ribs with gochujang hot pepper paste photographed at
Chicago Tribune test kitchen in Chicago on Thursday,
March 14, 2019. Styled by Shannon Kinsella.
ever been to a Korean restaurant, you’ve undoubtedly
encountered gochujang. It adds the heat to bibimbap, lends
the rich red color you see in tteokbokki, stir-fried rice
cakes, and forms the backbone of ssamjang, the sauce most
often served with Korean barbecue.
It also looks
ferocious. Even the packaging does. Almost every container
of the Korean paste is bright red, with pictures of chiles
plastered all over the label in case you didn’t get the
hint. Pop open the container, peel back the plastic covering
and you’ll uncover a dark red paste as thick as tar.
This can make
gochujang seem more like a dare than an integral component
of the Korean kitchen, but it is far more versatile and
complex than it might first appear.
GOCHUJANG TASTE LIKE?
gochujang has heat — depending on the brand, it can be
extraordinarily spicy — but it also has a salty, almost
meaty depth and a slight sweetness. In other words, it’s
not a one-note hot sauce that you add to a dish after the
fact. If you want to see Korean chefs bristle, tout
gochujang as the “next Sriracha.”
One of those
chefs is Bill Kim, the owner of Urban Belly and author of
the cookbook “Korean BBQ.” “Why can’t it be its own
thing?” says Kim. “Here is something that people having
been eating and using for centuries. It has its own distinct
flavor. It’s from Korea, not from Thailand or China.”
gochujang works best when mixed with other ingredients.
“It’s too intense by itself for most people, even for
Korean people,” says Kim. “At (Urban Belly), we always
cut it with water, vinegar and sugar. You don’t take
gochujang and put it on a pork chop. You need to dilute
it.” He likens it to a “spicy miso paste,” which can
immediately add a depth to a dish.
gochujang made of?
starts with meju, a brick of dried and fermented soybeans
that traditionally takes many months to create. When his
family lived in Korea, Kim’s parents actually made it from
scratch. The process starts with soybeans that are boiled
and then formed together into blocks and dried.
But even if
you happen to have some meju hanging around, gochujang still
requires effort. To finish, the meju is mixed with gochugaru
(Korean red pepper powder), rice flour, salt and maybe a
sweetener. This mixture then needs to ferment for months.
Considering how long it takes, don’t feel bad about buying
your own. Speaking of which …
HOW TO BUY
to spot gochujang in a Korean grocery store — just look
for those bright red containers. But if you’re not fluent
in Korean, figuring out exactly which one to get can feel
intimidating. Fortunately, while most of the text on the
container might be Korean, often there will be a sticker
that lists the ingredients in English. Cheaper versions will
have corn syrup and unpronounceable (even in English)
ingredients in the mix. Kim recommends the brand Chung Jung
HOW TO USE
above, gochujang is crucial to such Korean classics as
bibimbap, tteokbokki and ssamjang. But that’s just the
Kim uses it a
lot in stews and meat dishes to add an instant depth and
complexity. In “Korean BBQ,” he has a very untraditional
recipe al pastor that uses the paste. “(Gochujang) has the
heat, the sweetness and it goes so well with pineapple,”
says Kim. “It’s almost like an adobo marinade.”
provides a similar depth and sweetness to a recipe developed
by “Dinner at Home” columnist JeanMarie Brownson,
featuring country pork ribs slathered in a sauce made from
gochujang, doenjang (fermented bean paste) and maple syrup.
The meat doesn’t even have to marinate; just slather it
on, place it in the oven and, 40 minutes later, you have
ribs with a wicked heat and a strong umami-laced backbone.
for red chile roasted pork country ribs from “Dinner at
Home” columnist JeanMarie Brownson is an excellent way to
use gochujang. She suggests serving them “with plenty of
rice and a small dish of kimchi made from cabbage or other
vegetables. Save the leftovers for use in kimchi fried rice.
Your life will be full of flavor!” Find that recipe here.
doenjang fermented soybean paste (or pureed white beans and
pure maple syrup
dark Asian sesame oil
2 to 2 1/2
pounds boneless pork country ribs
and sliced green onions for garnish
1. Heat oven
to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a baking pan or spray with
nonstick cooking spray.
gochujang, bean paste, maple syrup, sesame oil and 2
tablespoons very hot water in a large bowl until smooth.
Stir in ribs; turn to coat them with the sauce.
3. Spread the
ribs in the prepared baking pan, so they do not touch each
other. Bake until tender when pierced with a knife, about 40
minutes. Serve hot sprinkled with sesame seeds and green
information per serving: 465 calories, 34 g fat, 10 g
saturated fat, 110 mg cholesterol, 16 g carbohydrates, 10 g
sugar, 24 g protein, 680 mg sodium, 1 g fiber