Pāngsin, the Ukhrul-Korean Kimchi medley Interview

Pāngsin source the cabbage from Sihai/lunghar, garlic from Tolloi, spring onion from Lunghar/Senapati, spring salt from Kalhang and various villages in combination with traditional Korean ingredients which is essential to maintain its authenticity and taste.

Interview with Awungpanla Ringyui Raman, founder and proprietor of Pāngsin.

Awungpanla have spent most of her career in hospitality. Currently working with Qatar Airways for the past 4 years and the last 3 and half years with Indian Hotels company Limited, and Hilton heading the Guest relations team. Awungpanla’s first degree was in literature and the second was in Korean.

She is a travel/language and a food enthusiast. Pachinko, Pride & prejudice, 1984 are few among her many favourite books. Some of her bucket list which she said she was able to fulfil includes having travelled half the globe before she turn 27, learned 3 languages by 23, start a career by 18, see the northern lights, volunteer to at least 3 community service. Start a company before she turn 30.

Awungpanla with the founding of Pāngsin is now 26 years of age.

She started Pāngsin solely for the love of food and rich culture of her Tangkhul Naga community. To have travelled the world and not bring anything back to my hometown and not put it to practice would be a shame, she quips.

My biggest desire and bucket list is to see my homeland, Ukhrul take a prominent place on a world stage as it is one beautiful place that lies beyond the polished smiles and tourist hustling. Our farmers market, she says, could drive our tourist traffic which she would like to contribute to. An ideal place of culture as it sits on the cusp of discovery, a genuine adventure, less dramatic but equally arresting the beauty of silent soul spanning sky.

Ukhrul Times in an exclusive interview with her in October asked how she drew inspiration to starting her new venture and all sort of other questions that went into the making of Pāngsin.

The interview contains Korean script for which translation is provided.

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When was Pāngsin Ukhrul launched?

Pāngsin was launched on the 29th of August.

What is Pāngsin Ukhrul? How did it begin?
Pāngsin 따뜻한 ukhrul is a small gastronomic venture which integrates Tangkhul and Korean culture which aims to bring to my community, a pāngsin of cuisine medley made out of everything grown at home from in and around Ukhrul. When I was working and studying in Kolkata, I had a Korean friend who I was very close to, since she was was a year older, her mom considered me as her youngest daughter. Both of us couldn’t cook at all, knowing that – she would always pack and send for me Kimchi/side dish-banchan(반찬)/Fresh kimchi- geotjori (겉절이). She was the one who taught me how to make the first Korean dish (kimchi) and while teaching me she said “ 누군가갑자기집에왔을때어떻가니요리할수 ​​없으니까.“? (Suddenly what if your friends visit you unannounced, then what will you and your sister (my friend) feed them since the both of you can’t cook?) That is how my first lesson was taught.

Overtime we exchanged our Kimchi and she would guide me on how to enhance the taste. This year in February when I visited her in Korea, I took my Kimchi to her, this time she smiled and said막내가요리하는법을배웠으니, 더이상걱정할필요가없겠어요”. (My youngest daughter has learned how to cook so now mother does need not worry anymore) My friend still does not know how to cook, her mom passed away in March and she did not get to know that I have launched Pāngsin, she would have been pleased as much as my own mother. It’s been long that I have been sharing my Kimchi with my friends and family, but when I came home this time, I was lucky enough to find vegetables in plenty so I took this opportunity to bring home a taste of Korea to my town.

Tell us about the inspiration behind the name Pāngsin.

The closest Tangkhul word that could compliment 따뜻한선물 [ta- tuet-han son mul] meaning a warmth gift made for you, which was our original brand name happened to be Pāngsin, since one must never forget our roots, the word Pāngsin was handpicked and it finally became-Pāngsin 따뜻한.

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What inspired you to start Pāngsin Ukhrul/What is the story behind Pāngsin?

The pandemic so happened to be a blessing in disguise, I have been away from home since I was 12. This lockdown has provided me the opportunity to rekindle my relationship with my family which I am ever grateful. Our family understands that Kimjang (making and sharing Kimchi together) makes us connected. As kimjang promotes intangible cultural heritage of humanity (recognised by UNESCO in 2013), I wanted to share it with my community so as to enhance solidarity in families and communities. During the olden times, the art of making kimchi was a communal festival, (making sure that everyone participates) 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 my cousins family would always get together to make Kimchi and through this-the bond, warmth and love between us have ever enriched. We hope that it will enrich your relationship as it has made ours.

What is Unique about Pāngsin Ukhrul?/What makes Pāngsin stand out from the rest?

Pāngsin was created with a heart that understands the correlation between our two culture. The logo was crafted incorporating a traditional Tangkhul home (Hao – Shim) and a traditional Korean home (Hanok) keeping in mind the similarities between the two culture. The younger generations have travelled and seen the world but our parents (who has given and provided us with everything), even having had multiple opportunities they refuse to travel and taste the beauty of culture and food and for that reason – with the limited proficiency I have about Korean language and culture, Pāngsin is crafted to bring opportunities for gastronomic diversity in my hometown.

Pāngsin as the word suggests – crafted by ones own hand for someone you care about is a gift from our family to yours. And we truly hope that our Pāngsin family remains healthy through regular intake of the kimchi which is a great source of probiotics. Pāngsin kimchi is crafted to aid good health (as it is rich in Vitamin C boosting our immune system) taking in consideration of the prevailing health conditions. Salt and sugar content in our Kimchi are regulated so that people with high blood pressure and diabetic patients can consume without affecting their health.

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Can you tell us about the products available in Pāngsin Ukhrul?

