Going to the Korean grocery store can be intimidating. With a wall full of condiments and pretty colours to choose from, how does one know what to buy? The truth is, 85% of Korean dishes can be made with simple salt, sugar and the following list of essential ingredients!
Fermented Soybean Paste (doenjang) 된장
“It contains whole as well as ground soybeans. A traditional Korean fermented soybean paste. Its name literally means “thick paste” in Korean. A spicy, salty paste made from fermented broad beans, soybeans, salt, rice, and various spices.” – Wikipedia
It is used to make…
Green Onion Pancake, Paste for all your Korean BBQ, Your favourite Hang-over cure – Pork Bone Stew, Soybean Paste Stew,
Substitute: Red Miso
Hot Pepper Paste (gochujang) 고추장
“It is a savory, spicy, and pungent fermented Korean condiment made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt. Traditionally, it has been naturally fermented over years in large earthen pots outdoors, more often on an elevated stone platform, called jangdokdae (장독대) in the backyard” – Wikipedia
Substitute: Hot Pepper flake slightly dampened with soy sauce with a dab of sugar
It is used to make…Almost everything in Korean cuisine! Kimchi Stew, Kimchi, Budae-Jigae, Spicy Pork BBQ, Spicy Braised Chicken (Dak-bokkeumtang), Spicy Fried Chicken (Yangnyeom-tongdak), Spicy Stirred Rice Cake (Tteokbokki), Kimchi Fried Rice… List goes on
Red Hot Pepper Flakes (gochugaru) 고추가루
“ is a condiment consisting of dried and crushed (as opposed to ground) red chili peppers.”
Substitute: 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne powder per 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Sesame Oil (chamkireum) 참기름
“ is an edible vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds. Besides being used as a cooking oil in South India, it is often used as a flavor enhancer in Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Korean, and Southeast Asian cuisine.”
Yummmmm! My old friends of 25 years from Canada came with their whole family to visit. They brought me so many goodies, this is an amazing Korean sesame oil from a small private oil miller. I love Korean characters on it. Anyone knows what it means? @uhohsusan can you translate? It smells so amazing! I can’t wait to use it on my Korean dishes!! Thank you so much Gloria and Bernie!! #Korean #sesameoil #treasureinthekitchen #essential #flavor #gift #asian #kitchen #root
Substitute: Peanut Oil
Minced Garlic 다진마늘
“Garlic is one the most important ingredients in Korean cuisine. Most Korean recipes call for minced garlic as part of the seasoning. Whole garlic cloves are also often used to make Korean broth, soups or stews. Koreans also enjoy pickled garlic as a side dish and grilled garlic with Korean BBQ and table cooking.”
Substitute: None, but often omitting this ingredient won’t change the taste of the dish drastically.
Welsh Onion 대파
“The Welsh onion is an ingredient in Asian cuisine, especially in East and Southeast Asia. It is particularly important in China, Japan, and Korea, hence the other English name for this plant, ‘Japanese bunching onion’.” Wikipedia
Where to buy?
If you’re in Toronto, head over to Galleria, PAT, or M2M Korean specialty stores. Otherwise, try your nearby Korean Mart or online. My favourite Korean grocery is the one uptown – Galleria. It’s open 24 hours and has the largest selection of Korean groceries, housewares, and also has a Korean food court attached to boot! Using the public transit to Galleria isn’t the most convenient, but it’s totally worth the trip. In terms of which brand of condiments to purchase, I wouldn’t worry about it. Most Korean brands are all on par in terms of taste and quality. Hope this was helpful and make sure to follow this blog and follow me (@tinasyhsu) on twitter for updates!