It was an audacious move. Michael Jung read an article in which Michelin-starred chef Hooni Kim lamented the difficulty in finding authentic jangs (fundamental Korean cooking condiments). So Jung took a chance.

“I emailed him and said, ‘I sent you our traditional doenjang. Please give me your evaluation.' He answered with one simple sentence: ‘I’ll let you know after tasting.’”

It was 2010 and Jung’s company, Jook Jang Yeon, was barely 2 years old and had only just begun producing doenjang, a savory fermented soybean paste similar to miso. But the risk paid off and the two forged a partnership. But Jung’s relationship with doenjang goes back much further.

“More than 20 years ago, my father helped the people of Jukjang-myeon village and the villagers gave him doenjang as a thank you,” says Jung.

Now, Jook Jang Yeon produces its Doenjang, spicy Gochujang and the soy sauce Ganjang, with the residents of that same Korean mountain village.

“The Jukjang village aunts are our precious masters,” says Jung. “The sincerity of the Jukjang village people is what makes the products special.”

Michael Jung (left) with chef Hooni Kim (right).

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Photos: Courtesy of Jook Jang Yeon