Category Archives: Ingredients

Asian cooking can be intimidating. There are many pastes, sauces, and liquids that are specific to certain regions and countries. You’ll be told there aren’t any substitutes, so you buy sauce after sauce, cluttering your refrigerator. So it is understandable if you want to really know about what you are buying.

But if you are into Korean food you’ll notice a common ingredient- gochujang. It is a fermented soybean chili paste that goes on a lot of various dishes. It is either really easy or extreamly hard to find. It usually depends on where you live. In New Jersey I can find some at a few generic grocery stores chains in their “international” aisles. But I am aware that there is a large Korean population in the area. It is easy to order through HMart or Amazon, with many brands to choose from. Each brand has their own heat and sweetness levels, so keep that in mind with your recipes and shopping.

The color of gochujang varies, but most commercial brands use dyes to get a bright red color.

The color of gochujang varies, but most commercial brands use dyes to get a bright red color.

How to Make It

Gochujang is made by taking fermented soybeans and mixing them with chili powder and rice. The mixture is put into earthenware and left out into the sun to ferment further, developing a unique flavor. Modern gochujang is sweetened and pasteurized to stop the fermentation process. This makes a shelf stable product, making transportation cheaper.

You can make your own gochujang but you’ll need a sunny backyard as sunlight is vital for the fermentation. If you want to give it a try Maangchi has directions to make you own gochujang. Her recipe uses various powders that are made to make process easier.

But what if you live in the middle of nowhere? There are no Asian food markets? You can still buy tubs pre-made, but it can be intimidating to buy online. Plus gochujang can have coloring and preservatives. If you want to avoid that you can make cheaters gochujang No, it isn’t authentic, but it tastes very similar and it’s pretty damn good. It will also give you a taste before buying the tub.

Cheater's Gochujang
Need gochujang but are completely out? Here is a cheaters recipe to get you by.
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Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Total Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup miso
  2. 4 tbsp agave syrup
  3. 1 tsp-1 tbsp korean chili powder
Instructions
  1. Stir all ingredients together until combined
  2. If you can't find korean chili powder you can use 1/2-2 tsp of cayenne powder
One Raw Bite http://one-sonic-bite.com/

Gluten Free?

Although Wikipedia says that gochujang is made with soybeans, rice, and pepper, wheat sneaks in there with modern recipes. I have not sat down at the market and read the backs of all the gochujang cases, but I haven’t come across one without wheat. If you want a gluten-free version you can make gochujang at home with Maangchi’s directions, which is good for people with wheat allergies. The recipe uses barley malt flour, which barley contains gluten, so that might be a problem for you. 

Or you can find a gluten-free miso and make my faux gochujang! This also extends to whatever miso you want including chickpea miso, making a soy friendly version. Realistically, the amount of gluten in gochujang is very small. If you eat normal miso without a problem, gochujang shouldn’t be a problem either.

Cooking

Gochujang is often used as major component in Korean cooking. It is often mixed with other ingredients to make sauces or vinaigrettes. Most of the time it is used to coat food while being cooked, such as spicy Korean rice cakes or in a veggie stir-fry. The key to unlocking the power of gochujang is letting it caramelize when grilling or baking.

Recipes

Adzuki Bean Burgers
Ddukbokgi – Spicy Rice Cakes
Dolsot Bibimbap – Korean Rice Bowls
Kimchi Hot Pot Soup
Kimchi Nacho Tots
Kohlrabi Kimchi and Adzuki Tacos


We make a drink at work called “The MD.” It’s high in vitamin C and contains spirulina to help boost the immune system. Of course, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “What is Spirulina?” Usually, I give a vague answer. It is a blue-green algae that is chock full of vitamins and nutrients. Aside from that, I really don’t know where to start. It is like trying to explain why spinach is good for you; sure it is high in iron, but there are many other reasons to eat it. (Spirulina is actually more nutritious than Spinach anyway.) So much it would be pretty silly to just belt out all of its vitamins.  So I’ve decided to break it all down here.

Hi, there! We are spirulina!

Hi, there! We are spirulina!

What the heck is Spirulina

Spirulina is a “sea vegetable,” a popular term to make algae and seaweed seem less “freaky.” Spirulina comes from the Arthrospira genus, one of the earliest living organisms to grow on earth. Although there are many different species, the ones cultivated for food are Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima. It was previously thought that Spirulina was part of the Spirulina genus, due to the similarity of the shape. Dispite the change of genus, the name sticks when it comes to its common name. The name Spirulina derives from the spiral shape of the organism when viewed under a microscope. Spirulina’s native romping grounds are Africa, Asia, Central and South America.