There are over 100 types of kimchi and here at Pāngsin we bring you 8 types of kimchi and a traditional Korean citron tea. Every family/each region has their own unique recipe of making their kimchi. Our kimchi is made with the most traditional recipe however Pāngsin is more than welcome to suggestions and is most willing to tailor our Kimchi to your preference. Honey Citron Tea a delicacy of the Joseon Dynasty once treasured in the royal kitchens, Yujacha [yu.ja.cha] is a traditional Korean tea one will now find in almost every household not just for its citrusy scent and fresh and sweet flavour, but particularly favoured as an excellent remedy for cold. Highly rich in Vitamin C and B6, iron, potent antioxidants and dietary fibre, yuja (citron) has great health benefits including reduction of blood uric acid, boosts immunity, aids weight loss, and helps manage high blood pressure to name a few. Pāngsin brings to you, Yujacha with a little twist of honey with rock sugar, hoping to make your cup of tea a little more sweet and a little more healing.

Where do you source the raw materials from?

Our Pāngsin’s Kimchi are crafted with warmth by taking advantage of our organic farmers market which is obtainable at our disposal, sourcing the cabbage from Sihai/lunghar, garlic from Tolloi, spring onion from Lunghar/Senapati, spring salt from Kalhang and various villages in combination with traditional Korean ingredients which is essential to maintain its authenticity and taste.

We see that Pāngsin Ukhrul mostly have South Korean cuisine or South Korean products. Can you tell us more on this? Why South Korea?

Having studied Korean language and culture while I was in college, I had to learn how to make kimchi. We were taught the most traditional art of making kimchi. The Koreans would use Shimkhur (Mortar and pestle) to pound their chillies. Like our staple food – Kangshoi stew vegetables with meat or dry fish) and fermented soyabean (theisui) they also have kimchi- Jiggae and Doenjang. From family orientation to food habits the number of similarities between the two culture is indeed uncountable. I have been to over 60 countries however there is nothing that is comparable to our home, and the hills we live in, surrounded by verdant expansion of spring’s offspring that creeps up almost to their summits; the whole forming a not easily forgotten panorama. In some way when you are in Korea the void can be reduced through the food and the culture we share.

Could you elaborate on the challenges and struggles Pāngsin face?

At the moment procuring the vegetables is a little challenging since the farmers market cannot supply it daily in quantities and in the amount we require. Lockdown in national/international borders has also contributed towards challenges in obtaining the ingredients from Korea which is essential to maintain its authenticity and taste. Transporting it to different cities and states are difficult as there are limited number of vehicles plying for public transport. There are Only a handful who knows about the taste/ benefits of kimchi and there are also equal amount oblivious to it too. Pāngsin is trying to understand our hometown taste buds and in this 2 months we have learned that our community especially Ukhrul (older generation) prefers Fresh kimchi – geotjori (겉절이) over aged kimchi. We would like our consumers to specify their preference so that we can tailor it for them.

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Tell us more about new projects that you are experimenting with? What are your business goals for the next five years?

Since we are still taking baby steps, we want to keep our focus on our existing variety. There are a lot of vegetables in our garden that we can use to make kimchi. We are looking towards making the variety available to our Pāngsin consumer family.

In the coming year we hope to open an exclusive dining space that will host our guests for an authentic Korean dining experience. Pāngsin would like to send out its products to the different cities in the country. And to be able to achieve this project we would like to consider mentoring our high school students or whoever is interested to intern with us. Since I have worked in the hospitality industry for more than 7 and half years, I would like to take this opportunity to also mentor our internees the basic knowledge of grooming and hospitality/how to face an interview and also a brief introduction of Korean language and culture. By giving opportunity and platform to our high schoolers/interested candidates we are also teaching our future generation to understand the value of being self dependent and an exposure to the outside world plus they could earn their pocket money. And this is how I would like to give back to my community by mentoring our younger generation.

What do you hope people take away from Pāngsin? And what can we expect from Pāngsin?

We hope that our Pāngsin consumer family receive warmth as much as we have sent forth.
Our farmer’s market plays a vital role in making Pāngsin available for our consumer family, to name a few – garlic are sourced from Talui, spring salt from Kalhang, Longpi pot {Korean uses Onggi – (earthenware pot similar to Longpi hum)} used as storage containers for natural fermentation to maintain its flavour and freshness through proper humidity and air ventilation.

Pāngsin wants to encourage our community to consume healthy and nutritious food. We would like to make our Pāngsin products reach beyond our community, as healthy food habits must be encouraged. Pāngsin aims to promote tourism through our food and the ingredients we use in making our products. Since Pangsin takes advantage of the abundance of our home grown organic vegetable, we could promote our food culture along with tourism.

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Other than on Instagram, where can we get Pāngsin products?

Pāngsin is available in Ukhrul at RMV store, Viewland and Sinim Store, Wino Bazaar. For Imphal – Self pick up service is available through DM at our Pāngsin Instagram handle. Senapati – The Wardrobe, Star complex, Senapati Main Market opposite Mini stadium. We shall soon start collaborating with online delivery service for Imphal and Ukhrul, which we shall update shortly on our instagram handle.

Last few words for our readers.

Pāngsin is profoundly grateful for the love and support we have received since the day it was launched.
Despite the challenges of the times, amazing number of friends and families from here and around the globe have supported us. We owe a debt of gratitude to our Pāngsin consumer family for supporting us. We are more than willing to tailor our Kimchi to your preference.

We pray that you will continue to welcome our warmth to your homes in many more ways in the future.

Thank you and good luck!

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