Monday November 7th, 2016
This past weekend we had some friends over for an evening of at-home cooking. Jeremiah made yet another awesome apple strudel and Dave made some Moscow mules, a tortilla soup, and our first attempt at spicy pork bulgogi. Unfortunately, there was no belly space left for Alex’s eggies in a basket to commemorate the 5th of November.
The reason why we’re sharing this post today, though, is because of the spicy pork bulgogi. We followed a pretty good recipe from Food.com that is also absurdly/amazingly simple to follow—literally mix the ingredients, let marinade for a while, then dump it in the pan and cook at medium high heat, serve (preferably with white rice).
ERROR #1: The recipe says to use “2 tablespoons of Korean red pepper flakes.” Dave says, “Hm, we don’t have Korean red pepper flakes… Should we just use regular flakes?” I say, “YEEaaaahhh, use regular.” David hesitates. I insist, “Just use regular! It’s fiiiineee…”
ERROR #2: David suggests using just one tablespoon of pepper flakes—this coming from a guy that doesn’t consider heat to be heat unless it’s “hotter than an Indian summer on Alderaan”… (I give up, this is the pun you get). But then again, his suggestion was also in consideration of our friends. AND STILL, I say, “No Dave, one must follow a recipe and then modify accordingly.” Haha, foolish Kika *says mildly-wiser Kika to less knowledgeable Kika from the past through psychic exchanges*
You might be able to conclude from this that the dish packed more heat than needed—or less!?!? No, it was more… Oh sorry, you were trying to guess.. Well, forget what I said and guess again. *Reader makes a guess out loud* You’re correct! It probably packed more heat than needed. But then again, there’s still more that’s solely wild estimation. You see, not only is there a difference in heat between Korean pepper flakes and typical pepper flakes, they also contribute very different flavors.*
For any redditors out there, here’s some key takeaways from a Reddit thread on the topic of Korean Red Pepper Flakes, or, Gochugaru:
- Gochugaru is made from a different kind of pepper than typical crushed red pepper**: It is made from “Chungyang” red pepper, which is about 12,000 to about 23,000 Scoville units, making it milder than your typical red pepper flakes which place in the 30,000 to about 50,000 Scoville units range.***
- You can find different levels of coarseness for gochugaru. Fine gochugaru, which seems to resemble cayenne powder in texture and color—using Google and Amazon as my friends here—is usually used for making gochujang (sometimes written as kochujang) sauce. The vast majority of recipes will request (or assume) you use the coarse kind, though, kimchi included.
- There is a big difference in aromatics between gochugaru and typical crushed red pepper, with gochugaru being described as smoky, sweet, even earthy, and some users even attributing an almost fruity and/or floral taste to it. The phrase “a cross between an ancho and Hungarian paprika” appears in the thread.
- Gochugaru are sun-dried, which gives them a different flavor than regular-dried chili flakes.****
With my head emotionally (and spiritually because I’m not literally doing this right now) tilted against the window deep in sad thought, wondering why we couldn’t be blessed with proximity to an H Mart, I comfort myself with the idea that I can actually order gochugaru through Amazon and get it in just two days. Without leaving the house. But then again, I have to work tomorrow. And it’s election day too. Sooo, before I make further judgments like, “maybe we can use a bit less soy sauce?” or, “hm, this is good, but it’s not quite like the recipes from my favorite Korean restaurants,” I’ll have to:
- Order the coarse gochugaru.
- Not ignore the recipe’s only two warnings of not substituting the gochugaru or the gochujang sauce.
- Maybe marinating the beef longer by leaving it overnight?
- Actually follow the measurements on the reci—what, really, Dave? You tweaked all over? You’re telling me this now? After I’m almost done writing this whole post—it’s ok, babe, it came out awesome… No, I know now that you had to adjust for more pork… We’ll just try it again with gochugaru too.
And yes, voting comes first, because without democracy, capitalism, and ‘Murican Freedom *insert ‘Murican flag waving elegantly in the wind in front of fireworks and a passing eagle* I couldn’t order foreign items at will from the comfort of my couch. It’s like witchcraft, really. The awesome kind.
So once you’re done voting or not voting because you can’t vote, are too disturbed to vote this year, or can’t vote in the US and your country’s voting is not tomorrow or anytime soon, also make sure to go over “15 Essential Tools & Ingredients for Korean Cooking” if you want to one-up your Korean food cooking skills. I sure do.
From cold Massachusetts, wishing you a warm week,
Kika & Dave.
* A claim we’ll need to scientifically test ourselves.
** “Crushed red pepper flakes are generally made up of different types of chili peppers, including cayenne, ancho and bell.”
*** You can still purchase them in different levels of heat, though, with “maewoon” (매운) meaning spicy and “deol maewoon” (덜매운) meaning mild (literally, less spicy).
**** We’ll need to look into the typical industrial methods for drying red pepper flakes. Please remind me to look into this. If you forget, no worries, I’ll randomly remember at a family gathering in ~20 years.
 Spicy Pork Bulgogi Recipe by Jelisa, at Food.com http://www.food.com/recipe/spicy-pork-bulgogi-29690
 “Korean red pepper flakes – how different are they from typical pepper flakes?” Question made by user themadnun on r/AskCulinary on Reddit.com, https://m.reddit.com/r/AskCulinary/comments/4jkx2f/korean_red_pepper_flakes_how_different_are_they/?utm_source=amp&utm_medium=comment_list&compact=true
 “How to Make Crushed Red Pepper Flakes” by Christine Wheatley of LEAFtv, https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-make-crushed-red-pepper-flakes/
 “Hot pepper flakes – Gochugaru 고추가루” at Maangchi.com, http://www.maangchi.com/ingredient/hot-pepper-flakes
 “Beyond Kimchi: 15 Essential Tools & Ingredients for Korean Cooking” by Matt Rodbard of Food52 — Culinary Arts, February 26, 2016, on Curious, Presented by Startford University http://curious.stratford.edu/2016/02/26/beyond-kimchi-15-essential-tools-ingredients-for-korean-cooking/