BELFAST, Maine — Anne Devin of Monroe grew up eating Korean cuisine — full of savory, complex flavors — that her immigrant mom made at home.
Now, Devin and her husband, Tim Devin, are planning to bring those flavors to the midcoast through “Seoul Shack,” a once-a-month food stand that will debut on March 6 at the United Farmers Market of Maine in Belfast.
“We’ve never done restaurant work before so this is all completely new, but exciting,” Devin said. “I’m definitely excited about sharing my Korean heritage with folks.”
The Devins, both retired Marine Corps veterans, moved to Maine in 2016 to try their hand at farming. They started Chase Stream Farm, where they raise pigs and chickens and grow the produce they use for the value-added foods they prepare, including jams, relishes and kimchi, a Korean staple that’s made of salted and fermented vegetables. Anne Devin, 53, also is the farmer veteran outreach coordinator for Maine AgrAbility, and helps run Boots-2-Bushels, a program to help Maine veterans transition to a career in agriculture after life in the military.
In short, they’re busy. But for years, Anne Devin has wanted to find more ways to share her mom’s food with the community. Her mother, now a “very spunky” 91-year-old living in California, was born in Seoul, South Korea, and was the granddaughter of the doctor for the last king there.
“She grew up in a kind of a little princess life, living on the palace grounds in Seoul. She had a privileged existence,” Devin said. “She learned how to cook, and passed that on to me, mostly by osmosis. Because I was in the kitchen with her when she was making it.”
But Devin’s dad, a native of St. Francis in Aroostook County, didn’t share their love of Korean cuisine.
“My mom would always make two meals — an American meal for him, and I would always get the fish head soup for breakfast,” she said.
In their household, at least, it seemed that Korean food would be a hard sell for American palates. She recounts a favorite family story when her dad was napping on the couch one day, and she and her mother were eating kimchi stew in the kitchen. The smell startled him, and he jumped off the couch, thinking that something was wrong.
“Toward the end, he would eat the Americanized stuff. He would eat bulgogi, and eat the dumplings. But never the kimchi. That would never cross his lips,” Devin said.
These days, though, more Americans have acquired a taste for kimchi, especially as they’ve learned about the benefits of fermentation. Devin makes and sells kimchi locally, and it will star in one of the first items available at the Seoul Shack: kimchi fried rice. They will also make Korean burritos, inspired by a fusion burrito she enjoyed while going to language school for the Marines in Monterey, California.
Her version will feature Korean-seasoned ground beef with rice and seasoned spinach, carrots and pickled daikon radish, topped off by a little of her homemade Kojang Korean Hot Sauce.
“It’ll be savory and a little bit crunchy. I love it,” she said.
The Devins plan to open Seoul Shack on the first Saturday of every month, with the hope of adding more days.
“We just ask for everybody’s patience upfront as we navigate our way through this,” she said. “We’re not experienced in this at all, but we just love the food.”
The United Farmers Market of Maine, at 18 Spring St. in Belfast, is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.