Korean cuisine is complex, rich, bold, filling and spicy. Those are just a few words that describe a centuries-old culture of food. Most people only know Korean food from the jars of kimchi they might see in an Asian supermarket or the bibimbap they ate once at a tiny Korean restaurant. But Korean cuisine is so much more than that -- over time it has evolved, combining its past of royal court cuisine with that of simple and hearty home cooking. You'll also find some similarities with Japanese cuisine in dishes like sushi and dumplings.
With Korean food gaining popularity more and more every year, people are interested in trying it at home. International aisles in supermarkets now include all the Asian condiments you could ever ask for -- and the internet makes it even easier to find unique ingredients and spices that might not be sold at your typical corner store. You only need a few ingredients to stock your pantry with the items you'll need to bring Korean flavor into your kitchen.
To start, you'll need some basic Asian ingredients like sesame seeds, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and short-grain rice. And then there are specific Korean ingredients you'll need.
Gochugaru is the name for ground red chilies. It can be purchased as chili pepper flakes, coarsely ground or finely ground. It's an ingredient commonly used in many dishes, including kimchi.
Gochujang is a red chili paste that is made from gochugaru, glutinous rice and fermented soy beans. It's used as a spicy condiment and flavoring in many recipes. It is also used as a base to make other condiments.
Doenjang is a fermented soy bean paste that's very similar to Japanese miso. it is commonly used as a condiment on its own, or mixed into soup broths. It is also used as a base to make other condiments.
Now that you know what you'll need to get cooking, here are some great recipes to start experimenting with. You'll find recipes for classic kimchi (if you're adventurous enough to make it yourself), beef stir-fry, spicy soup, short ribs, and the classic bibimbap. You don't have to go all the way to Korea to experience its amazing dishes when you're just a recipe away.
What's your favorite Korean dish? Leave a comment below.