Another well-known Korean specialty ingredient to look for while surfing Korean websites or walking through an Asian market is gochujang.
Gochujang is a dark red chili paste with a savory, sweet, and spicy flavor and a thick and sticky texture.
This fermented condiment is made from the following ingredients…
- Red Chili Powder…This chili powder is made from Korean chili peppers that are spicy yet sweet, providing a healthy amount of lingering heat that’s not burn-your-mouth spicy.
- Glutinous Rice Powder…This is what gives gochuchang its touch of sweetness. This rice powder can also be substituted with normal short-grain rice, barley, whole wheat kernels, jujubes, pumpkin, and sweet potato. A small amount of sweetener—such as sugar, syrup, or honey—is also sometimes added.
- Meju (fermented soybean) powder
- Yeotgireum (barley malt powder)
Making gochuchang is a long and arduous task that involves fermenting the mixture for years in earthenware vessels called “jangdok” on an elevated stone platform, called a “jangdokdae” in the backyard. That’s the reason that I’m not adding a recipe for it.
Tips For Choosing Gochujang
- Add a teaspoonful at a time. A little goes a long way because of its spiciness.
- Check the package before purchasing to see how hot it is, kinda like buying salsa.
- Keep an eye open when searing or grilling meats that have been marinated with gochujang that contains sugar because the meat will have a tendency to burn easily.
- Look for gochujang that only contains the above ingredients…no corn syrup, starch syrup or hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
- Look for it to be sold in small, red square tubs.
- Store in the fridge once you open it.
- Thin your gochujang with a liquid of some sort–such as sesame oil, crushed garlic, sugar, soy sauce—because the thick texture of gochujang makes it a bit difficult to use straight up.
- Unlike sriracha or Tabasco, gochujang is too aggressive to be used as a finishing sauce.
Uses for Gochujang
Butter…Gochuchang can be paired with “everyday” foods—such as steak, tacos, and burgers. One way of doing this is to make your own gochuchang butter.
Marinade…Another common use is as a marinade for meat…such as this bulgogi recipe from Crazy Korean Cooking.
Sauces…Gochuchang can also be used in condiments, salad dressings, and dipping sauces…such as Ssamjang, a thick, spicy paste made from gochujang, sesame oil, onion, garlic, green onions, and optionally brown sugar….as in this recipe from Fine Cooking.
Stews and Soups…One of the most common uses of gochujang is by the spoonful to add depth to stews and soups and stews…such as this Gochuchang Soup from Little Corner of Mine.