Essential Korean Pastes & Other Dry Goods

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Korean Chilli Paste (Gochujang)

Gochujang is probably one of the most famous Korean condiments. This fermented red pepper paste is used in an array of dishes and adds colour and a huge flavour kick! It’s made from fine Korean chilli powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. While it’s known for being spicy, it also has subtle sweet notes. Keep in the fridge after opening and use within 3 months. The top of the paste may become darker or dry out, but it’s still edible.

Essential Korean Pastes & Other Dry Goods

Soybean Paste (Doenjang) 

Korean soybean paste is often compared to Japanese miso. It is made by fermenting soybeans over a long period of time, sometimes taking years. A thick paste of ground soybeans is formed into blocks that are dried and fermented for months before being soaked in brine. The liquid brine is a by-product of making soybean paste a becomes a soy sauce specifically used for making soups. Doenjang has natural, pungent smell and is full of umami and nutty flavour. It is mainly used in soups and stews but is also common in sauces, dips and making side dishes. It’s usually sold in brown tubs at the Asian supermarket or Korean grocer. Store in the fridge and use within 3 months after opening.

Korean Spicy Dipping Sauce (Ssamjang)

Ssamjang is a vital component of Korean barbecue. It's a simple, no cook dipping sauce that combines savoury doenjang with sweet and spicy gochujang. Adding sesame seeds and sesame oil provide nuttiness and subtle bitter notes, while garlic and spring onions give a strong aroma and texture.  To use ssamjang, spread the sauce on lettuce or perilla leaves before wrapping them around bites of grilled vegetables, rice, tofu or rice cakes.

Black Bean Paste (Chunjang)

Black, salty, slightly sweet and earthy, this fermented paste is made with a mixture of soybeans, flour and caramel. It’s essential for making Korean noodles with black bean sauce (Jajangmyeon). After opening, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. 

Korean Chilli Powder (Gochugaru)

Most spiciness in Korean food comes from the versatile powder Gochugaru. This magical spice is made from Korean red chillies and comes in two different formats, fine and course. The fine chilli powder is mainly used when making gochugaru and the coarse flakes cover the rest of Korean cooking needs.

Roasted Sesame Seeds (Bokken chamggae)

Properly roasted sesame seeds are a very important ingredient in Korean cuisine. They add a wonderful, toasted nuttiness to many iconic dishes, and are particularly important in giving vegetarian dishes an extra dimension of flavour and texture. Roasted sesame seeds are usually used as a garnish on soups, stews and vegetable dishes.

Sweet potato noodles (Dangmyeon)

Korean glass noodles are clear, dried noodles made with sweet potato starch. They are most commonly used in a noodle dish called japchae but can be used interchangeably in other noodle salads and stir-fries. The noodles come in large, dried nest-like bundles. They can be a little tricky to separate however, there’s also a pre-cut version available at your Asian grocer. To cook, soak them in warm water for several minutes or boil depending on the recipe. They are similar to cellophane noodles but have a firmer, more resilient texture.

Other common pantry staples

  • Fish sauce (vegan versions of this are available)
  • Soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Mirin
  • Sesame oil
  • Short grain rice

Vegetables & Aromatics

  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Spring onion
  • Perilla leaves
  • Muhrooms
  • Wombok
  • Daikon radish
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