Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gochujang: The Yeti of Asian Condiments

Being a fan of Mark Bittman, I had to try several of his recipes in the New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago.

The Beef Bolgogi was stupendous, tangy and flavorful. I pretty much followed the recipe, although I was a little short of scallions. A thunderstorm forced me to stir fry instead of a grill, but it was still excellent.

The recommended dipping sauce, gochujang, turned out to be as elusive as a live Elvis. Indeed, I can't help wondering if Bittman wasn't playing a joke on readers, like an old salt sending greenhorns in search of a left-handed monkey wrench. I scoured Asian food markets high and low without success, eventually going to one that specialized in Korean food. Even they looked at me like I had two heads.

Ah, gochujang, the Yeti of Asian condiments. It lives, so they say, but no confirmed sightings yet.

I also tried the Korean potato salad. Not successful. After blanching, the shredded potatoes and carrots were dead tasteless. It was like eating string. The dressing made the dish edible, but I wouldn't make it again.

In fairness, I may have overcooked the potatoes and carrots, but I'm skeptical of this one. Maybe the secret travels with the legendary gochujang.

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