Over the past five years, sriracha, a Thai hot sauce which most of us had never heard of previously, has emerged as the hot sauce of choice. It’s more flavorful than many of the big-brand American hot pepper sauces that had long been the norm.
But climbing up the ladder is a new (to most Americans) hot sauce alternative: gochujang (go-CHOO-jang). This Korean fermented hot sauce is a mixture of red chili powder, glutinous rice powder, fermented soy beans, salt, other seasonings like garlic and onion, and a bit of sugar syrup or malt. It is then aged.
As a result, it is even more complex in flavor than sriracha. Some chefs call it “an umami bomb,” combining spicy, salty, sweet and earthy notes.
Gochujang is a staple Korean condiment also known in English as Korean hot pepper paste. Sweet heat with the consistency of hoisin sauce, it’s used in a wide range of Korean dishes, from bibimbap to dukbokki (stir-fried rice cakes) to tteokbokki to something more familiar: fried chicken. And of course, it can be used in American recipes instead of barbecue sauce, ketchup and other condiments.
It deepen the flavors (and color!) of everything from broth to noodle dishes and vegetables. Incorporate it into a recipe, or serve it as a table condiment so people can add their own.
A group of 18 recipes from Bon Appetit includes recipes for, among others:
Grilled Sesame Shrimp
Pork Ribs and Pork Shoulder
Stews, including Sundubu with Clams and Tofu
Veggies: Brussels Sprouts and Tofu Stir-Fry, Roasted Winter Squash, Sautéed Cabbage
When mixed with Korean red miso (doenjang), it creates ssamjang, a condiment for lettuce wraps (ssam) and raw or blanched vegetables.
Top: Gochuchang sauce, also called paste because of its consistency. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it online or make your own. Center: A bowl of gochuchang, served as a condiment. Photo courtesy Trifood.com. Bottom: Spicy fried chicken. Here’s the recipe from SBS.com.au.
Add some gochujang to mayonnaise as a spread or a dip for crudités or fries. Serve it plain with eggs. Put it on a burger or hot dog. You can blend in fruit for an even more complex sauce.
Add it to dressings, marinades and sauces to add some spicy flavor. You can make a Korean-style arrabiata sauce for pasta, or pair it with other noodle dishes and rice.
Although it contains no tomatoes, some Americans think of gochujank as spicy Korean ketchup.
What are you waiting for? Add it to your shopping list!
BUT WHAT BRAND?
All commercial gochujang is imported, and some labels are only in Korean.
“The best gochujang” is a matter of personal taste. You may like more sweetness, we may like less. That said, if you’re in an Asian market with multiple options, you could ask a clerk to explain the differences.
If you pursue a close relationship with gochuchang, you may discover different styles, including chalgochujang (sweet rice gochujang) and taeyangcho (sundried, i.e. the paste is actually dried under the sun).
However, as with ketchup, mustard, soy sauce and other condiments, you won’t find a disappointing one.