The Joys of (Korean) Cooking

One of the things I like most about cooking is that there’s always something new to try, whether it a new recipe, and new cuisine, or even a new ingredient! Amazingly, I was able to squeeze all three kinds of newness into a meal I made last week and, boy, was it wonderful. Let’s begin with the new ingredient…

Blogosphere, meet gochujang. Gochujang, meet blogosphere. If you’ve never seen one of these little tubs of Korean goodness, don’t be worried—like I said, this was my first seeing the stuff, too. As the label informs, gochujang is a red pepper paste, but I like to think of it as a cross between miso and kimchi. Like miso, it is a fermented paste, and like kimchi, it is packed with red chili powder spiciness. So sensitive palates beware: gochujang is hot hot hot. (For more on gochujang, check out the Wikipedia article here.)

Now I didn’t just buy this on a whim @H Mart in San Jose. I’ve been really eager to branch out my cooking to include Korean cuisine lately, and after skimming over a few tantalizing recipes, I came to the conclusion that gochujang was going to be an integral part of that branching out. I was happy for the opportunity to try something new anyway. So what did I make? Take a look!

What you see there is lots of tofu marinating in a Korean BBQ sauce. I loved the spicy flavor of the gochujang mixed with everything else inside. However, although I maybe could’ve eaten all the tofu just like this, I decided that it’d be better to put it to further use.

First I fried all my little tofu cubes in canola oil, giving them a nice crispiness. These came out really great; just look:

And although I definitely could’ve eaten all the tofu just like this, I thought I could put it to even better use by adding it to a more complete dish. However, instead of following any specific recipe, I decided to wing it and make something of my own design, which—amazingly—came out amazing. I give you Korean Pad Thai:

Okay, I’m not really sure if Korean Pad Thai is the best name for it, but I can’t think of anything better. Basically, I went by the same general formula I used for the more traditional Pad Thai dish, but with several changes. First, I had the genius idea of using the rest of the marinade as the noodle sauce. This definitely turned up the heat on this dish by a lot (as if the tofu itself wasn’t gonna be hot enough), but it added a wonderful flavor to it as well. My noodles of choice this time were udon, which are of course neither Korean nor Thai, but whatever, they were what I had handy and, more importantly, they worked great! The vegetables I chose to add were just broccoli, greens beans, and edamame, but they went very well with everything else. Overall, this dish was really really good—and also made for delicious leftovers during the week!

So, in review: Gochujang? Success. Korean cuisine? Success. Korean Pad Thai? Super success! I like it when cooking turns out this well. And be sure to check back soon to see what I did with the rest of my Korean BBQ Tofu, and what other great uses I’ve since found for gochujang!

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