If you’re a condiment collector (or even just an enthusiast), it’s probably time to add Cham Cham Sauce’s products to your shopping list. The Melbourne brand, founded by Bora and Jake Park back in May this year, makes three Korean condiments and sauces – lemon mustard ganjang (soy sauce), smoky gochujang and green chilli ssamjang (a thick paste made using fermented soybeans) – which can all be used as starters for dishes or as side sauces.
Cham Cham, like many businesses in the food and beverage space, has its roots in Covid lockdowns. Kim tells Broadsheet that throughout Melbourne’s lockdowns, she often found herself longing for the comfort of the food she grew up with in Korea. “I tried cooking all different Korean dishes at home – but when you cook Korean food, you need so many different sauces and spices, and need to measure to get the right flavour. I wasn't good at them and [it] just took so much time.”
She couldn’t find a store-bought sauce that she felt had the flavours she was missing, so Jake, who currently works as a senior chef at Rod Laver Arena, batch-made Korean sauces Bora could easily use as recipe starters.
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A few spoonfuls of green chilli ssamjang provided a base for Kim’s doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew) without the need for stock and numerous other ingredients.
The couple, who ran Kooyong restaurant Konbu Japanese Cuisine from 2015 until they closed the operation in 2019, are no strangers to working together.
“Our customers [at Konbu] called Jake 'the sauce master' and asked me to sell the sauces to them,” Bora says. “And he also used to provide all the sauces for his parents’ sushi shop in the city … so I thought that maybe we could start this sauce business.”
Earlier this year, they started seriously working on Cham Cham, making sauces and labels, packing products and taking them to stores and markets for tastings.
The hustle is paying off: their products now have over 30 stockists across Victoria and New South Wales, including Odd Culture in Fitzroy, Falco Bakery in Collingwood and D&K Asian Grocery in Footscray.
They’ve also become something of Melbourne food-world darlings, collaborating with Falco Bakery on a fougasse and Steve Chan’s Sleepy’s Cafe and Wine Bar on a glazed Korean fried chicken burger that used Cham Cham’s smoky gochujang.
They have grand ambitions for Cham Cham and plan to launch a new sauce early in the new year. They also have their eyes set on Australia-wide distribution and are looking to expand into the ready-to-eat meal market.