March 25 was the last day of the Logan Square Farmer’s Market, hosted indoors by Logan Square’s own Emporium Arcade Bar (1366 N. Milwaukee Ave.). One newcomer to the Farmer’s Market is Kyle Chamberlin, owner of Kimchi Boy’s Kimchi, purveyor of tasty and spicy vegan kimchi. We met originally at Kitchen Chicago several months ago, where he schooled me on the origins of the world-famous Korean dish.
“Kimchi is kind of like Korean sauerkraut,” Chamberlin says. “It’s a mix of fermented vegetables, cabbage, radishes and chili powder.”
Kimchi is the product of a thousand-year-old practice of preserving vegetables to last from summer to winter, buried in clay crocks underground.
Kimchi is a national staple in Korea, so much so that poems have been written about the delicacy. South Korean president Park Chung-hee once told U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson that kimchi was “vitally important to the morale of Korean troops.” In Korea, Chamberlain explains, kimchi to Koreans is as traditional as apple pie to Americans.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Chamberlin spent several months in Los Angeles living on the outskirts of Koreatown, known nationwide for their old-school-to-funky-fusion restaurants. Once Kyle turned vegetarian, he looked around for kimchi with anchovies or fish paste, which are standard ingredients to the recipe.
Not satisfied with the quality of kimchi in stores, Chamberlin eventually decided to come up with his own recipe: instead of fish he uses kochugaru (or gochgaru), a blend of red pepper flakes and dark miso, a paste made from Japanese seasonings. The chili powder definitely gives Kyle’s kimchi a spicy kick, complementing the cool flavor of the vegetables.
I’ve never heard of kimchi until now, but I’m definitely a fan of the light and healthy-tasting dish. And I’m not alone: between being the hot new food on the block and his interview with WGN Radio, Chamberlin has made a name for himself across the city and was a hit at the Logan Square Farmer’s Market, selling 60 – 70 jars on a good day.
“The response has been great,” Chamberlin says with a smile. “I’m very happy to introduce people to kimchi and educate them on vegan options.” Kyle’s Instagram page is a great place to see how imaginative you can be with this flavorful food.
The Farmer’s Market reopens at its outdoor location May 13 along Logan Boulevard between Milwaukee and Whipple, running on Sundays from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM.
You can pick up a jar of kimchi and maybe a KimchiBoysKimchi T-shirt or some stickers, designed by Canadian artist Salina Ladha.