Perhaps it’s a weeknight, and you had a good day at work. Perhaps more so because it was an easy day at work. You decide to treat yourself and cook something nice because darnit, it's time to consume something other than that microwaveable mac n’cheese you had for three nights in a row.
So you find yourself standing in your cheery kitchen, hovering over your phone, trying to locate that recipe you bookmarked five months ago. Alas. You find the recipe. No biggie, you tell yourself, humming along, perhaps rolling up your sleeves, getting ready. You give a quick glance at the list of ingredients. You realize though, much to your chagrin, that you don’t have a particular ingredient. That one, regionally-inclined, hard-to-come-by ingredient. You grumble to yourself, I can’t get that now. You have an early day tomorrow. And then, you shut off your phone. You fry an egg and call it a night.
My dishes will (hopefully) not result in one disillusioned cook. That is my hope. Below are some substitutions for the hard-to-come-by ingredients. That being said--let us not sacrifice true flavor-- especially when it comes to the famed tang and spice of Korean food.
Provided are some links and a glossary page that will help you get a hold of some mandatory-to-Korean-food ingredients that are quite easy to attain if you're willing to schlep to an Asian market. I’ll include other viable options and alternatives in my recipes so you can avoid that aforementioned awkward moment in your kitchen.
Hey. It’s alright. Victory is nigh.
Here are some links that may be of use. The glossary page does not include hyperlinks, so they're affixed below. Happy shopping.
- red chili pepper powder & flakes / go-chu ga-ruI - highly recommend investing in some of the Korean brand ones. Remember: look for ‘coarse’ in some form on the packaging.
- red pepper paste / go-chu-jang - a cheaper price label does not indicate better taste. Sempio (has a red hexagonal logo) or CJ or Hae-chan-deul brands suffice. Be sure it’s labelled as Product of Korea or Product of USA.
- soy sauce / gan-jang - korean soy sauce.
- soy bean paste / daen-jang - Bon Appetit has an informative piece on daen-jang. If you are ever around LA and serious about finding good pastes, the Korean Fall Festival has great vendors.
- salted (mini) fermented shrimp / sae-oo-jut - packed with doses of flavor, sae-oo-jut is a salty, addictive condiment that most Koreans use in kimchi or any side dishes.
- rice cake / dduk - rice cake cafes are abundant in metropolitan areas of Korea. Apparently even in Singapore. Need a picture? Here's a visual feast.
- kimchi - If made well by the right vendors, store-bought kimchi can be as good as homemade kimchi. If you need to go there, you go there. No worries.