I am a difficult person when it comes to eating. I do not enjoy eating a lot of things, but sometimes I taste something and I immediately wonder where that thing has been my entire life. One of those moments was when I first tasted gochujang (고추장), Korean red chili paste.
Gochujang, the red king of pastes
The Korean kitchen knows many pastes or “jang” (장). All these pastes are based on beans and have spend a certain amount of time fermenting. Some of these paste are used in cooking, others are used as topics and some can be used in both ways. These are the names of Korean pastes you will easily find in your local Asian supermarket:
- Doenjang – 된장
- Gochujang – 고추장
- Ssamjang – 쌈장
Doenjang is a paste made using soybeans. Gochujang is made using red chili peppers. Lastly, ssamjang is made by mixing both doenjang and gochujang together into a new paste. Personally, I absolutely love gochujang and much to the dismay of my Korean roommate I love to use it when I am cooking these days. For me, gochujang is truly the red king of the Korean pastes.
One Bite = Instant love
I believe I first tasted gochujang when my Korean roommate made dakgalbi (닭갈비). When I first saw the red paste I was absolutely weary to even try to taste it. The smell was a odd. However, after he was done cooking and brought the chicken dish to the table, the odd smell was gone and the only thing that remained was deliciousness. From the first bite it was an instant love. The somewhat sweet taste of the Korean red chili paste had won me over and I would yearn for the taste every single week since.
Now I tend to be the one cooking with gochujang and sometimes that annoys my Korean roommate, but honestly when you use this paste everything tastes so much better. I simply have yet to try a dish where gochujang does not taste great. If you know of a dish where it simply does not taste awesome I would like to hear it.
Gochujang is primarily used as a cooking ingredient and not as a topping or dipping sauce. However, you can easily transform it into a dipping sauce called chogochujang (초고추장) by simply mixing it with vinegar and various seasonings. The best way to use this red wonder is not to make some dipping sauce with the red paste. You ought to cook with it. Gochujang is used in many Korean dishes and in many of the ones you probably love such as bibimbap (비빔밥).
Another fun fact about gochujang is whether it is any good for you. These days many of us would like to know if the things we eat are healthy. You needn’t worry with this Korean chili paste. Gochujang is a great source of various vitamin A and C, along with a healthy dose of carotene, which is good for your skin and eyes. Furthermore, Koreans would have you belief the red paste could even help against obesity and diabetes, but that claim with a healthy pinch of salt.
Recipe to make Gochujang
There are many recipes out there to help you make the red paste yourself, but I chose to share this gochujang recipe from Maangchi. I decided to share this recipe since this is the clearest recipe I could find. When looking for recipes please make sure not to confuse it with recipes for chogochujang! You can easily tell if the recipe is for chogochujang, if one of it ingredients is the red chili paste. Don’t get the two mixed up.
If you have not yet tasted this delicious Korean chili paste I must urge you to go and try a dish that uses this. Perhaps you can try my kimchi jjigae recipe since I use the paste in it. If you have already had a dish that used it, let me know which dish and what you thought about the king of Korean pastes.