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Korean hot pepper paste - brand recommendations

k
kaavali Nov 9, 2011 07:39 PM

I want to make some soon dobu at home. What is a good brand of gochu jang (pepper paste) to buy? I am in the DC area so have access to several Asian markets.

  1. l
    lapositivista May 21, 2012 08:01 AM

    This is an old thread so I'm not sure anybody will even see this but here goes... Two things: First, I see comments on the differences in flavor of good/bad paste brands, but what about texture? I have a tub of Assi that I've used to make oijingeochae muchim (seasoned dried squid) and seasoning sauce for bibimbap and I've noticed a kind of grainy, unpleasant texture. Do you think this is because of the lower quality of the product or could it just be a recipe flaw or a characteristic of gochujang that I don't particularly like? Anyway, I'm eager to use up my huge tub of Assi to try some of the good stuff and see if it makes a difference.

    Second, Maangchi recently posted a recipe for homemade gochujang for those of you have the space and patience to try it. It's probably getting too hot in my area now, but I'm really tempted to try this one day. Check it out here: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/gochujang .

    1 Reply
    1. re: lapositivista
      C. Hamster May 26, 2013 05:10 AM

      Rhei-made brand

    2. j
      jjjrfoodie Nov 10, 2011 09:12 AM

      Cheong Jeong Weon paste here as well ( and a small bag of each teh fine and medium powders)

      I have access to a rather large International market locally, and whenever teh shipment of the big red tubs of the above paste comes in, they go flying off the shelf. The shelf is either packed full with the new shipment or it is bare, with once or twice in a year where a few containers were left.

      Popular commodity to those that know how to use it and my tub lasts quite a long time, but it's about timing and availability if bought in my locale.

      3 Replies
      1. re: jjjrfoodie
        l
        lulumoolah Nov 10, 2011 10:48 AM

        Sorry to be a pain, but if you can somehow score homemade gochujang, I strongly recommend it. The store bought versions do not compare at all to the homemade version. I was surprised by how different the store bought gochujang tasted to what I grew up with and have had at other Korean homes.

        1. re: lulumoolah
          hannaone Nov 10, 2011 04:35 PM

          No doubt that homemade is better, but most people in the states don't have access to it.

          I have tried a lot of homemade and each family has their own version. Some have been made with various fruits as the sweetener, instead of sugar or mulyeot. One of the best used Korean plums and honey.

          1. re: hannaone
            l
            lulumoolah Nov 11, 2011 01:35 PM

            I should clarify. This is not like kimchee where the store bought can be a decent representation of the homemade version or like jam where some brands are better than other, but clearly homemade is better. I really do feel the store versions of gochujang is very different from the homemade versions I've had. I don't want anyone to think the store version is a good or near approximation of the homemade thing, a way of thinking I've gotten from other people when it comes to Korean food. Yeah, I am aware that it's difficult to get the homemade gochujang here which is why I've had to buy the store versions.

      2. hannaone Nov 10, 2011 06:40 AM

        I agree with another adam that powder is better for sundubu. There are three grinds of powder usally available in Korean markets - fine, medium, and coarse. My wife and I generally use a combination of fine and coarse grind (1/1) in sundubu.

        On the paste -
        There are quite a few brands, and to confuse things even more there are different types of paste also.
        The most common types that I have seen in my area are -

        Sunchang - for the style of gochujang made in the Sunchang region of Korea which is believed by many to have the best gochujang

        taeyangcho - sun-dried. This type of gochujang uses only sun dried peppers which are believed to give the best flavor.

        chalgochujang (sweet rice gochujang) - Adding sweet rice powder to gochujang is believed to aid the fermentation and produce a smoother product.

        Cheongyangcho - Made with a specific type of pepper, the Cheongyangcho which is believed to be both hotter and more flavorful than other varieties.

        Some brands of gochujang combine any or all of these types into one product.

        Brands
        Wang and Assi are possibly the most common brands and they taste that way - common. (Think mass market canned soups)

        Haechandle is pretty good - spicy, a little sweet, and a fresher taste than Wang or Assi.

        Chung Jung Won is very good. They offer a product that combines all the types I mentioned above for a great result.

         
         
         
         
        4 Replies
        1. re: hannaone
          a
          another_adam Nov 10, 2011 05:23 PM

          This reminds me that Haechandle has a sweet rice gochujang in a very stylish new container lately- I haven't tried it, but it looks nice. If my memory is right, it's a white tub with red handles or something like that. (I'm quite susceptible to these marketing ploys, evidently :) )

          The suggestion to use a mix of fine and coarse powder for sundubu is interesting, I'll have to try that! (I have some started on the stove right now, but it's too late for that batch!) One other thing with using powder is that it really does help if you can make it a bit in advance, so it has time to cook and/or rest to "find itself". It makes the broth mellower and more complex, so you're not just tasting the sharpness of the chili— especially if you make it caustically spicy, like in our house...

          1. re: another_adam
            hannaone Nov 10, 2011 06:34 PM

            The fine powder tends to be a bit sweeter, and a bit less spicy than the coarse, and can also act as a thickener. Using just fine powder can result in a thick broth while using just coarse offers a thin(ner), spicier, broth. Using a mix can control sweetness, thickness, and heat a bit better than one or the other.

            1. re: hannaone
              a
              another_adam Nov 10, 2011 07:58 PM

              That makes sense- I usually use only fine powder (for all soups, I guess). As you point out, it's not all that spicy, so it's easier to control the spice level (and more forgiving if the soup cooks down a bit). But when you add it at first, it definitely has a "rough" taste in the throat until it has integrated well with the broth and made it thicker/richer. I like that thickness, so I usually try to make it in advance so it can sit for a while (or even until the next day). It becomes milder, too, though-- so you do have to make it hotter than you'd think, or adjust later. I'll have to try adding coarse pepper next time I need to bump it up at the end.
              (For sundubu, I also usually add a drizzle of chili oil at the end, too, so I actually usually try to resist the temptation to ratchet up the broth too much!)

          2. re: hannaone
            rmarisco May 25, 2013 05:19 PM

            thank you - this list is incredibly helpful

          3. a
            another_adam Nov 9, 2011 08:14 PM

            I generally use only powder (gochu garu), not paste for sundubu, but my favorite gochujang is the "Sunchang" (순창) style paste by Cheong Jeong Weon (청정원). I don't know if the link will survive, but HMart has it:

            http://www.hmart.com/shopnow/shopnow_...

            Other decent brands are Haechandle and Haioreum. I definitely do *not* recommend Wang or Assi, even though they tend to be easier to find.
            You might also want to try out different brands and see what you like, especially for the foods you're planning on using it for. Some are more salty, or more spicy, or have other particular flavors (Wang just tastes kind of "burnt" to me, and Assi tastes salty and spicy without the more rounded, richly fermented taste). But it really just depends which one you prefer, and which works best for the dishes you'll use it for!

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