As one of the three major jangs (fermented sauces), gochujang is a staple in Korean cuisine. This rendition adds garlic to increase its depth of flavor. Alongside the garlic, this thick, deep red paste is made from Korean chile peppers, fermented soybeans, bamboo salt, and white rice. With funk imparted through fermentation, spice from the peppers, and sweetness from the rice, this is an incredibly versatile sauce that is worth experimenting with and incorporating into a wide variety of recipes and contexts.
Based in Damyang, South Korea, the Kisoondo family has been making traditional jangs (Korean sauces and pastes) for almost four hundred years. Master Ki Soon-do, the matriarch of the family, helms their operations today. Every aspect of her process is done traditionally and meticulously, using nothing but soybeans, bamboo salt, and spring water. The only other ingredients are time and onggi, the earthenware jugs where the sauces spend years fermenting. In southern Korea, ongii are stout and rounded, whereas northern climates tend to utilize taller, narrow urns that respond more effectively to the cold. Their material is porous enough to regulate moisture and temperature throughout the years, as the large blocks of soybean paste separate, forming both doenjang (soybean paste) and sauces like this one.
While the five-year mark represents the minimum age for Kisoondo’s oldest commercially available jang, some ongii carry sauces for much longer, set aside solely for ceremonial circumstances. With such deeply entrenched reverence for the process and the unmatched results it yields, any dish incorporating Master Ki’s jinjang feels ceremonious in its own way.