What is gochujang?
Gochujang is a Korean red pepper paste made with fermented soybean, chili powder, glutinous rice, malt powder, and salt. It has been a main staple in Korean cuisine for centuries.
It is used for enhancing the soups, stew, or any meats associated with Korean food.
If you are really into making it as authentic as possible, you need to get a Korean clay pot to ferment the soybean power.
It will take a lot of patience because good gochujang takes up to 6 to 12 months for the gochujang to ferment nicely. Its red chili paste will have more deep and complex flavors and you can see very different tastes of Korean food.
What not to mix with Gochujang!
Often, cheap or bad quality gochujang has corn syrup, starch syrup, and vegetable oil as ingredients. The proper gochujang only has chili pepper power, fermented soybean powder, sweet rice or wheat flour, rice syrup, malt barley syrup, and salt.
Gochujang is made in the old winter months. Because it takes a 6 months fermentation process but should be completed before the extreme heat and rainy season of Korea which falls between July and September.
Traditionally gochujang is fermented using a clay pot. This vessel is often made by one of the few remaining Korean artisans who is recognized by the Korean government as a national heritage.
Using fine Korean red chili powder or coarse Korean red chili powder
Coarse Red chili Powder
This is the most common chili powder used in Korean cooking. This coarse gochugaru (chili powder) gives you a bright red color and gives you a more clean flavor.
Fine Red Chili Powder
This fine gochugaru (chili powder) gives you a more muddy taste and it is not often used for fresh vegetables. It is used for stews and soups to give extra spiciness. It is used for making the sauce for many dishes.
Many Korean chefs and Moms of the household use the combination of both coarse and fine Chili powder for Korean cuisine.
But if you are not a professional chef and not serious about making it as authentic as possible, using fine chili powder is fine.
Step-by-Step Instructions on How to make Gochujang at home
Night Before making Gochujang
1. Sterilize the Korean glazed clay vessels. The traditional way to sterilized the clay pot is by pouring hot boiling water inside and drying it in the sun.
2. Soak malt barley (750g) in 5 liters of cold water for 5 hours or more.
3. Soak sweet rice in cold water for 3 to 4 hours or more
On the Day of making Gochujang
4. Strain soaked sweet rice through a colander or strainer to remove all excess water. Grind sweet rice with a blender to make it as fine as you can. Also, you can substitute sweet rice powder from the grocery market.
5. With your hand, grab a handful of malt barley and squeeze them in the water. Repeat this process many times.
6.. Strain malt barley through a fine sieve or medium grade cheesecloth to just get the liquid and some fine white sediments. Make sure there are no husks in the barley.
7. Add sweet rice powder to strained liquid and mix it thoroughly.
8. Leave the mixture in the oven with a temperature of above 140 f for 5 to 6 hours. Stir it every hour during the 5 hours.
9. Remove malt barley and add sweet rice mixture from oven
10. Heat it with medium-high -until liquid has reduced by about 20%. Stir often to prevent any burning and lumps. And let it cools down to room temperature.
11. Once liquid is cool down to room temperature, add fine gochugaru, and sea salt.
12. Finally add rice syrup and mix it thoroughly.
13. Cover the jar or bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight. For the final touch, mix it everything well one last time before you pour it into the clay jar.
14. Pour all the gochujang into the prepared clay pot and sprinkle the sea salt to keep the bacteria from growing on the surface.
15. Leave the newly prepared gochujang clay pot in the sun for full 6 months. The sun will kill any fungus from forming on top. You can cover the top of the clay pot with a mosquito net to keep the bugs away.
Gochujang needs direct sunlight. Also, you need to open the clay pot’s cover on a sunny morning so the sunlight hits it directly. . You need to stir it and turn it over from the bottom to the top so that it’ll be mixed and fermented evenly.
As time goes on, your gochujang will turn shiny and turn a richer red color.
And make sure you close the clay pot’s cover in the evening.
The reason why Korean make gochujang in the wintertime is to limit the fast fermentation in the summer.
How to make Korean Red Chili Paste – Gochujang at Home
- 1.5 kg Fine Red Chili powder (Goun Gochukaru 고운 고추가루) (1.5kg = 3.3 lb)
- 500 g Fermented Soy Bean powder (Meju Karu 메주가루) (500g = 1.1 lb)
- 1 kg Sweet Rice powder (Chapsal Karu 찹쌀가루) (1 kg = 2.2 lb)
- 750 g Milled Malt Barley (Yeotkireum Karu 엿기름가루) (750g = 1.65 lb)
- 750 g Sea Salt with bittern removed (Cheonilyeom 천일염) (750g = 1.65 lb)
- 1 kg Rice Syrup (Jocheong 조청) (1 kg = 2.2 lb)
- 5 L water (5 litre = 5.2 quart)
THE NIGHT BEFORE
- Soak malt barley (all 750 g of it!) in 5 litre of cold water for 5 hrs or more.
- Soak sweet rice in water for 3-4 hrs or more.
- Strain soaked sweet rice through a colander and remove all excess water.
- Grind sweet rice with a blender or chopper as fine as you can make it. Set aside.
- Strain malt barley through a fine sieve or medium grade cheese cloth to just get the liquid and some fine white sediments.
- Add sweet rice powder to strained liquid from above.
- Leave mixture in the oven with a temperature of about 60°C (140°F) for 5 hrs.
- Remove malt barley + sweet rice mixture from oven and cook on stove top.
- Start at medium high -> medium heat until liquid has reduced by about 20%. Let it cool.
- Once liquid is cooled, add fine gochukaru, meju karu and sea salt.
- Add rice syrup (jocheong 조청) – add more or less to your taste.
- Mix everything well.
- Transfer gochujang into the prepared, sanitized clay pot (hangari 항아리).
- Sprinkle top with handful of sea salt.
- Leave in full sun for 6 months.
The sun helps to kill any fungus from forming on top. Cover the top with a fine mosquito net or mesh that will keep the bugs away but let the sun in.