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Kimchipalooza is coming this Sunday. Prepare thyself.

Kimchi seems to be enjoying a bit of a revolution. The once not-so-easy-to-find Korean staple now seems to grace shelves in everything from tiny cheese shops to supermarkets throughout the borough. You’ll find innovative takes on kimchi in everything from bar snacks to dumplings.

Kimchi’s spicy, tangy blend of fermented vegetables doesn’t just taste awesome – it’s been increasingly been touted as a ‘wonder food’ due to its uniquely rich blend of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which deliver a nice nutritional punch in addition to aiding digestion, boosting immunity, and more.

With the debut of the first annual KIMCHIPALOOZA (all caps, we’re told) happening as part of the Cookout NYC grilling blowout on Governor’s Island this Sunday, can anyone argue with the statement that kimchi has hit the big time?

We spoke with Kheedim Oh, founder of Brooklyn-based Mama O’s Premium Kimchi and mastermind behind KIMCHIPALOOZA.

So Kheedim, Kimchipalooza? What’s it all about?

Kimchipalooza is part of the big Cookout NYC event at Colonel’s Row on Governor’s Island this Sunday. At Kimchipalooza we’ve got three different things going on. It’s going to be like an old-fashioned county fair…just all kimchi.

We’re doing a homemade kimchi contest – people can bring in their own take on kimchi. We’re also doing a ‘Creative Cooking with Kimchi’ contest. People can enter any dish that incorporates kimchi in some way. They’ll be judged on…well, on how good the dish is!

The entries for both contests will be judged by Cathy Erway of “Not Eating Out in New York,” Faye Pichler of Marlow & Daughter, Joann Kim of the former Greenpoint Food Market, and best of all, my mom – Mama O.

And for the big finale, we’re gonna have a super daikon kimchi eating contest, which I hope will be simultaneously entertaining and disgusting.

Oh, and we’re doing a kimchi-making demo with Michaela Hayes from Gramercy Tavern! So you can learn how to make it yourself.

So tell us some more about Cookout NYC?

It’s a big event. There’s a Burger Cook-Off hosted by Fleischer’s Meats, a Hot Dog Cook-Off…all kinds of chefs doing all kinds of grilling…There will be a lot of great beer, too. Sixpoint Craft Ales is one of the event hosts, and there will be some special beers brewed specifically for the event.

Sam Kim from Skimkim is doing kimchi micheladas – it’s a Mexican drink that’s kind of like a Bloody Mary, but made with beer.

Tell us a little more about you? What’s the quick story behind Mama O’s Kimchi?

Well Mama O’s started two years ago when I needed to get my kimchi fix. My folks live in Maryland so it was too far to keep going home to get kimchi, so I took the Chinatown bus to DC, went home, learned how to make it my mom’s way, loaded up a cooler full of my first kimchi and brought it back up here.  Then I just kept making it! That’s how Mama O’s Kimchi was born.

What makes good kimchi…good?

For me, good kimchi is spicy and sour, tangy and fresh all at the same time. Not too sweet. And it needs to taste good with the other food you’re eating it with. Typically you don’t just eat kimchi by itself. You usually eat it with rice at a minimum – often with a protein.

Is there a classic kimchi or is it more like homebrewing – lots of styles?

Personally, I strive for what I see as a classic American kimchi. I make it very traditionally, but I add a couple of elements that aren’t traditional. Instead of using minari, the traditional Korean parsley that’s used to lighten up the flavor, I use cilantro. I like kimchi with a really fresh note and I think the cilantro adds that. And it’s just a nice twist.

At Kimchipalooza I really want to push the boundaries. The contests leave it really open for anyone to try anything. I’m looking forward to seeing some creative kimchis and some imaginative and unconventional approaches to cooking with it.

It’s gonna be really fun – Summer day, Governor’s Island and Kimchi! Can’t go wrong with that!


Can’t wait to join the ruckus? Check out Cookout NYC this Sunday, July 10th from 11:30 – 5pm on Governor’s island.  More info and tickets here. If you’re Jonesin’ for Kimchi in particular, check out Mama O’s website here for details on KIMCHIPALOOZA and “fabulous prizes” you can win at the event (like, seriously).

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