by RUTH KIM
While the piquant and tangy spice of Sriracha sauce has thrived in the culinary spotlight, finding a home even in mainstream supermarkets and restaurants in recent years, a certain peppery condiment peer has quietly remained in the background. But food writer and Korean cuisine expert Naomi Imatome-Yun thinks it’s about time gochujang gets its closeup. In Cooking with Gochujang: Asia’s Original Hot Sauce, Imatome-Yun introduces a diverse catalog of recipes that highlight the bold flavors of the Korean hot pepper paste.
But what exactly is gochujang? “It’s a chili paste with a complex spicy, sweet and deep flavor,” explains Imatome-Yun, who is of Japanese and Korean descent. “It is so full of umami flavor and depth, that it can really spice up your cooking.”
She says the rich and nuanced taste of gochujang can be blended into any type of cuisine, as the author showcases with an eclectic array of gochujang-infused dishes, from soba salads and stews to spicy pastas, quesadillas and even cookies and cocktails. Kicked-up Halibut Teriyaki, Marble Swirl Cake With a Twist and Gochujang Bloody Mary are among the offerings.
“I tried to create recipes and dishes that people would actually make and enjoy,” said Imatome-Yun. “The more traditional Korean recipes are based on things we eat often at home and some I did learn through my mother and grandmother. But since most of the recipes aren’t strictly Korean, the bulk of the recipes were created from scratch in my kitchen.”
A New York native, and now a Los Angeles resident, Imatome-Yun has worked as a food writer for over 15 years, from writing restaurant and bar reviews for AOL to working as the copy editor for the food publication Art Culinaire. She is also the Korean food expert for About.com, where she’s shared her knowledge of the cuisine for seven years and counting.
“I’m always shocked at the traffic and how many people are looking for Korean recipes,” she said. “I hear from readers who grew up in Korean homes, but couldn’t cook anything after they moved out, expats in Korea who want recipes in English, and people who aren’t experts in the cuisine and need some simple, clear instructions.”
The cookbook, released in September by Countryman Press, publisher of many James Beard Award-winning cookbooks, took about six months to make and was very much a family affair. Her husband took the photos featured in the book, and her two sons were likely among her trusted tasters. Imatome-Yun says the boys love Korean food, especially—no surprise here—the spicy dishes.
Seoulful Cheese Dip
This is an easy to whip together dip for chips, vegetables and crackers that always has people asking for the recipe. It’s creamy with a little heat, and you’ll also find a fun variation on Buffalo chicken wings on the bottom.
Prep time: 5 minutes
1 8-oz package of cream cheese
1/4 cup half and half 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp gochujang
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 small sweet onion, grated
Instructions: Soften the cream cheese and stir in the half and half until it’s creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a fork until it reaches a smooth consistency. Serve with vegetables, chips, or bread.
Buffalo Wings variation:
Add 1⁄2 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1/4 cup ranch dressing and 3 Tbsp Frank’s hot sauce to the above dip. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until it’s hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks and cooked chicken cut into strips or bite-sized pieces for dipping.
Grilled Chicken with Lime
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves: 4
4 chicken thighs or breasts
4 Tbsp gochujang
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Instructions: Mix all the ingredients together except for the chicken for the marinade. Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours. Grill for about 7 minutes per side, or until completely cooked through.