Gochujang (Korean Red Pepper Paste)

Not for the faint-hearted, this Korean condiment is a treat for those with a hankering for fire on the tongue and an instantly cleared nasal passage. If that isn’t you, don’t sop reading – it can also be tamed into something altogether more acquiescent with the help of other ingredients. Thought to have been made since as far back as the early 1700s, gochujang is a marriage of fermented soybeans, red chilli powder and glutinous rice powder, resulting in a very thick texture and an intense heat. In other words, a little goes a long way. The condiment was traditionally homemade, but commercial production has proliferated to the extent that the art of making gochujang at home has virtually disappeared. You’ll find gochujang in the Korean section of most Asian grocers, and some supermarkets stock it now too. When mixed with some soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds, its fire mellows – this is the perfect tangy dipping sauce for sashimi, steamed mussels or scallops, or spoon a bit onto fresh oysters in the shell. Gochujang is always served alongside Korea’s beloved dish bibimbap. Rice is cooked in a hot stone bowl (so the bottom is beautifully crunchy), sauteed greens, carrot, bean sprouts, mushrooms and beef are arranged prettily on top, then topped with sesame oil and a raw egg. Just stir through your desired quantity of gochujang, mixing everything together and conveniently cooking the egg. ‘Bibim’ means mixed, and ‘bap’ is rice. Nice.

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