Food. There was no mistaken in my rapid response to the question often thrown at me when I travel places: What reminds you of home? We often miss home-food when far from home and are left with no option but to survive on whatever we could pick up to satisfy our hunger. The connection between food and home is deep. Food always draw us home. That was how Pāngsin따뜻한, the Kimchi kitchen was started amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
Like the many returnees to Manipur from different parts of the country when the countrywide lockdown was announced on March 24 following the spread of COVID-19 in the metros, I was also driven home by the crisis situation as surviving in the metro would be tough without having a job. But this gloomy pandemic situation is a blessing in disguise for me. I was coming home after seven years and the familiar muddy streets and the old wintry feeling as I walk through the town beckons me to work a living here.
Wrapped in the urban bubble, I had shied away from the rural web for a while. I had been far too long away from this beautiful home town, Ukhrul. I had forgotten what Christmas air feels like with family, what it felt like to lay still and enjoy the comfort and warmth of the fire place at home. We tend to hold on to the thought that our parents will stay the same that they will always be there. But they are getting weaker. Their vision and memories are beginning to fail them.
This pandemic has awaken us in many ways about the fragility of life. It reminded us our duties. It has taught us to prioritise our choices. This lockdown period has provided me the opportunity to rekindle the ties with my people, strengthen my roots and help build Pāngsin따뜻한.
Kimjang – that binds the bond
Almost every family has its own tradition and culture developed over the years. We have a family tradition of Kimjang (making and sharing Kimchi together). We believe Kimjang binds the bond. Kimjang promotes intangible cultural heritage of humanity. It enhances and solidify families and communities. It may be noted that every family has its own unique way of making kimchi.
During the olden times, the art of making kimchi was a part of cultural festival in winter - a time to bond for all the married women preparing to stock up on vegetables to last them through the harsh winter. Our family and relatives would get together to make Kimchi and through this -the bond, warmth and love among us have been deepened.
The traditional art of making Kimchi
Kimchi is a traditional staple in Korean cuisine, a side dish of salted and fermented vegetables.
I learned how to make authentic kimchi as a part of the study of Korean language and culture while I was in college. We were taught the most beautiful traditional art of making kimchi. There are over 100 types of Kimchi, which we completed all during my major.
The Koreans would also use Shimkhur (Mortar and pestle) to pound their chillies. Like our staple food - Kangshoi as the Meitei call it (stew vegetables with meat or dry fish) and fermented soyabean (theisui in Tangkhul) they also have kimchi- jiggae and Doenjang.
The story of Pangsin’s Kimchi
Pāngsin’s Kimchi is crafted with warmth by using organic vegetables from the several local farmers’ markets which sell fresh organic herbs and vegetables. Pangsin source cabbage from Sihai /Lunghar, garlic from Talui, spring onion from Lunghar or Senapati, spring salt from Marem and various villages in combination with traditional Korean ingredients which is essential to maintain its authenticity and taste.
The younger generations have travelled and seen the world but our parents here in the hills of Manipur have not seen the world and tasted the beauty of other cultures and food. With this in mind, Pāngsin was crafted based on the Korean culture and tradition, to bring opportunities for gastronomic diversity in my hometown.
Health benefits of Kimchi: Owing to the nutritious content of the fresh ingredients used in the traditional Korean dish, Kimchi is said to help in overall gut health, boosts immune system and lower cholesterol level, among others.
Each parcel of Pāngsin is packed for you with love and warmth, hoping that it will enrich your relationship as it has made ours. I’m indebted to all the people here and around the world who have encouraged and inspired me to bring Pāngsin to life.