Rice is synonymous with Asian cuisine, and with that ubiquity comes a variety of styles and dishes; one of my favorites happens to hail from Korea, the spicy gochujang rice.
As someone that loves spicy foods, I have a soft spot for gochujang. It’s my preferred kind of Korean fried rice as it is saltier and spicier compared to the ingredients found in dishes like bibimbap, kimchi, bulgogi etc.
I was a huge fan of kimchi for many years, but you can have too much of anything. This was especially true for this side dish. I was a faithful disciple to the fermented cabbage dish known for its probiotic properties, but since all things must pass, I have since started chasing the gochujang-style spicy fried rice.
What is Gochujang?
For those who have never heard of it, gochujang is a mainstay of Korean cooking. A savory, sweet and spicy fermented condiment, this bright red paste, also known as ‘Korean Chili Bean Paste’, is used to prepare some exquisitely delicious food.
Gochujang sauce dates back to the 9th century, when chili peppers, which comes from the Americas, were introduced to East Asia through trade. Many restaurants today call gochujang a Korean Sauce or flavor. It is commonly found in Korean and Asian markets, where it often bears the name “HOT PEPPER PASTE”.
This stuff can utterly transform your cooking. It is traditionally made from a red chili powder called gochu along with glutinous rice, salt, fermented soybean and occasionally a small amount of sugar, syrup or honey.
Gochujang is sold in Korean markets the world over, with labels indicating heat intensity. You’ve got medium hot, which falls in the span of 45-80, very hot (75-100), slightly hot (30-45) and mild hot, which is less than 30 gochujang hot-taste units.
You can also place an order online.
Gochujang sauce can get pretty spicy, but it also has an element of sweetness, which I love. One perk about it is that it has no fat content or cholesterol in addition to being plant-based. The sweetener added to it usually comes out to only 1g per serving, and the sauce has only 2g of carbs. Gochujang is used as a base for making other condiments such as chogochujang, a variant made by adding vinegar and other seasonings.
Gochujang contains a trivial number of calories and very few people are allergic to its ingredients. It’s not very different from the regular hot chili pepper sauce in terms of composition. You can even consume gochujang without cooking it; all you have to do is store it in the fridge after opening.
Gochujang has different brands like the Korean authentic gochujang paste, contained in small tubs similar to the packaging of butter. These tubs are typically red in color and can be found in most Asian markets. Brands include Haechandle, Chung Jung One and Roland. The American brand (Annie Chun) is shelf-stable and it contains wheat.
One dish which gochujang is found in is Korean spicy rice, where it adds an extraordinary flavor and spice which many people (myself included) just cannot get enough of.
Homemade Gochujang Recipe
Although you can get it at the store, making your own gochujang allows you to tweak the taste whichever way you want. To prepare gochujang the following ingredients are required:
1/3 cup chickpea miso paste or soy miso (vegan-friendly and gluten-free optional), 1/4 cup maple syrup (add more to taste), 1/3 cup Korean chili flakes (add more to taste), 1/4 cup coconut aminos (add more to taste), 4 cloves garlic (minced), 1/4 cup water (to thin).
To prepare, add chickpea miso, maple syrup, chili flakes, coconut aminos and garlic to your blender or food processor and blend together until smooth. Add water until you get the texture you want.
Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Add more pepper flake for spice, coconut aminos for depth of flavor, maple syrup for sweetness, garlic, or salt for saltiness.
Store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks or in the freezer up to 1 month.
Korean Fried Rice Recipe
One of the best ways to enjoy gochujang is to make a mean spicy Korean rice or gochujang rice out of it. To prepare this kind of rice, you will need the following gochujang rice ingredients:
- 2 tablespoon gochujang paste
- ¼ to ½ lbs meat of choice like chicken, beef, and pork or Tofu for vegetarian
- 3 eggs
- 2 rashers of bacon
- 1 handful of tinned sweetcorn
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 to 3 hot chili pepper, chopped
- 2-3 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 sweet red pepper, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 cup cabbage, shredded
- 3-5 stalks green onions, cut into 1cm pieces
- 2-3 cups of very cold white rice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cucumber or cilantro for garnish, optional
Start by frying the bacon rashers in frying pan over low-medium heat until they are properly cooked, then add the chopped onions, garlic and hot red peppers in cooking oil.
Next up add the meat to the mixture and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. Once they are cooked, remove and set aside. Add eggs to the mixture, allow to cook and scramble, then move to the side of the pan.
Once all that is done, add the gochujang paste and sweetcorn, then fry, making sure you watch the oil level to keep it cooking well. Add the carrots and stir carefully.
Finally, add the cold white rice to the mixture and stir until it is evenly mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Add the sweet red pepper, shredded cabbage and green onions with salt to taste and allow to cook for a few minutes, then remove from heat.
Serve warm with cucumber and cilantro to garnish
You can also choose to serve your Korean rice dish with cheese or a crispy fried egg. Serving the Korean spicy rice with more protein such as shrimp, chicken or beef means you have to separately cook them and combine with the rice at the end. You also choose to make gochujang sauce or simply get some Korean sauce for rice from the groceries and spread on top of the fried rice to enjoy.
Note: The secret of delicious Korean rice dish is day old rice. If it feels hard after sitting in the fridge, heat it up in the microwave a little to soften it and also to break up the bond between grains before frying.
On the other hand, if you feel the need to prepare rice fresh because you don’t feel comfortable with using day-old rice, just make it slightly drier by using a little less water than usual. Fluff it up and then leave it out to cool and dry out a bit.
Gochujang is one of the best ways to enjoy spicy Korean fried rice or gochujang fried rice. Gochujang is sweet, spicy and undeniably tasty, and it has joined kimchi on my list of favorite Korean ingredients. I can assure you that you’re going to love it. What are you waiting for? Get to the grocery store this instant!