Recently, I had written the name of the ingredients I was looking for and handed the list to the cashier at PePeRo (10920 Monroe Road, Matthews), the best of the area's Korean grocery stores with the bonus of a small eat-in area. The cashier led me to the back corner of the store. There, a wall of red pepper paste containers and bags of red pepper powder filled a section. Labels, with the exception of nutritional facts on the powder, are in Korean.
There are two the essential ingredients for many Korean dishes. One is gochugaru (pictured), a red pepper powder ubiquitous in Korean cooking. The powder is fruity and much milder than cayenne. Gochugaru comes in both coarsely ground and finely ground. Most cooks prefer the coarsely ground powder.
The second ingredient is gochujang, a red pepper paste which is a mix of gochugaru, sweet glutinous rice powder, and salt. Traditionally, gochujang is fermented for years in large earthen pots. After fermenting, the color becomes a deep red, similar to tomato paste. Most consumers in Korea buy this condiment rather than make it since it is quite labor intensive. Gochujang is as common in Korea as ketchup is here and is used as the base flavoring of soups and marinades, or can be applied directly to meats and poultry. Gochugaru comes in varying degrees of heat; very hot is recommended.
Gochujang: Daesang Corporation, 1 kilogram, Very Hot, $7.49.
Gochugaru: Haitai, 1 pound, coarsely ground, $3.39.
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the QC? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-522-8334, extension 136.