Chicago Tribune

How to bring flavors of kimchi and other Korean ingredients into your cooking

Several basic Korean ingredients hold a place of honor on my condiment shelves. Kimchi (fermented cabbage or other vegetables), gochujang (fermented red Chile paste), gochugaru (ground red chile flakes) and doenjang (fermented bean paste) have transformed my everyday cooking.

These basic, yet totally distinctive, ingredients remind me of our embrace of the best pantry staples from around the world. Where would we be without Italy's olive oil, Parmesan and balsamic vinegar or France's Dijon mustard, truffles and walnut oil or China's soy sauce, dark sesame oil and Szechuan peppercorns? Or Mexico's chipotle chiles, tomatillos and cilantro and the Middle East's Aleppo pepper, spice blends and pomegranate vinegar? Back to bland I fear.

Like their international counterparts, these Korean staples have migrated beyond their home country into supermarkets and our kitchens around the world. And we are better cooks for it.

My love affair with Korean ingredients begins with kimchi-fermented vegetables with the banchan (side dishes) served at Korean barbecue restaurants. All manner of red chile and garlic fermented vegetables arrive in small bowls for nibbling between bites of grilled meat and white rice. Crunchy-soft cabbage is my favorite, but I also like

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