By now, the excitement over sriracha has surpassed its fever pitch, and spicy-sauce lovers are searching for the next big thing to squeeze over every dish. While there are countless variations from all over the world, the biggest contender for the next saucy sensation seems to be Korean gochujang. Savory, sweet and spicy in flavor, gochujang is a fermented condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. It's been a staple of Korean households for hundreds of years, but now it's making a splash overseas as the popularity of Korean cuisine continues to flourish in the United States.
Next to kimchi, gochujang is the most recognizable and prevalent flavor on the Korean peninsula. Its first use in Korea dates back to the 18th century after trades with Europe, Japan and China introduced chili peppers and fermented soy paste to the country. Today, though it's a staple in every Korean family's pantry, homemade versions of gochujang are rare because of the time it takes to make. Luckily, it's as ubiquitous in supermarkets as ketchup is here.
Besides giving just about any dish it marries with that umami flavor, gochujang is also packed with nutrients like vitamin B2, vitamin C, protein and carotene. It also contains micro-organisms that can help purify the intestines, and the capsaicin from the chili peppers helps to burn calories and fight colds.
Chances are you've already had gochujang and enjoyed it immensely. Where you've most likely tasted it is in bibimbap (it's that gorgeous deep red sauce that is mixed into the dish), in the crisp skin of Korean fried chicken (gochujang is often used in marinades) and jjigae (a popular spicy stew found in most Korean restaurants). Gochujang is easier than ever to find in the states, so now it's your turn to take the reins and purchase a tub or bottle.
Gochujang on its own is addictive. Its distinct flavor is reminiscent of a spicy miso, but with a pungent complexity from the fermented soy beans. Try using it in place of ketchup or mustard on your burgers, hot dogs and french fries. It's the perfect accompaniment to anything that sriracha would have dressed up, like scrambled eggs, noodle dishes and fried rice. If you're skeptical at first of this new flavor, try mixing it with other sauces, like ketchup, mayonnaise and, yes, sriracha. Or go bold with this sweet and tangy dipping sauce perfect for lettuce wraps or over rice.
Korean cuisine is known for its hearty, spicy, warming stews. Jjigae, as it's known in Korean, can incorporate anything from tofu and zucchini to fish and chicken. However, the vibrant red color and spicy kick of these mouth-watering stews can be accredited to gochujang. For an even stronger zing, add kimchi to your bowl. Try this kimchi and tofu stew recipe that will spice up your weeknight meal.
For those looking for lighter fare but still desire that spice factor, gochujang is perfect in salad dressings. Instead of the usual olive oil, however, try pairing it with sesame oil instead. Give this chicken salad with gochujang dressing a whirl, and then make variations of the dressing for future salads.
Koreans love to bathe their food in gochujang. Bulgogi, a popular and classic dish in Korean cuisine, is made up of grilled marinated beef soaked in a mixture of gochujang and other flavors, like soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil. Westernize this classic by mixing gochujang with barbecue sauce to give your steak an Asian twist. Gochujang can also be found in the batter that makes Korean fried chicken wings so wildly popular. Try this recipe that wisely utilizes the kick of gochujang.
Asian cooking relies heavily on stir-fry, but most people reach for the old standbys like soy sauce, hoisin sauce and fish sauce. Now that you have gochujang in your arsenal, make good use of it. The pungent flavor of the fermented soybeans will give your dish depth. Make this Korean chicken stir-fry for a simple crowd-pleaser.