The Most Effortless Way to Incorporate Legit Korean Flavors into Your Food
Famed LA Korean chef Roy Choi has teamed up with Williams-Sonoma to bottle up the spicy, pungent flavors of LA’s Koreatown in his new line of sauces, seasonings, and an instant ramen packet. We tried the whole line (the Toasted Sesame Soy Splash Sauce has a fiery heat that will make you cry in a good way), but wanted to know how the chef recommends using each product, so we went directly to the source. “All the sauces have the intention of opening, pouring, and then eating,” Choi tells Brit + Co, but he did suggest some unique applications for the entire line. Prepare to drool.
1. A Pinch of LA Seasoning ($12): “The thing I love the most is the salt rub,” Choi says of this salt blend seasoned with sesame seeds and ground chilis. “I feel like that thing is crack. You can put it on fries or [use it] to season your steak. You could literally eat it like Fun Dip, because the salt ratio isn’t that high. You know, like have carrots or cucumbers [and dip them in the seasoning]. That could be your thing,” he says.
2. Garlic Everything Sauce ($17): “Originally it was supposed to be inspired by a Korean barbecue sauce. I was tweaking the recipe a little bit in the R&D kitchen, because it wasn’t turning out perfect on the production side. It ended up becoming something completely different. That’s why it’s called ‘Everything.’ It kind of evolved from being one thing to everything. Now it can be a salad dressing, a marinade, a finishing sauce,” Choi says. We tried it drizzled over stir-fried veggies and chicken. It has that coveted fermented funky flavor sought after in Korean food but isn’t as spicy hot as some of Choi’s other offerings. As promised, it contains an unexpected list of ingredients that unify together, including soy sauce, wine vinegar, gochujang, pear puree, and fermented soybean paste.
3. Spicy Ramen Kit ($5): “Surprisingly, that ramen was the toughest,” Choi admits. “That was so hard to get right. It couldn’t be too fancy and it had to feel like Top Ramen, but it was all organic ingredients. We worked with hundreds of slices. I think we got it.” The packet comes with seasoning, but Choi recommends throwing an egg and American cheese on top. “That’s kinda my style. I spend all this time going organic and natural, and then I throw a slice of American cheese on top,” he says. The inspiration comes from his childhood, when junk food and processed food weren’t readily available at home, but Korean-American kids would come up with their own creations using food from convenience stores. It’s just “weird Icheon-American cooking,” he jokes.
4. Sweet ‘N Spicy Sauce ($17): “This was inspired by the Mae Ploy Thai chicken sauce, so something a bit sweet and spicy that you could use as a glaze. [In the test kitchen] we seared [some] chicken and then poured a bottle of that sauce and equal amounts water in a Crock Pot and let it braise. It comes out so amazing. You could use [the sauce] as a marinade for vegetables or anything that goes on the grill. You can use it as a baster as well. It can be used as a finisher, but really it was designed to be used as a marinade,” Choi says. We tried the sauce raw, and understand what Choi means; it seems like it needs some slow cooking to unfold its flavors.
5. Toasted Sesame Soy Sauce ($17): “That one’s cool, because you don’t necessarily have to use it as a cooking sauce. You can literally have a bowl of rice and put some of that sauce on. That one was designed [to be used] sort of like how you use a ponzu or a soy sauce. That’s why it’s called a ‘Splash.’ I wanted it to be an extra splash you could add to anything.” The bottle warns you to “pour slowly,” and take heed! This stuff is seriously spicy, so start with a teaspoon at a time and work your way up. We loved the spicy, toasted, savory flavor on a blank canvas like a rice stir-fry and on chicken, and we can’t wait to try it on fried tofu next.
If you’re not into the idea of cooking but want to try Choi’s cuisine, he just opened a new burger joint called LocoL in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Order the signature item, a Foldie, which Choi describes as “a mutant between a taco, quesadilla, and pupusa” that’s “mimicking the Monster Taco from Jack in the Box.” It’s stuffed with three beans, cheese (vegan option available), charred tomatillo salsa, and braised beef. Choi explains that it’s “folded and stuffed, griddled and smashed so they come out all messy and oozing out the sides.” Um, sold.
Choi also has plans to open a restaurant in Vegas. He says he’s “ready to be Liberace and put it all out there. I want the people who eat there and experience it to feel… joy and love.” As for the restaurant concept, the only idea he’s settled on is a “Fantasy-created Los Angeles, specifically Koreatown.” He elaborates, “You know how they recreated Paris in Vegas, Lake Cuomo, and all these ‘Disney Worlds’ of imagination? I want to do that for Los Angeles but in a restaurant, Vegas-recreated.” Here’s hoping his vision includes Korean barbecue with tabletop grills!
Get lost in a sea of delicious recipes on Brit + Co’s Pinterest page.
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.
(Photos and video via Williams-Sonoma)