Inevitably in the course of experimenting with new grilling or BBQ techniques, one comes across an unfamiliar required ingredient. While it might be tempting substitute an easy to come by more familiar replacement, one would be missing half the fun. Enter Gochu Jang, a spicy Korean pepper paste mixed with fermented black beans and Tae Kyung Red Pepper Powder – A Korean spicy pepper powder. I’d never heard of this stuff, mind you, but I couldn’t wait to try and find it so off I trotted to my local 99 Ranch, an all Asian Supermarket.
Now this place is no hole in the wall ethnic neighborhood market. It’s a gigantic exotic Asian food wonderland so brimming with strange smells, dialects and sights that I can forget where I am for hours. I can also easily forget why I came, so like a food obsessed zombie, I began to lazily wander the aisles of imported sauces, powders, oils and completely unfamiliar items.
There was soy sauce by the gallon. Huge bags of rice. Fresh produce. Piles of herbs. Gai Lan. Thai Basil. Miso Paste. Black Chickens. Chicken feet. Duck feet. Duck Tongues! Chicken livers and gizzards, chicken backs and wing tips for stock! Rabbits! Quail! Whole Squid! Pork Belly! Ox Tails! Liver! Spare ribs! I was in an absolute frenzy! These were some things that I would normally have to order from my butcher or fish monger and wait for.
The fish section took up the whole back of the store, and there were what must have been two dozen types of fish. It was so fresh it was almost moving, and they sold it whole, attractively laid out on ice. Whole fish is wonderful to grill and easy to buy because you can tell if it’s fresh. It always makes a dramatic presentation. There were tanks of live fish and clams. Crawfish and Lobster. I had to break out of my fantasy and look for the Korean ingredients, but you have no idea how difficult this was.
Back in the seasonings aisle 30 minutes later I found where they had grouped the Korean items together. My Gochu Jang and Tae Kyung were waiting for me there. Inspired by the rows of fresh fish, I decided I would use the Korean marinade on a small whole fresh snapper.
Korean Bool Kogi Marinade
- 1/4 Cup Gochu Jang
- 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
- 1/4 Cup Sesame Oil
- 1 TBS grated orange rind (Not traditional, but I like what it does for the marinade. Get the outer part only with a microplane, don’t use the pith)
- 2 TBS Mirin or other rice wine
- 1 – 2 TSP Tae Kyung Pepper Powder
- 3 Cloves Minced Garlic
- 3 Minced Scallions, both white and green parts
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
Mix the ingredients together and take a good whiff. It smells wonderful.
To use it on a whole fish, simply cut slashes into each side of the fish and work the marinade into the cuts. Marinate for about 30 minutes and grill over a hot charcoal fire to desired doneness using a fish basket. You can use firm white fish filets or even shrimp if you want, just cut the marinating time back to 15 minutes and grill a couple minutes a side in the fish basket. Serve this up with steamed rice and a variety of Korean accompaniments like Kim chi, fermented black beans, spicy tofu and pickled vegetables.
Next time you run across an exotic ingredient, just take a trip to your local ethnic market and wander the aisles for inspiration and new found knowledge. It’s like a mini vacation in a far away land. Maybe if we all did this more often we’d have a better appreciation and understanding of each other. Grill on!