Sriracha is a popular hot Thai chili sauce that has been welcomed into kitchens and onto dining tables all over the world. In many regions of the planet, the hot condiment sits alongside salt and pepper as a necessary enhancer to meals of all sorts.
In Korea, however, the star sauce is gochujang, a pungent paste made from chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. First used in the late 18th century after chili was brought to Asia by the Europeans, gochujang (pronounced go-choo-jong) was originally fermented naturally in large earthen pots, left in the backyard sunshine. Commercial production got underway in the 1970s, and today the dark red-brown paste can be purchased all over the world in Asian supermarkets and specialty grocery stores. Sweeter than harissa and funkier than Sriracha, gochujang is an edgy ingredient that can be used both in cooking and as a condiment.
Today, you’ll find a range of gochujang varieties to choose from, with additional ingredients to change the flavor such as pumpkin, sweet potato, barley, honey or dates. Gochujang is used to add a strong, hot flavor to an endless number of Korean dishes, from meat marinades to stews and salads, and as a condiment for everything else. Combining sweet, savory and sour, this savory paste has a dazzling flavor profile that perks up any dish. Along with doenjang (fermented soybean paste) and ganjang (fermented soy sauce), gochujang is one of the three crucial condiments used in Korean cooking.
Ready to take the paste for a spin?
Start Slow. If you’re new to the world of fermented flavors, start slowly. Try out a bit a gochujang wherever you like Sriracha: on breakfast eggs, lunch tacos, barbecued meats or with bibimbap, a traditional Korean dish.
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Mix It Up. Blend gochujang with ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard or barbecue sauce to add a little kick to your usual spread. Gochujang is delicious on burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and with French fries.
Go for a Dip. Jazz up your vegetables when you dip them directly in gochujang, or mix the paste in with onion, ranch or cheese dip for an unexpected treat.
Elevate your green beans, broccoli and eggplant with a dose of gochujang and soy sauce before serving.
Give your favorite fall stew a kick in the teeth with the addition of gochujang, which imparts a deep, rich spicy flavor to the dish. You can also combine gochujang with chicken or vegetable broth and eat over rice for an inexpensive but filling meal.
Gochujang is perfect for marinades, and your meat will be tender and tasty. Cut the paste with oil to make it go further, and marinade your beef, lamb, pork and chicken in this spicy red rub.
Korean fried chicken has a unique depth and spicy kick, a bomb of flavor that comes from the addition of gochujang. Add it to your egg mixture before dredging the chicken pieces in flour.
Image: Emily Barney