Friday, February 1, 2013

Korean (gluten free) Gochujang

when i was stationed in Nebraska, i fell madly in love with korean food. there happened to be a thousand korean restaurants (i love Korea House, which was right outside the back gate) and they were all amazing. kimbap (korean rolls), kalbi (marinated thin short ribs), cucumber kimchi for days, little dumplings sent from heaven, and the banchan (a zillion little side dishes). then i moved away from nebraska (and the sisters that ran Korea House, and who always gave me extra takwan and cucumber kimchi) and came out west to sunny southern california. i don't go into LA often, where there is apparently a plethora of korean restaurants, and didn't find any right in the area that could satisfy. (i didn't experiment a whole lot though, since my husband isn't the hugest fan. weirdo.)
and then i went gluten free.
do you know that gluten lurks in soy sauce, fish sauce, and gochujang? gochujang is the sauce that it seems most korean cuisine has at least a healthy glob. it's a chili sauce, or paste. and if you get the good stuff, it's been fermented and is indescribable. it's a little sweet, a little hot, and has more depth of flavor than you can imagine.
and i could NOT find it gluten free. we actually have a rather nice korean market nearby, run by a lovely family, and looked at me like i was cuckoo when i asked. "only homemade!" they said. homemade, i thought, how am i supposed to homemade gochujang!? it involves traditional korean clay pots to ferment the paste in. i am adventurous, but not yet willing to risk fermenting my own product.
so i scoured the interwebs. low and behold, i wasn't the first to need this. there are a handful of rather simple recipes for the stuff that don't require special tools or ingredients that are too tough to find. so i made my own! i based it off some recipes i found, and got to work. this wasn't a tough recipe, but i neglected to take pictures. however, to help you along so you can see the process, .Shizuoka Gourmet did a great post including pictures.

1 cup water
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup miso paste
1/2 cup korean red chili flakes
1 tbls salt
1 tsp rice vinegar

combine in a saucepan the water and brown sugar over heat until the sugar is totally dissolved. stir in miso paste until it is smooth and incorporated, then allow to reduce, stirring frequently, until thick. this should take around twenty minutes. the color will darken and the taste will become very rich. at this point, add the chili flakes and continue stirring. allow to cook, stirring frequently, until the paste is thick and darker, and big bubble form then pop on the surface. take off heat and allow to cool until it is near your body temperature to the touch. add salt and vinegar and stir together. allow to cool overnight, then store in the refrigerator. your gochujang should last for about a year in the fridge. 

a note about the miso: i used a fairly mellow miso and it turned out great. i would think that the darker the miso, the more developed the flavor would be here. also, i read that combining several types of miso would contribute to taste. i had only one type, so that's what i used. no biggie. you can get it from any asian market. remember to double check the label for wheat, barley, or malt.

a note about korean chili flakes: these can be found in most asian markets or ordered online. i don't think you could really substitute another kind without sacrificing taste. 
my gochujang is pretty sweet and pretty mild on spice. i will lower the sugar a little next time, and add more chili flakes. the flavor is great though! i was skeptical, to say the least. it actually is a great approximation of the good stuff, even if it is lacking a little depth from the lack of fermentation.

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