Anytime you try to cook a new kind of cuisine, I know that just reading the ingredients list can send you into a spin. And pretty often, I run into people at our local Korean market asking me about what they should buy, which brand is the best, etc. Sometimes I even offer to help before they even ask because of the lost look on their faces, staring at the soy sauce section forever, trying to figure out what they should buy.
Soy Sauce: What is the difference between Korean Soy Sauce (Guk Ganjang) and Japanese Soy Sauce(WheGanjang) or just regular Soy Sauce (Ganjang)?
The difference is mainly the saltiness and taste. I will explain further below:
1. Guk Ganjang/Gook-ganjang/Guk-Kanjang (국간장) – Korean Soy Sauce for Soups
传统的韩国酱油汤(鞠觉亮Ganjang/Gook-ganjang/Guk-Kanjang) is made purely from Soy beans, water and salt. Cooked soybeans are fermented and then salt water is added. The mixture is left for 2-3 months outside in the cold winter months in Korea until the liquid becomes black. This is basically your Korean soy sauce or Guk Ganjang. The process takes few months and the taste is so complex and wonderful, there is really nothing like it. This soy sauce is lighter in color (than the Japanese, Chinese version), is saltier, but instantly elevates a Korean dish. As the name suggests,Guk-Ganjang/Gook-ganjang/Guk- Kanjang) should be used for soups, stews and to flavor various vegetable side dishes（나물namul）。
Some good Korean brands are Sempio, Pulmuone and Cheongjeongone.
你可以从我的我身上购买优质的Sempio GukganjangKimchimari Amazon store– look under Seasonings category.
2. Kanjang(간장) or Wae Kanjang(왜간장) – Dark Soy sauce
The most widely used Dark Soy Sauce in the US is probably the Japanese version and is also the case in Korea. Unlike the traditional Korean soy sauce, this soy sauce was made for mass production for the Japanese soldiers during world warII. And it was introduced to Koreans and became widespread due to the lower price compared to the traditional soy sauce.
It is made from soy beans, wheat, bacteria cultures and possibly other chemicals. The sauce is thicker, less saltier and somewhat sweeter, so it’s does not work well with soups.Kanjang should be used for jorims(jangjorim), meat marinades (bulgogi), stir fries, grilled dishes and for sashimi.
For more in-depth post about Soy Sauce – clickhere.
Salt: Why are there so many different types and what type should I use for Korean cooking?
Because the Korean peninsula is surrounded by the ocean on three sides, natural sea salt has been the salt of choice for hundreds of years in Korean cooking. The best type of sea salt ischeon-il-yeom (천일염)或者solar saltthat’s made by letting the sea water evaporate in the sun for many days. This solar sea salt is rich in minerals and does not have any bitter aftertaste. Korean solar salt also has a lower salinity of 80% compared to 90% which is the normal level in sea salt that comes from other places in the world. This salt is not cheap but if you can afford it, it’s definitely worth it. The picture on the left is a garlic flavored cheonilyeom but there are plain cheonilyeom from the same company that I use for everyday cooking. I threw away the bag so I couldn’t take a picture of it.
The other more common type of salt that can be used for everyday cooking iskkot-soh-geum (꽃소금).This is a blend of 80% imported salt and 20% cheonilyeom which means it’s saltier than 100% cheonilyeom and also has much lower level of minerals since the imported salt tend to have very little minerals. Use this sparingly.
Recently, a more concentrated table salt calledjeong-jae-yeom(정제염)was made by chemically isolating the salt from sea water. This type of salt can be produced very quickly and cheaply but the process also strips the salt of its natural minerals and it’s unique taste of the sea. The salinity is also 99% which means it’s lot saltier so just avoid this if you can.
There are so many other salts that I cannot list them here but I do want to comment aboutmat-soh-geum(맛소금). This is salt and MSG blended in 9:1 ratio. Since I do not like MSG at all in my food, I don’t even think about using this in my food. But restaurants and manufacturers use this a lot in jjigae, namool and in roasted laver so just be mindful of that.
- Coarse Korean red chili powder (Gulkeun Gochukaru 굵은 고추가루)is what is used the most in Korean cooking these days and over 90% of Gochukaru sold at markets are probably coarse. Traditionally coarse red chili powder was used in making all kinds of Kimchi except for water Kimchi (mul kimchi 물김치). Coarse gochukaru gives you brighter red color, gives you a more clean flavor with even a bit of a zing. It is also used to make jjigae, guk and namul.
- Fine Korean red chili powder (Goun Gochukaru 고운 고추가루)肯定是需要让gochujang and then for mul kimchi. Also used to make refined sauces and sometimes used formoosaengchewhen you don’t want to see the little chili flakes. Fine gochukaru produces less clean almost kind of a muddy taste and thus not usually used for fresh vegetables. But for stews and soups that is what you may want.
Traditional Korean chefs use a combination of both fine and coarse in jjigae and soups but if you are not a serious cook or if you are not making gochujang or mul kimchi, chances are you probably won’t need the fine gochukaru.Buy fine gochukaru ONLY if you are going to make gochujang or if you want to make pretty sauces.
How to choose good quality dried anchovies for anchovy stock? What kind/size of dried anchovies should I use for making stock?
Another way to tell a good quality anchovy is to taste it just as it is. It should still be chewy (which means it’s still moist and not too dry/old) , meaty and taste good by itself. Make sure you take the innards out when you taste it because the innards leave a bitter taste. This applies to bigger anchovies only. You can eat the smaller ones whole with the head and the innards without getting the bitter taste because the innards are so small.
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