Saturday, November 20, 2010

Korean red pepper powder

I'm a great one for substitutions.  Not having all the ingredients for a recipe rarely stops me making it--I just substitute!  Sometimes I substitute most or all of the ingredients and end up with an entirely different dish!

But sometimes, you do need the real thing.  Korean red pepper powder is a case in point.  Back in October, I made my first batch of cabbage kimchi, and in it I substituted powdered hot pepper flakes (the readily available kind you'd sprinkle on food or use in cooking, which are probably cayenne peppers or something like them).  My kimchi was pretty good, I thought.  It was sort of green rather than the red-and-white of the kimchi in the stores, but I imagined that was because I hadn't used enough hot pepper powder.  So in the batch after that, I doubled the amount.  This kimchi was fiery hot and looked better and I loved it.  Then I found some Korean red pepper powder, and this is the cabbage kimchi I made with that--same recipe.  So, yes, there is a difference.

Korean red pepper powder comes in large quantities, so don't look for it in the little spice jars in Safeway.  This is the smallest bag I could find:

And here's the ingredient and nutritional info:

Apparently there are different grades of hotness for this powder, but I didn't have a lot of choice - only coarse and fine, and this is the fine--and the package doesn't say in English what the heat level is (if you can read Korean, and the package says so, I'd be interested to know).  This stuff was hot but not that hot--hotter than hot paprika but not as hot as cayenne.  It also has a more floury texture than cayenne, and absorbs a lot more liquid, which is why the kimchi looks fairly dry, though the kimchi fermentation process went as usual.  There's a mild paprika-like taste as well.  And the colour--woo!  It speaks for itself.

So what did I do with it, besides kimchi?  Here, not very original but certainly delicious, is kimchi fried rice.  The name says it all--it's cooked cold rice fried with a few shallots and some chopped kimchi. 

This was served with some of the ancho chile lime tofu from the other day, fried instead of baked.  Next time I'll just fry the tofu plain and serve the sauce on top, but this was still good.  Also some sliced pattypan squash stir fried with shallots, green onions, and a little red pepper paste, a salad of shredded cucumber and snow peas, and a little dipping sauce that went, in small quantities, over everything except the tofu.  I am enjoying these meals of many little dishes, and really enjoying exploring Korean cuisine.


  1. This is a great lesson - I frequently substitute more generic/easy to find spices for spices needed for "ethnic" recipes.

    I don't think I've ever had kimchi... I've always been a little hesitant because I'm not a huge fan of fermented foods. But I'm intrigued now...!

  2. Kimchi pancakes and kimchi soup/stew is very good as well. I'm so glad to have a large container in my fridge - it has saved me multiple times from when there were no veggies left to cook with!

  3. I actually did find the Korean red pepper in a small spice bottle, though I was looking for a bag of Chinese red pepper, which is milder than the Korean. It's very different from cayenne, you're right. I still haven't made kimchi. :( It's much more visually exciting to see all the small dishes of various colorful foods. I like it.

  4. I will bring back your empty jar and you could fill it with a sample of your new batch for me!

  5. Kelly, if you're not sure about fermented foods, you might want to just try a little bought vegan kimchi before making your own. Kimchi is very fermented, very strong-smelling...

    Ilsaborg, yes, they certainly are. I'm eating both on pretty much a weekly basis these days ;-)

    Thanks for appreciating the little dishes, Andrea!

    And Katee, I'm just waiting until this batch reaches its peak of stinky deliciousness, and you will certainly get a jar! And someday I'd love to make some of that kimchi stew for you.

  6. The Korean chili powder does have a beautiful color. That meal is just gob-smacking!

  7. We just got back from eating at our first Korean restaurant. And they brought kimchi to our table - maybe it came with something I ordered? Regardless, I loved it because I've been addicted to kimchi the past few months.

  8. What is the best subtitution for Red Pepper Powder for Kimchi ?