I get so tired of my own cooking. I know I’ve said this before, so forgive me, but how many times can I feed my family turkey burgers or pasta? But normally, when I’m in a rush, I know I can knock those out with no thinking in 20 minutes, and it will be good enough. Will it be wild and exciting? No. Will it satisfy everyone at the table? Yes. But I am so BORED of it. And truthfully, so are they.
So even though I have been distracted with all the baking and sweets lately, I’ve been pushing myself to incorporate new flavors into our standard repertoire. The easiest way I’ve been doing that is by stocking my fridge and pantry with a selection of random ingredients from different cuisines. Za’atar from the spice markets of Israel improves all roasted vegetables, dried pasilla chilies from the mexican grocery story make for an amazing tortilla soup, and light and dark soy sauces and Chinkiang vinegar have brought chinese cooking into my home this week. And when I went to a new Korean store that opened up near a job I was on a couple of weeks ago, I brought home this Gochujang (Korean chili paste) that just makes everything taste sweet and spicy and fantastic.
A few years ago I bought a container of Gochujang for a specific recipe I was making, and that container sat in the door of my refrigerator for an embarrassingly long time. I would toss a spoonful into chilies and soups, or use it as part of a sauce on a stir-fry. It always reminded me of going to my favorite Korean restaurant in Manhattan on 32nd Street and ordering Bibimbap in a Hot Stone Pot. (Isn’t that fun to say? It’s almost as fun as eating this mixed rice dish with ground meat, vegetables and a freshly cracked egg on top that sizzles from the heat of the pot that it is served in, all tossed with Gochujang.) But even I am leery of cooking with something that has been opened for YEARS, and so I hit the new store on my lunch break with a plan in mind. I wondered the aisles and finally found the one with this prime ingredient. But of course, as luck would have it, there had to have been at least 15 different varieties of this red pepper and soybean paste that is so fundamental to Korean cooking. So being resourceful, I tracked down a little old woman who was also shopping and through a comical series of gestures (seeing we didn’t speak a common language,) she selected the brand I photographed above and made it clear that this was the best of the bunch. Honestly, I am not sure if I would have known the difference between the many options, but I can tell you that I love it.
I got home that night and I threw together this Korean Chili Honey Sauce and tossed it on a big bowl of vegetables, and immediately knew that it was going to be a game changer. I played around with proportions, and what I came up with is my happy place where sweet and spicy meet. The sauce alone takes all of 3 minutes, and you can put it on ANYTHING. Just hot water, Gochujang, and honey, it is packed with flavor and will brighten up whatever quick and healthy dish you have going on. Equally fitting for carnivores or vegans, your options are endless. …