Korean ingredients are so unique in terms of their flavour profile, so it is well worth getting your hands on them for making really authentic Korean recipes. We have given you full information on all the essential Korean ingredients on our website but below is a short introduction to three of the key ingredients for Korean cooking. Enjoy!
Gochujang is made from fermented soybeans, much like ‘doenjang’, the Korean version of miso paste. Gochujang however has glutinous rice flour, salt and plenty of dried powdered red chilli added into it, giving it its characteristic spicy kick. The paste is aged in the sun over a period of months or years, resulting in a pungent, and deeply flavoured savoury paste that is used extensively in Korean cooking. Its flavour is quite unlike any other chilli paste, so it is really worth getting your hands on it for Korean cooking. It keeps extremely well, so there is no risk of it going off!
Sweet potato glass noodles – dang-myeon 당면
These sweet potato glass or cellophane noodles are unique to Korea, and while other brands of glass noodles could be used in their place, it is worth seeking these out for their wonderful texture and ability to absorb all the flavours of the dish in which they are cooked. They can be soaked in cold water prior to cooking to reduce the cooking time, but it is not essential. They are the main ingredients in the jap chae dish, and it would not really be the same without them. They are also added into soups and stews to add volume and texture, as per the chicken, vegetable and noodle hot pot recipe in our book Our Korean Kitchen.
Gochugaru – red pepper / chilli powder – 고추가루
Despite the name, this is actually a powdered sun-dried red chili, not a red pepper as most brand names would lead you to believe. It may have started out as being called ‘red chili pepper powder’, and somewhere along the line ‘chili’ was deleted, or perhaps there was an element of ‘lost in translation. In any case, this red chili pepper powder is what is used to make gochujang, and is also the key spice ingredient for all kimchi’s, and a lot of sauces too. The flavour profile is smoky, slightly sweet and well rounded, and while it is of course spicy, it is nothing like as hot as an Indian chili powder for example. Really there is nothing similar to it, so while you could substitute another chili powder the result would not be authentically Korean in flavour. It keeps very well if kept air tight in a dark environment, so it is worth buying when you find yourself in an Asian store.
Ingredients pics courtesy of www.JordanBourke.com
Author pic (c) Tara Fisher