Have you ever seen those plastic tubs of hot pepper paste in Korean or Asian markets and wondered what it was? It's gochujang, which is one of the backbone ingredients of Korean cooking. We love the kick and depth of flavor that it adds to everything we stir it into.
What Is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a red chile paste that also contains glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt, and sometimes sweeteners. It's a thick, sticky condiment that's spicy and very concentrated and pungent in flavor. Heat levels can vary between brands, so check the packaging to see if it's labeled with any kind of spice-level indicator.
How to Use Gochujang
Think of gochujang as similar to miso paste — a little goes a long way, but it's also very versatile. Gochujang can be used in marinades for meat dishes like Korean bulgogi, stirred into dipping sauces, or used to punch up stews or soups.
The thick texture of gochujang means that it is a bit difficult to use straight up, so it is usually thinned out with a liquid of some sort. Also remember that if the gochujang contains sugar, searing or grilling meats marinated with it have a tendency to burn easily.
Once opened, gochujang should be stored in the refrigerator. Like miso, it has quite a long shelf life, as long as it hasn't dried out or changed in color. Should you find yourself with a lot of gochujang leftover, remember that it can be used up in lots of different ways:
Updated from a post originally published January 2012.
(Image credits: Christine Gallary; Alice Choi)