Kitchen Tips

Top 5 Korean Cooking Ingredients

Korean food is packed with a punch and is extremely flavoursome. It has a lot of dimensions to it and each dimension gets just as rich as the other. Many Korean banchan rely on the process of fermentation for flavor and preservation, resulting in a salty, spicy, and tangy taste. Koreans use a variety of ingredients without which it wouldn’t be possible to attain the exact taste of Korean delicacies.

Here are 5 must-have Korean cooking ingredients in any Aussie kitchen:

Hot pepper paste (Gochujang)

Hot pepper paste is also known as Gochujang. It is salty, spicy, sweet and has an earthy taste. It’s primary ingredients are red chilli powder, glutinous rice powder mixed with powdered fermented soybeans, and salt. Traditionally, it is naturally fermented over a few years in large earthen pots, usually on an elevated stone platform, called jangdokdae in the backyard.

The process of making gochujang is similar to that of making soy sauce, as both use soybeans as their primary ingredient.

Soy bean is an ingredient that is central to most Korean condiments. It is used extensively for its nutritious value and is the main ingredient in Doenjang – soy bean paste, which is known to prevent cancer and lower cholesterol. It is used a multipurpose ingredient from making tofu to grounded bits and flour to using it with cooked rice.

Along with doenjang and ganjang, gochujang has always been one of the three indispensable household condiments,  Gochujang contains a large number of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C, Carotene and Vitamin A2.

Gochujang is used to make an array of different sauces and is often added to meat, fish, vegetables and to various side dishes for a little bit of extra taste.

hot pepper paste - Top 5 Korean Cooking Ingredients

Image Courtesy: Alpha used under the Creative Commons Licence 

Soy sauce (Jinganjang)

Soy sauce is both salty and sweet. Soy sauce is extracted from a fermented paste of boiled soy beans, which is later pressed and soy sauce is obtained. Soy sauce is used for cooking as well as a condiment. Varieties of soy sauce are earthy, salty,  brownish liquids used to season food while cooking or while consumption.

Soy Sauce - Top 5 Korean Cooking Ingredients


Image Courtesy: icatus used under the Creative Commons Licence 

Toasted sesame oil (Chamkireum)

Toasted sesame oil is also known as Chamkireum. This oil has a deep dark red-brown colour and has a nutty flavour. Sesame is vital to Korean cooking. It is mostly drizzled over food as it is too strong to be cooked in. Koreans use this oil to add some extra flavour to desserts, soups, salads, porridges and a few side dishes.

Short grain rice (Mepssal)

Also known as mepssal and sushi rice, short grain rice is widely used and is a Korean staple. As the name suggests, the size of the grain is short when compared to the normal rice and once it is cooked it becomes sticky, which is why it it is used while making sushi.

short grain rice - Top 5 Korean Cooking Ingredients


Image Courtesy: Andres Rodriguez used under the Creative Commons Licence 

Dried Anchovies

Known as the King of Calcium in Korea, Anchovies are forage fish commonly found in salt-water. They are available in two different sizes, baby anchovies and the adult anchovies. Anchovies have a strong taste because of the curing process they go through to be stored. The process of curing anchovies is crucial as a lot of Korean ingredients are fermented. The process adds a distinct taste to the anchovies which aids in the preparation of sauces as well as condiments.

dried anchovies - Top 5 Korean Cooking Ingredients

Image Courtesy: David Boté Estrada used under the Creative Commons Licence 


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