Aruna Lee’s path to running a fermented food brand is riveting, from her journey as an orphan to Buddhist nun to founder of Volcano Kimchi.
Lee’s story is detailed in a San Francisco Chronicle feature. Adopted by her teacher, she remembers sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night and digging up dongchimi, a winter radish kimchi fermented in large crocks buried in the ground. Later, as a nun in seminary school, Kimchi was communally made during gimjang, the process of kimchi making. The members of the monastery would prepare bulk batches in winter and spring in a large bathtub, storing it in underground crocks.
Curious about the world, Lee later left the monastery and traveled the world. She met her husband and eventually made roots in San Francisco. After the recession forced her to leave her career in the nonprofit sector, she began making kimchi for sale at farmers markets in 2014 without any professional cooking experience. Her organic kimchi is made similarly to how she learned in the monastery — including keeping it vegan.
“When you add fish sauce and shrimp paste, it overpowers everything and you don’t taste each ingredient. When you add simple ingredients, it’s balanced. It has a harmony of that flavor,” Lee says.
Read more (San Francisco Chronicle)