What Is Gochujang?

Here’s everything you need to know about gochujang – one of our favourite Korean pepper pastes.
What Is Gochujang?

If you’ve been following Mob for more than, say, five minutes you’ll have probably stumbled on more than one of our best gochujang recipes. We’ve made everything from Sausage Gochujang Rigatoni to Sweet & Spicy Gochujang Fried Chicken using the stuff. But just what is gochujang and why do we love it so much?

So… What Is Gochujang?

Gochujang is a sweet, spicy, and salty fermented chilli paste that’s hugely popular in Korean cooking. It’s pretty ancient stuff. The oldest known recipe for gochujang dates back to the middle of the 9th century. The reason it’s still so popular is simple: it’s still just as delicious as it was when it was first invented. Gochujang is an essential component of jjigae as well as a vital flavouring and condiment used in dishes like tteokbokki, bibimbap, and neangmyeon.

The main ingredients in gochujang are as follows: red chilli powder (known as gochugaru), fermented soybeans, glutinous rice powder, and salt. The combination and ratios of those ingredients vary from person to person and brand to brand. Now, before you go frantically Googling “how to make gochujang”, just know that you don’t have to feel bad about not making your own gochujang from scratch. While making your own gochujang at home has a long and storied history both in and outside of Korea, most people nowadays choose to buy their gochujang from the supermarket. And that’s okay!

Gochujang can be found in most Asian grocery stores and many supermarkets. It is typically sold in a red, rectangular tub and has a long shelf life when stored in the refrigerator. To use gochujang, simply scoop out a small amount with a spoon and mix it into your dish. It can be used as a condiment, marinade, or ingredient in a variety of dishes. Experiment with different amounts to find the right level of spiciness for your taste.

What Does Gochujang Taste Like?

I once heard gochujang described as “Korean ketchup” and, let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever been as upset as I was when I first heard those words come out of a person’s mouth. Gochujang is so much more than that and an absolute upgrade on ketchup in every way imaginable. Taste-wise, it’s got a nice balance of spiciness and sweetness with a lick of umami on the backend that you get from the fermented soybeans. Eating it on its own is a little intense (so maybe don’t go dipping your fries into it straightaway if you’re not totally familiar with its flavour profile) but gochujang is regularly used as a base for other Korean condiments such as ssamjang and chogochujang. Chogochujang is essentially gochujang that’s been cut with sugar and white vinegar to give it a thinner consistency and a slightly less intense flavour. It’s perfect for dressing salads or dipping crudites.

In addition to its flavour, gochujang is also known for its health benefits. The fermented soybeans in gochujang are a rich source of probiotics, which can help support a healthy gut. The chilli peppers in gochujang also contain capsaicin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.

Is Gochujang Very Spicy?

As a general rule of thumb: no. But it sure can be! Gochujang can vary in spice level all the way from sweeter “mild” versions to lip-burning ”extreme hot” versions that’ll damn near blow your head off. If you’re buying gochujang from the supermarket then the packaging should inform you of how hot it’s going to be.

Is Gochujang The Same As Chilli Paste?

Gochujang literally is a type of chilli paste, however, it’s all the extra ingredients thrown into the mix that make it so special.

What Can I Use Instead Of Gochujang?

Don’t have any gochujang in your fridge but still want to have a go at making our Gochujang Tofu Rice Bowl? It’s not ideal but you can always sub out gochujang for doenjang or miso. Neither of those ingredients will give you the same thump of spice but they’re umami-laden and contain that little savoury something-something that gochujang offers. That being said, it’s not all that difficult to get your hands on gochujang, regardless of where you live. Most of your local Asian supermarkets will stock it and there are plenty of online merchants selling gochujang as well.

In conclusion, gochujang is a delicious and versatile condiment that is essential to Korean cuisine. Its unique flavour and health benefits make it a must-have for anyone looking to add some spice and flavour to their dishes.

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