Through my unconditional love of Korean cuisine, I encountered lots of ingredients quite unknown in Western cuisine. Vegetables of all sorts (fern, radish leaves, minari, taro, kelp, hijiki...), fermented or not, fish, seafood, sauce, oils, ...
One of them is a fermented hot pepper paste called "gochuchang".
I first tried it 11 years ago. It was lunch time. I was in Beaux-Arts school and my best friend Jeeyoun introduced me to this condiment coming from her country. She did warned me it will be too spicy for me. I said I was tougher than I looked. I tasted it. I think I cried a little. And then went back for more.
And since then, there always has been a pot of gochuchang in my kitchen.
You can find gochuchang in most asian shops. It's sold in little plastic boxes : a beautiful carmin red tub. And you can find them in 250g, 500g, 1000g and even bigger.
There's different brands, and different spiciness degrees. Look for the GHU (Gochuchang Hot taste Unit) on the packaging!
Gochuchang is a fermented paste made of red pepper, glutinous rice, salt and fermented soy beans. In Korea you can still see big earthenware pots in which the paste is let to ferment. Yes, like the kimchi I told you about before.
You can store it in the fridge if you don't use it really often. Ours is always on the countertop and don't have time to spoil anyway. And I like to keep it at room temperature to keep its sticky, spoonable texture. It tends to harden in the fridge.
Our household consumption has increased so much in the past year that we are considering taking it to the next level and buy the kilo pot. A 500g pot barely lasts 3 weeks ! And we've got our eyes on a 17kg metal box we spotted in our local Korean supermarket, Seoul Plaza. But that might be for later. If I set up a Korean street food stall. Hmmmm, tteokbokki ...
Now let's get to how you use it!
Well, there's traditional recipes, and then there's modern uses!
Gochuchang is the base of many Korean stews : hot pepper paste is added to the broth to give it a rich spicy flavour. And then some more red pepper flakes, because there's never enough of them!
Here's a few examples of dishes that uses gochuchang :
- Tteokbokki (떡볶이) : delicious little rice cakes, with an anchovies stock and gochuchang based sauce.
- Yangnyeom Tongdak (양념 통닭) : fried chicken like you never had it before. Once twice deepfried, the chicken is covered with a sticky spicy sauce based on gochuchang, vinegar and rice syrup. A "once-a-year" treat if you don't want to compete in the Ssireum champion league (Korean wrestlers)
- Bibim namyeon (비빔냉면) : delicious cold noodle with a pear and gochugange based sauce. Perfect for summer time!
- Bibimbap (비빔밥) : one of the most well known Korean dish in Western countries is bibimbap, rice served with a choice of vegetable, meat, sea food and egg, all mixed up with slightly liquid version of gochuchang.
- Bokkeumbap (볶음밥) : fried rice
- Ojingeo bokkeum ( 오징어 볶음) : stir fried squid
- and many more.
I can eat gochuchang with almost everything. Just stirred in plain pasta, or to spice up a bolognese. With eggs (omelette, fried, soft boiled, hard boiled...). To marinate meat. To spice up any stir fry. In soup. With a nice big steak. Or just with a spoon.
Confession : I went on holidays in France this summer and I couldn't resolve myself not to eat anything Korean for 2 weeks. So I packed my favourite red pot with me and found solace in it a few times, a teaspoon at a time.
As you can see, there's many ways to make use gochuchang and I'm sure it can a place in your kitchen too.
I'll share with you more Korean recipes soon, so pop by your local asian supermarket and buy a tub to be ready!
Where to buy?
- Seoul Plaza : 136A Golders Green Road, Finchley, London NW11 8HB (Golders Green Station)
- Center point Food Store : 20-21 St Giles High Street, London WC2H 8LN (Tottencourt Road station)
- Arigato : 48-50 Brewer St, London, Greater London W1F 9TG (Piccadilly Circus Station)
- New Loon Moon Supermarket : 9 Gerrard Street, London W1D5PL (Chinatown, Leicester Square Station)
09/09/2013 : As you're reading this post, I'm actually on my way to South Korea. I decided I needed a break and that the only place for me to be at the moment is thousands of miles away, in the Land of the Morning Calm. I will try to update the blog with great restaurants and coffee shops to try if you ever have the chance to visit a country that will surely not let you indifferent.
You can follow my trip accross South Korea on twitter (@BakingCindy) and on Instagram (BakingCindy). Expect lots of food pix !