Korean food is fantastic. The cuisine hasn't quite caught on as crazily as Japanese or even Thai, but I've noticed it gaining popularity in the last few years. That could likely be credited to its constant influence on food trendsetters Momofuku. Or maybe it's just because I've started paying more attention to the cuisine.
There's a lot of garlic, a lot of sesame, occasionally a fishy flavor, but quite often things are spicy. Even if they're not, chili paste or a sauce made from it is usually close by to change that.
I've heard the stuff lovingly referred to as "Korean Ketchup," and set out to make my own. The sauce is called cho gochujang, and it has officially replaced sriracha in my fridge.
Gochujang, the thick Korean chili paste, comes in these square containers. You can find them in most Asian markets. Red containers are for chili paste, brown for soybean paste. The green containers are fantastic, they're like a mix of chili and soybean pastes, plus some onion and garlic flavors. There's usually pictures on the labels that give away the contents.
There's a few recipes out there, lots include minced garlic, but here's the base recipe I like to use:
3 T rice vinegar
2 T honey
1 T sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
I wanted to make enough to fill the old squirt bottle, so I tripled the recipe. I also ran out of sesame oil, so instead ground up 3T sesame seeds (1 T seeds per 1t oil) and added them. I also added about 1/2t ground szechuan peppercorn for an extra flavor pop. More on the peppercorns later- that ingredient deserves its own post.
Mix everything together and simmer on low. This will look real thick- add a tablespoon of water at a time to thin it out a little. You want a good consistency that is still squirtable from the bottle. When the thickness seems alright... add another tablespoon or two. The sauce will thicken when it cools.
Give it a taste, add more chili powder if you want. Pour it all into a rinsed out bottle of your most recent favorite condiment.
Now invite over your friends and family to try the new delicious sauce you made!
The Hartford area is lucky to have so many fantastic restaurants right at our fingertips. Find good Korean food at Goong in East Hartford, Seoul in New Britain by Westfarms Mall, and Pick & Mix in West Hartford. Get Gochujang in Hartford at Central Supermarket, Kien Market, Apple Tree, and Adong.