Korean food has been enjoying an upswing in the U.S. in recent years, and one of the most popular ingredients to catch on has been gochujang. Think of it as a blend of miso (Japanese fermented soy bean paste) and Sriracha (that increasingly ubiquitous hot sauce), except gochujang is way more complex and (usually) not nearly as spicy as straight up hot sauce.
Made from chili peppers, rice, fermented soy beans and salt, gochujang has a savory-spicy-sweet flavour that's particularly agreeable with meats and grilled or roasted vegetables. Though often used as a condiment in its own right, gochujang also frequently is used as a base of marinades, sauces and soups. Thinned with a bit of rice vinegar, for example, it makes a great sauce for cooked vegetables.
Because specific recipes for gochujang can vary widely, it's good to try several brands to find one you prefer. Once you have, of course you can delve into classic Korean cooking. But it's also fun to take gochujang outside its cultural context and put it to use in all sorts of cooking. Here are 10 of my favourites:
10 FRESH WAYS TO USE KOREAN GOCHUJANG
— BLOODY MARY: Whisk a teaspoon or so of gochujang into tomato juice, then use in your favourite bloody mary cocktail.
— CORN ON THE COB: Smear a liberal amount of gochujang over corn fresh off the grill. Or even better, mix together equal amounts of gochujang and softened butter, then use that.
— RUB: Smear a generous amount of gochujang over flank steak and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling. Serve thinly sliced against the grain with additional gochujang thinned with rice vinegar.
— VINAIGRETTE: Whisk together equal parts gochujang, cider or rice vinegar and apricot jam. Use on robust salads or grilled vegetables, such as broccoli and zucchini.
— GRILLED CHEESE: Smear gochujang thickly on a slice of bread. Top with slices of blue cheese, then top with a second slice of bread. Butter the outsides of the bread, then toast in a skillet until the cheese is melted.
— HOT DOGS: Mix together equal amounts of ketchup and gochujang, then use to top hot dogs. For the full experience, lay down a heap of kimchee in the bun first.
— BURGERS: Mix several tablespoons of gochujang into whatever ground meat (or blend of meats) you use for burgers, meatballs and meatloaf.
— FALAFEL: Stir gochujang and diced cucumber into plain Greek yogurt, then use as a condiment for falafel or lamb burgers.
— PULLED PORK: Thin gochujang with water, cider vinegar and a bit of honey, then toss with shredded or pulled pork and serve on slider buns.
— SLOPPY JOES: Brown 1 pound ground beef and 1 diced onion in a splash of olive oil. Mix in a 15-ounce can tomato sauce blended with 2 tablespoons gochujang. Simmer. If desired, sprinkle in a bit of brown sugar.