A couple of years ago a neighbor of mine noticed that I called for gochujang, a Korean hot paste, in a recipe on my blog. She was excited that an ingredient she had grown up with was making its way into various recipes in more mainstream American outlets, getting its deserved recognition in the spicy ingredient pantheon. She even delivered a big jar of gochujang to my door, so I could continue playing with it. And I have. A lot.
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is traditionally made with chili peppers, fermented soybeans, brown sugar, glutinous rice, and salt—but that may not make your mouth water. Think of spicy, a hint of sweetness, and a bit of umami (thanks to the fermentation) smooched up together.
Ok, fine, what is umami?
Umami is commonly talked about as the 5th taste, in conjunction with salty, sour, sweet and bitter. Its simplest definition is “savory,” and to think about what that means think about how your taste buds respond when you are eating foods such as mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, anchovies, miso, meat, or a rich soup.
Sometimes the taste of umami is actually described as meaty or brothy. And interestingly (but very understandably) the word umami is derived from the Japanese word “umai” meaning “deliciousness.”
The fish sauce, made with fermented anchovies adds to the whole umami thing as well. Both gochujang and fish sauce are available in Asian markets and well-stocked supermarkets, and both are readily available online. If you don’t have gochujang, while it won’t be the same, you can substitute other hot sauces, and add a hefty pinch of brown sugar. And if you don’t have fish sauce, soy sauce will do in a pinch (different, but still delicious).
A delicious Korean Brussels sprouts recipe that takes a handful of Asian pantry ingredients and a favorite vegetable and turns them into something amazing.Tweet This
Hey, listen, I’m aware that many people reading all of this might think, “Whaaaaat?” For most Western cooks, words like “fermented anchovies” don’t spark joy in our hearts. But, boy, if you like foods like a great Caesar salad, or a spicy ramen soup, then take a little chance and give this dish and these ingredients a go. And by all means, let me know what you think—my neighbor and I want to know.
More Brussels Sprouts, Please:
- Shredded Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
- White Bean and Roasted Cauliflower Spread with Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
- Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo and Toasted Bread Crumbs
- Brussels Sprouts, Apple, and Pomegranate Slaw Salad
- Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette
- Creamy Brussels Sprouts Slaw
- Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts
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Spicy Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Kimchi Dressing
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 tablespoons peeled chopped fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons gochujang paste spicy Korean paste
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes use Korean chili flakes, gochugaru, if you can find them
- 6 scallions trimmed and thinly sliced (white and green parts)
- ½ cup minced red onion
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place the Brussels sprouts on the baking sheet, drizzle the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and toss. Spread out on the sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are just tender and browned in spots.
- Meanwhile, place the fish sauce, sugar, garlic, ginger, and gochujang paste in a food processor and process to combine. Turn the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the chili flakes, scallions, and red onion.
- Add the cooked Brussels sprouts to the bowl and toss so that they are well coated with the dressing. Serve warm.
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