Daniel Lee and Matt Jung’s quest to produce the perfect vegan kimchi started at nearly 11,000 feet. When the friends began making the fermented Korean side dish together in 2020 during a stint at (now-closed) Vesta, they would hike to an alpine snowfield carrying up to 150 pounds of seasoned napa cabbage in containers to bury. Why? Because the high country’s thinner air, consistently cool underground temperature, and arid soil mimic the conditions of Korean onggi, the clay pots traditionally used to ferment kimchi. “It’s the perfect environment for healthy microbes and probiotics to thrive while preventing the growth of unwanted bacteria,” Jung says. Weeks later, when the duo would return to unearth their buried treasure, they were greeted with crisp kimchi kissed with the perfect combination of heat and tang. Local chefs loved the results, leading Jung and Lee to establish Dead Veggies in November 2020 and move their operation to a commercial kitchen. Here’s the scoop on how the goods are produced today (no shovels required).

From left: David Lee and Matt Jung. Photo courtesy of Ashley Youngswick

30: Minimum days it takes to prep, brine, dry, store, and preserve Lee and Jung’s kimchi; to replicate the mountain environment, they ferment the cabbage in the cool interior of a refrigerator

300: Pounds of kimchi produced weekly

7: Times per week the artisans measure the pH balance, salinity, and texture of each batch of cabbage to ensure every leaf has ample flavor and crunch

0: Cabbage parts wasted during the process; the stems are roasted and simmered to infuse kimchi habanero hot sauce and kimchi pepper jelly, two other Dead Veggies products

14: Local restaurants and food trucks—including Ace Eat Serve, Turtle Boat, Del Mar by Rooted, Open, and Street Feud inside Number 38—serving Dead Veggies’ kimchi

Find Dead Veggies’ goods at Del Mar by Rooted, Rooted Craft Kitchen, Ruby’s Market, and pop-up markets.

This article was originally published in 5280 July 2021.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.