Gochujang Is Your New Culinary Secret Weapon

Meet the Korean staple that should have been in your pantry all along. (And then learn how to use it.)

Calling gochujang the new sriracha just isn't fair—to gochujang, that is. The chili paste has long been a backbone of Korean cuisine, predating—by a few centuries—our obsession with squeezing sriracha on just about everything.

Chili peppers, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt come together to make gochujang's vibrant red, pastelike consistency. User warning: Gochujang is not meant for liberally slathering all over your next meal. It's more about adding the delicate umami undertones that mere teaspoons of this fiery, Korean staple infuse into your dish.

Chef Dennis Lee of San Francisco's Korean-inspired restaurant Namu Gaji describes gochujang as more of a "mother sauce" than a condiment. "It has a great, complex ripe chili flavor and also a pleasant heat that is not over the top, with a long finish," says Lee. The natural sweetness and complex funk in gochujang are perfect in stews and marinades, but as Lee likes to say, "the possibilities are endless."

Chef Lee's advice for home cooks beginning to experiment with gochujang is to start with a marinade. Here's his recipe for Gochujang India Pale Ale Marinade—a flavoring that's particularly delicious for spare ribs but that also works wonders on anything from pork belly to chicken and even roasted fish (spoon it on right out of the oven!).

Note: Some of Chef Lee's gochujang is homemade using a starter culture from his mother's hometown in Korea and chilies that he grows on his restaurant's farm. But for us beginners, store-bought will suffice.

Gochujang IPA Marinade

Level: Easy
Serves: 7–10 pounds of meat

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-size cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1½ inches of ginger, grated
  • ¾ c. gochujang
  • ¼ c. rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ c. India Pale Ale
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt

Directions

  1. Whisk all ingredients together until fully incorporated. Marinate your meat anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to overnight for maximum flavor.

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