I'll admit, I have a thing for condiments. My refrigerator is full of them. Mustards, chutneys, ketchups, mayonnaises and so on. And I love them all.
But lately, I've been reaching for one condiment more than any other. It's what some people call Korea's answer to ketchup. But gochujang (pronounced GO-choo-jong) is so much more wonderful, complex and versatile than a basic ketchup. I promise, this is a condiment you want to get to know.
Just in the past year, gochujang has become a darling of the food scene. Chefs around the country love the way it dances across the taste buds, lighting them up with shades of heat, sweet, savory, smoke and a gentle funky tang. Made from red chilies, fermented soybeans, rice, salt and sugar, this thick red paste is a mainstay of Korean cuisine.
In Korean cooking, gochujang is used as a base for stews and marinades, as well as a feisty condiment for one-pot dishes such as bibimbap (a rice bowl usually topped with meats, vegetables, pickles and a fried egg).
I first encountered gochujang when I lived with two Korean-American women after university. I remember watching Sara make herself a quick lunch of steamed sticky rice wrapped in small squares of seaweed and topped with a dollop of gochujang. It was deceptively simple, but one bite and the complexity of the briny seaweed crashing against the sweet heat of the gochujang had me reaching for her entire lunch.
These days, gochujang is on my breakfasts of scrambled eggs and vegetables. Mixed with soy sauce and vinegar, it makes a quick marinade for meats. I even add a spoonful to pasta sauces, chili and salad dressings for a little meaty depth. But my favourite? These easy baked chicken wings. Add some chilled cucumber spears dressed lightly with sesame oil and salt, and you've got a Korean-inspired answer to the ultimate Super Bowl snack.
KOREAN-STYLE CHICKEN WINGS
Gochujang is becoming increasingly common. You should have little trouble finding it in the Asian or international aisle of most larger grocers.
Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
3 pounds chicken wings, split into drummettes and wings (tips discarded)
1 tablespoon baking powder
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
6 tablespoons gochujang (for a milder heat, use 3 to 4 tablespoons)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
6 cloves garlic, finely grated (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
Chilled cucumber spears dressed with sesame oil and salt, to serve
Heat the oven to 475 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then set a metal rack over it.
Use paper towels to pat dry the chicken wings. In a large bowl, toss the wings with the baking powder and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken pieces in an even layer on the rack over the prepared pan. Roast for 40 minutes, or until golden, turning the pan after 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a second large bowl, whisk together the gochujang, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Set aside.
Once the chicken wings have roasted, transfer them to the bowl with the sauce. Toss until well coated, then return them to the roasting rack. Increase the oven to broil and set the chicken on an oven shelve about 6 inches from the heat. Broil for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles and chars in places. Transfer to a serving platter, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and accompany with cucumber spears.
Nutrition information per serving: 480 calories; 230 calories from fat (48 per cent of total calories); 26 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 205 mg cholesterol; 24 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 35 g protein; 2,380 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Network star Aarti Sequeira is the author of "Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul." She blogs at http://www.AartiPaarti.com .