Eat Kim Chee the Nani Kore Way
Nani Kore uses kim chee in unexpected ways. Find this gourmet product at Eat the Street and local farmers markets.
Nani Kore’s Pork Belly Kim Chee Slider at Eat the Street.
Photo: Gus Downes
Kim chee is a local staple, loved by just about everyone, but it’s rare that you hear it described as “gourmet.”
But that’s exactly how Kyoko Yokouchi and Jeff Kim are marketing their brand of kim chee, Nani Kore. The duo’s recipe for kim chee uses more than 20 ingredients, which Yokouchi says is at least twice the number found in most standard recipes. They’ve been selling their kim chee, and food made with it, at Eat the Street and farmers markets around O‘ahu.
They started making kim chee last July and are only getting busier. They already appear at four farmers markets a week, and are adding a fifth in ‘Āina Haina starting April 7. Yokouchi says, “We’re surprised at how successful we’ve been in a short amount of time.”
The kim chee is, simply put, stellar. Even though it’s fermented, the won bok tastes fresh, with a crisp bite and cool juiciness that’s refreshing. The ingredients complement each other. Nothing gets in the way. It still tastes like kim chee, which may seem like a silly observation, but, in a food culture that can skew toward putting a “signature spin” on classics, the owners have taken a local staple and made it better. The kim chee comes in won bok, bok choy and cucumber variations, in both mild and spicy versions (get the spicy).
Compared to the quality of the kim chee, the hot food Yokouchi and Kim served at the most recent Eat the Street didn’t measure up. The pork sliders, $8 for two, came served on fluffy sweet rolls, light on pork, heavy on mayonnaise, with only an occasional crunch of cabbage.
The fried rice bomb came with a small amount of kim chee hidden under a mound of salty fried rice and spiced mayo. It was served with two nori “chopsticks,” which sound like a potentially good gimmick of being able to eat your utensils, until they turned rubbery. Better was the kim chee yakisoba, good noodles topped with a bit of kim chee and mayo.
All of these dishes just hide the star ingredient. To make this kim chee shine, all it really needs is hot white rice.
Bags of kim chee can be purchased at Jugo Life, 2463 S. King St. Food and kim chee can be purchased at markets across O‘ahu. Nani Kore can be found at the Windward Mall farmers markets Wednesdays, 2:30–7 p.m., and Sundays, 9:45 a.m.–2 p.m.; Thursdays from 3–6:30 p.m. at Kapolei High School; and Saturdays at the Makeke Farmers Market at Wai‘anae Mall, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Starting April 7, they can be found at a new farmers market in ‘Āina Haina at the Holy Nativity School parking lot, Tuesdays from 5–7:30 p.m. nanikorehawaii.com