Serious Heat: Obsessed with Gochujang, the Korean Chile Sauce

Serious Heat

Andrea Lynn, senior editor of Chile Pepper magazine, shares thoughts and observations from the fiery food world.

"Gochujang is a definite staple in the Korean kitchen, like lard to a Southerner."


[Flickr: kattebelletje]

It was an SE'r who steered me in the direction of the Korean chile sauce, gochujang. Inspired by the recommendation, I trekked to my local Korean market and picked up the SunChang brand of the sauce. When I opened the container, I was greeted by a thick, brick-red sauce the consistency of tomato paste.

The consistency caught me off-guard, as I wondered what to do with the stuff. I consulted a past SE Talk thread for inspiration, as well a Korean-American friend who explained it in terms this Southern gal could understand: "Gochujang is a definite staple in the Korean kitchen, like lard to a Southerner."

The primary ingredients of gochujang are fermented soybeans, dried chiles, and other seasonings, and while it can be used plain, more often than not, it's mixed with a combination of items like soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger and/ or sesame oil prior to using it. This thins out the sauce, and gives it more flavor dimension. If you're a fan of that fermented taste of miso like myself, this is the hot sauce condiment for you. It's salty and earthy with a side of heat.


[Photographs: FotoosVanRobin]

In the two weeks of gochujang experimentation, I used it in practically all of my cooking endeavors. Spread on my English muffin topped with a sunnyside egg. Stir-fried with swiss chard over forbidden rice. Dolloped into the broth of my chicken soup.

Here are other ways to enjoy gochujang:

  • Flavoring soups and stews
  • Marinade
  • Dipping sauce for a Korean crudite of raw veggies like cabbage, long peppers and cucumbers
  • Condiment for lettuce wraps

And with that, gochuang will forever be a staple in my fridge. I'm addicted, what can I say? But don't take my word for it. Buy it from your local Korean market or online. Experiment with it and report back with your results.

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