An essential ingredient in Korean cuisine, gochugaru (or kochukaru) is a coarsely ground red pepper with a texture between flakes and powder. Traditionally, gochugaru is made from sun-dried chile peppers, and versions that are prepared in this manner are still considered the best tasting. The flavor is hot, sweet, and slightly smoky. Substitutes like crushed red pepper or cayenne just don't compare! Use it in Korean recipes for kimchi, galbi, and tofu, or in any dish where you'd like a bit of fiery red heat. It's a staple in our favorite dippling sauce.
The best gochugaru we ever tasted was a handmade version made by a family friend in Korea. Second to that was a $17 bag we purchased at a local Korean grocery store. A one-pound bag of gochugaru can range from $2 on up, and we were curious whether the more expensive one was worth it. Indeed, the flavor and fragrance were superior and our boyfriend's Korean mom read the label, confirming that this gochugaru had been harvested and prepared in the traditional way. So our advice is to buy the best gochugaru you can find from an Asian market or online merchant like koaMart.
(Image: Emily Ho)