kimchi pioneer

July 5, 2021 0

How many times have you wanted to try out a different cuisine but didn’t know where to start? Well, to solve your dilemma, I’m going to tell you about something that you need to try right now. Korean cuisine has taken much of the food limelight this past year, from Spicy Korean Ramen to the delicious Rice Cakes we’re all familiar with, it is a cuisine that almost everyone has either heard about or tried out. However, disappointingly, there is one important part of Korean food that we overlook: Kimchi (@thekimchigirl_).

source (@thekimchigirl_)

This realisation set me on my search for kimchi right here in Pakistan. Immediately, I found out about Meraj from The Kimchi Girl (@thekimchigirl_), who I was able to have a passionate discussion with in regards to kimchi. She started out by telling me about her time in Canada and her Korean best friend and roommate Hallie.

Now, if you’ve ever lived in a dorm, you know of the dynamics of having a roommate. Hallie, as Meraj described, was a huge proponent of eating healthy food and the one thing she always had on hand was kimchi. Hallie would have it with every single meal of the day. Meraj couldn’t understand how someone could have it as a part of every meal until she tried it herself. Hallie showed Meraj how kimchi could be eaten with anything and everything – Kimchi Omelette in the morning, Kimchi Fried Rice for lunch and on the side with a serving of dumplings in the evening.

source (@thekimchigirl_)

Ever since then Meraj has loved Korean cuisine, especially kimchi and it’s versatility. Meraj and Hallie would go out to Korean restaurants, have dumplings during study sessions, and even try to add kimchi to all their meals. Eventually, Meraj returned to Pakistan and set about working in the education sector. However, one thing that she always missed was Korean cuisine.

source (@thekimchigirl_)

When COVID happened, Meraj believed that all things happen for a reason and for her that reason came in the form of The Kimchi Girl (@thekimchigirl_). During the lockdown she focused on experimenting with cooking foods that she couldn’t find in Pakistan. One lucky day, her mother opened the fridge and happened to find radishes upon radishes flooding the fridge! In true desi mom fashion, Meraj got an earful about wastefulness and thus had to come up with a quick solution to use up the radishes. And so, although travelling was put on hold, she decided to bring the Korean experience to Lahore and created her first batch of kimchi.

source (@thekimchigirl_)

I could tell how passionate Meraj was about it because she started out her business with nothing but a love for kimchi and a fridge full of radishes. She also told me about the careful process of fermenting kimchi (which someone with no patience like me could never do) and my mind immediately thought, “Achaar”. She laughed it off and truly told me about the fermentation process, how it has to be a certain temperature for the perfect crunchiness, how there has to be the ultimate balance of spice to veggies, and how it was nothing like making achaar (oops). Did you know that kimchi has no oil and no sugar?

source (@thekimchigirl_)

I also told Meraj how I’d never really heard of kimchi until recently and she told me that kimchi was actually made when China invaded Korea during the Three Kingdoms period, and the locals had to find a way to preserve their food. She also told me that kimchi has more health benefits than we can think of, starting out with good bacteria and improving your gut health as well as boosting your immune system.

source (@thekimchigirl_)

From her first batch of Napa Kimchi, to other types of kimchi such as Purple Kimchi, to Kimchi butter, and eventually Kimchi Dumplings and Pancakes, everything that she has produced was because of a love for the cuisine. She didn’t want to capitalise on the market, rather bring some passion and spice into it. Meraj also has big aspirations for the future. She plans to introduce Kimchi Peri Bites to her menu soon, find more retailers, and hopefully launch something along the lines of her own restaurant as well.

source (@thekimchigirl_)

Meraj is just beginning her kimchi journey and all I can say is: you guys need to hop on the kimchi train with her because I know I am.

source (@thekimchigirl_)
Fatima Tariq
Fatima Tariq
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