It’s interesting to point out that when considering Korean food, oftentimes we associate them not with dishes themselves, but rather with mouth-watering and original flavors. This makes a lot of sense to the average American, who probably would struggle to name a handful of Korean restaurants, given their lack of presence across the country. While you may not find many Korean restaurants outside of your local Koreatown (if you have one), chefs from across the country are increasingly interested in integrating Korean flavors into their menus, and a prime example of this trend is the rising interest in gochujang sauce.
The earthy spices of gochujang sauce that embody the sweet and tangy tastes of traditional Korean dishes pair well with plenty of American foods, which can be seen through examples such as the Korean BBQ Burger and the KPOP Burger from fast-casual chains, Umami Burger and DogHaus, and the Korean BBQ Pizza from the world renown, California Pizza Kitchen. This reality will continue to be utilized by culinary experts and foodies alike. Though gochujang sauce is truly a unique ingredient and flavor in a class of its own, perhaps its utilization has gone over some heads; some still may wonder, what is gochujang sauce? And so, to further our understanding, I thought it’d be useful to breakdown what gochujang sauce is exactly and why it’s risen to the top of the sauce pyramid.
What is Gochujang Sauce?
To explain what gochujang sauce is, we need to start with gochujang. Gochujang is a red-colored paste made from Korean chilli peppers, fermented soybeans, and salt. It is the lifeblood of Korean food and dishes.
Gochujang sauce is a modified version of gochujang, where gochujang paste is mixed with other ingredients to create a smoother consistency and even more flavor. Gochujang sauce is easy to cook with and can be directly applied to foods like a condiment. There are many different variations of gochujang sauce and you might be familiar with some of them.
If you’ve ever heard the terms Korean hot sauce, Korean red sauce, bibimbap sauce, sashimi sauce, or Korean fried chicken sauce, the sauce referred to was a gochujang sauce. While gochujang sauce offers a healthy amount of heat, it cannot truly be considered a hot sauce with scoville units measuring less than 1,000 (Tabasco is at 2,000-4,000 for comparison). Think of gochujang sauce as a less spicy version of sriracha, but with more umami and complexity due to the various ingredients and the aging process it undergoes.
Different Variations of Gochujang Sauce
Gochujang’s unique flavors along with its heat has made it the centerpiece of a variety of traditional gochujang sauces used in Korean dishes or adaptations such as bibimbap, Korean chicken wings, sashimi, Korean BBQ, and more.
Bibimbap is a bowl of steamed rice served with assorted vegetables, and commonly meat. Though it may seem comparable to plenty of rice dishes here in the states and across the globe, it is the addictive, spicy gochujang sauce that unifies its ingredients, distinguishing the rice bowl from its peers. Being such a popular dish, oftentimes the sauce used in it is simply referred to as bibimbap sauce. What is bibimbap sauce? Traditionally, it is gochujang paste mixed with minced garlic, sesame oil, sugar, and water.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating Korean chicken wings (if you haven’t, check out my all-time favorite Korean fried chicken recipe here), the wings will either be smothered in a sweet red marinade or come with a spicy sauce on the side. And you guessed it, this is another variation of gochujang sauce. This marinade or sauce is most commonly made with honey, soy sauce, garlic, and gochujang and is the inspiration behind KPOP Honey Glaze Gochujang Sauce.
Through sashimi, a Japanese dish mainly associated with platters of fresh raw fish, consumers around the world have noticed the amazing flavor profiles that adding “cho-gochujang”, a modification of gochujang accompanied by some added vinegar (“cho”), has on this dish. The vinegar cuts the fishiness while the gochujang brings out all the distinct flavors of the fish with an extra little kick. Our personal favorites to try with this particular gochujang sauce is halibut, snapper, yellowtail, shrimp, and octopus.
Why Gochujang Sauce?
Traditionally and in its original form, gochujang is not only difficult to cook and eat with but also difficult to incorporate into Western cuisine. Gochujang’s density, potency, and the meticulous manner by which it needs to be prepared requires much experience and knowledge with the paste. With a similar consistency as peanut butter, gochujang is difficult to integrate into cooking and its taste and smell can be overpowering. By itself, gochujang cannot be used as a condiment, glaze, or sauce.
Moreover, gochujang isn’t the easiest to find, transport, or store. They can be found at your local Asian or Korean market (if you have one) in large red rectangular 5 lb tubs. Unless you’re preparing Korean dishes everyday, these can be a bit overkill. We also empathize with how intimidating it can be to shop at these markets where products and aisle signs may or may not be labeled in English.
We started KPOP Foods with the understanding that people (you) loved Korean food and flavors, but that it was still uncharted territory. If gochujang embodies the treasures of Korean food, then gochujang sauce is the map that takes you there. Gochujang sauce makes Korean flavors accessible, convenient, and easy to use in your everyday meals.
Gochujang sauce comes in convenient squeeze bottles and is meticulously crafted for both cooking and direct-application purposes. More frequently these days, you can find it at major grocery chains or you can purchase them inexpensively online, but not all gochujang sauces are created equal. See why our line of original gochujang sauces are a cut above the rest.