Spirulina’s taste can be difficult for people to articulate. Some people love the strong taste, me being one of them. And some people find it overwhelming. It can be pretty hard to eat more than one teaspoon to a tablespoon in one sitting. But keep in mind, one brand of spirulina tastes different from another. Think of it like any form of produce, it will taste different depending on the conditions it needs to grow in.

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Today we are going to talk about a little story. This story is about the soy bean. Sure you’ve been told that it is one of most versatile ingredients in the world. Sadly, most Americans and Westerners have no clue how much is made with soy. Sure there is soy milk, tofu, soy ice cream, soy beef patties, and miso, but how much more can be made from a bean?

Take away refrigerators, and humans get pretty creative with how to save their foods. Just think about how in the west we have so many different variations of milk. There is yogurt, cremes, cheeses, and much more. Even with cheese, there are so many different flavors and textures. You have a mild cheese like mozzarella that is fresh and no fermentation. Then you have fermented cheeses like swiss that has a completely different texture, smell, and taste. You can even get a totally different cheese with a different strain of bacteria, like blue cheese. The same thing can be said about soy. Do a few things to the beans, and you can get lots of different results. Tofu is kind-of similar to mozzarella, fresh and soft. Miso is fermented and therefore has a drastically different pungent taste. So what is the “blue cheese” of soy? Surely it must be douchi.

bean-party

Douchi looks like a raisin, but it is simply a fermented old soy bean. Even though soy bean’s color can be black, any variety is used for this food. Douchi is the earliest form of soy bean fermentation known to man. Older than miso. Douchi was found in a tomb dating all the way back to 165 BCE.

As I am talking about these wrinkly beans, you might be wondering what these things taste like. If you ever gotten black bean chicken on at a Chinese food take out, you tasted douchi. There is a distinct taste to the douchi beans that are salty, but can not be replaced. Sort of like how soy sauce simply can’t be replaced with salt.

The steps for making the paste require the soy beans to be soaked, steamed, and inculcate with soy koji, which is used for miso. The beans mold over, turning green. The mold is rinsed off to remove some bitter flavors, though this step can be skipped. The soy beans are then placed in a brine for six months. The end result are “black beans.” They can be eaten alone as a snack, or be made into a paste.

beanpaste

“Black Bean” Paste

Douchi is commonly made into a paste. Anyone who takes a dip into “asian cooking” can go crazy from all the new pastes and sauces that are needs for a recipe. Add “Black Bean” Paste to the list now. This is where things get confusing. Many culture have different names for all their pastes, and many will swear that their paste is different than others. Just think of the American biscuit. A woman from the south will say biscuits from the north just aren’t right.

The basic recipe for “Black Bean” Paste is to saute douchi in a pan with broth, water, and garlic. Sometimes oil, soy sauce, and starch are added for flavor and texture. This sauce or paste is becoming easier to find in supermarkets, but are overpriced and small.

Douchi is pretty popular in Korean food because of the rise in popularity of Jajangmyeon. Koreans call their paste chunjang. Many swear it isn’t the same as the Chinese counterpart. What is the difference? Honestly caramel. Yes, Koreans like their savory foods sweet. So if you aren’t satisfied with douchi you bought add some sugar or some other sweetener.

REMEMBER- if you are buying pre-made “Black Bean” Paste check the ingredients! If you are vegetarian or vegan, there may be caramel (milk guise) or chicken stock in the paste!

COOKING

There are a few ways to use black bean paste in cooking. It is used more as a seasoning, as it is too salty to eat on it’s own. Just imagine eating a spoonful of miso? (alright I’ve been known to lick the spoon) Traditionally, you can toss a tablespoon or two in a stir fry, though you may want to omit any soy sauce or salt. It is also common to use to on different steamed meats, such as ribs or fishes. And one of the most popular dishes is Jajangmyeon, noodles slathered in black bean paste.

But truth is the sky is the limit. Maybe make dumplings with chopped veggies covered in some black bean sauce. Maybe you could try making a BBQ sauce out the paste. Heck, they have been even used in ice cream! Play around and be daring. Think of the paste a little bit like “soy sauce” in the flavor and go from there. I am sure you will blow all your friends away.

RECIPES

Jajangmyeon
Vegan Black Bean Abalone Stir-fry