Stocking the Korean Pantry
Here are 8 essential ingredients commonly used in Korean cooking.
MIRIN (RICE WINE) AND RICE VINEGAR Koreans often use these two Japanese products. Mirin, or rice wine, which is made from fermented glutinous rice, adds a sweet note to soups, stews, and barbecue marinades, while rice vinegar enlivens salads and various dipping sauces.MEATS FOR BARBECUE Korean stores sell meat precut for barbecue; see Preparing Short Ribs for how to cut your own. You'll generally find beef short ribs (kalbi) two ways—flanken style and thinly sliced flanken style, also called L.A . style—and rib eye or sirloin (bulgogi) cut into thin, wide pieces.FERMENTED SOYBEAN PASTE Toen jang is an indispensable flavoring made from cooked, crushed, and fermented soybeans. It gives pungency and depth to soups and hot pots. At barbecue restaurants it is served in a small dish and is to be mixed with hot red-pepper paste and dabbed on the grilled meat.SOYBEAN SPROUTS Rich in protein, cong namul are used in soups, hot pots, and salads. They are distinguishable from the more common mung bean sprouts by their large size, deep yellow heads, and tough stalks. And, unlike mung bean sprouts, they must be boiled or steamed; otherwise they are inedible.GINKGO NUTS AND DRIED DATES Frequently used in soups and braised dishes, both ingredients are prized for their medicinal properties. Ginkgo nuts, or eun hang, are said to improve blood circulation, and dried red dates, or dae choo, are believed to calm nerves and cure insomnia.HOT RED-PEPPER PASTE Called gochu jang, this thick, sticky, spicy-sweet condiment is made primarily from ground hot red pepper pounded into steamed short-grain rice. The paste adds another layer of heat and flavor to soups and is also used in stir-fries and dipping sauces.DRIED SWEET-POTATO NOODLES Made from sweet-potato starch, tang myun—which need to be soaked in hot water before they are used—are similar to cellophane noodles but have a firmer, more resilient texture. They absorb flavors readily and are commonly used in stir-fries, soups, and salads.GROUND HOT RED PEPPER Most of the gochu garu in the U.S. is made from a variety of sun-dried peppers that are a cross between jalapeños and red bells. The spice comes in two forms: crushed and powder (sometimes called Korean paprika). The former is used in soups and stews; the latter is preferred for salads and kimchi.