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Secret Weapon: Gochujang [Korean Chili Paste]

Gochujang Korean Chili Paste

I recently discovered a new secret weapon in the kitchen. It’s a spicy red sauce that comes from Southeast Asia.

Sound like Sriracha? Guess again.

Here’s my secret: Gochujang, or Korean chili paste. This sweet-spicy alternative might as well be Sriracha’s sophisticated cousin. And of course, it’s arriving fashionably late.

If you’ve enjoyed Korean food before, you’ll recognize Gochujang’s flavor from popular dishes like bibimbap or bulgogi. Gochu means chili in Korean, which gives away its primary ingredient. The secret formula is pretty basic: fermented soybean paste mixed with red chili, salt and sugar. Think sweet miso, with a spicy kick and a flavorful punch.

Since I started cooking with gochujang, it’s been hard to stop. It’s the critical ingredient in this finger-licking fried chicken wings, powers these irresistible Bulgogi (Beef) Tacos and is the secret behind Spicy Pork Belly Barbecue. And the best news is, it’s not too hard to find, whether you drop into the local Asian grocery store or find it on Amazon.

With this secret weapon in the pantry, you’ll soon be cooking in true Gangnam–style. And you better believe PSY was blasting in the kitchen when I made these caramelized green beans last week. In three simple steps with just three ingredients, crunchy green beans turned into a sweet-spicy dream!

Gochujang Korean Chili Paste

Caramelized Green Beans with Gochujang
Serves 2 people

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon Gochujang Korean Chili Paste
½ pound green beans

While most recipes call for the famously petite haricots verts, you can use meaty, older green beans here. They’ll become tender and flavorful, and hold up better than the little ones in this recipe.

Trim and wash the green beans, then pat them dry. Any extra moisture will make the sesame oil sputter and crack when you cook.

Add the sesame oil to a frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. After the oil heats for thirty seconds, add the beans. Let them sizzle and brown on one size before stirring them, about 3 – 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn the beans over, and then cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down to medium. After 5 minutes, stir the beans again and leave the lid off. Their skins will turn brown and caramelize, and you’ll see them wilt.

When the beans are thoroughly cooked, add the chili paste. Add a tablespoon or two of water to help the paste melt across the beans, stirring thoroughly. When the water has cooked off and the paste coats the caramelized beans, they are ready to serve!

Tip: Garnish with a few toasted sesame seeds or sliced scallions.

Adapted from Chow Divine, original recipe here

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Katy Andersen grew up surrounded by good food on an organic farm, with a garden, heirloom apple orchard and heritage chickens, cows and lambs. In college, she founded the Princeton Farmers’ Market and the Princeton Slow Food chapter. Soon after, she moved to Italy to study cheese as a Fulbright Scholar, and has been traveling in pursuit of mouthwatering surprises ever since! Keep up with her culinary pursuits on Twitter @kathrynandersen or on her blog, katyandersen.com

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