All together now: Go-Shoo-Jhang. If you want to know what it is, here’s a clue: remember a few years ago, when Sriracha seemed like a brand-new creation? Thailand’s most famous sauce (pronounced “See-Rah-Cha”, by the way) has made its way to just about every part of the menu, but its popularity may be waning. These days, chefs and operators are increasingly turning to Korean condiment gochujang, a fermented paste made from chili peppers, sticky rice, fermented soybeans and salt.
And with gochujang leading the way, many are wondering if Korean fare will eventually become as entrenched in American cuisine as chop suey, pizza and tacos. “Korean food has leapfrogged in acceptance and popularity over other Asian cuisines,” says Bret Thorn, senior food and beverage editor at Nation’s Restaurant News. “Many people expected Indian food to take off as a trend, but Korean food has suddenly become sexy, thanks in part to influential Korean-American chefs on both coasts—Roy Choi in Los Angeles and David Chang in New York City.”
Small island, big chains
Thorn says the influence of those chefs has created an increasing interest in the flavors and cooking styles of Korea. “It spread pretty quickly, even to big chain restaurants,” Thorn says, noting that Noodles & Company has featured gochujang meatballs and P.F. Chang’s offers a Korean barbeque stir fry. California Pizza Kitchen has featured a spicy Korean barbeque pizza with gochujang-barbequed pork, sliced scallions, sesame seeds and mozzarella.
“If people overloaded on Sriracha and are getting tired of it, they seem to be willing to move on to gochujang,” Thorn notes. “It’s more complex in flavor, and it’s a little bit sweeter, so it appeals to the American palate. While it is definitely spicy, the sweetness tempers the heat.”
Not only are people finding a taste for the flavorful paste, they’re also flocking to the traditional Korean cooking method: barbeque. “We Americans love barbeque of all sorts, and one of the reasons Korean food has been able to break through is that it offers a new twist on one of our culinary favorites,” Thorn says. Korea’s vegetable staple, kimchi, is gaining more widespread acceptance, especially since the spicy fermented cabbage dish fits well with the new interest in probiotic-rich fermented foods.
If you’d like to incorporate Korean flavors on your menu, Thorn suggests starting with some small bites, such as Korean barbeque sliders made with pork or beef. “You can add a little gochujang or bulgogi sauce to the base or the topping, and it will seem exotic without being too intimidating,” he says. “Add some kimchi as a side dish, and you’ve got a great special.”
Bulgogi (pronounced “Bull-Go-Gi”) sauce is a meat marinade for Korean barbecue. Marzetti’s signature Bulgogi Sauce has a glaze-like texture and a savory profile of soy and spicy chili. With additional notes of garlic, ginger and black pepper, it’s a delicious and labor-saving pre-made sauce for Korean-inspired items on your menu.