Sweet, spicy, and a little sticky, gochujang is the red chile paste you never knew your dinner was missing. One of the most-Googled foods of 2018, the staple condiment in Korean cuisine has become a popular way to add sweet heat to mainstream foods. Here’s what it is, how to find it, and how to use it in everything from slowly cooked meats to quick rice dishes.

Thick, crimson gochujang gets its multifaceted flavor from just a few ingredients. Red chile peppers give it a strong, but tolerable, spiciness, fermented soybeans lend a funky umami flavor, and glutinous (or sticky) rice adds a mellow sweetness. A touch of salt rounds out the savoriness, and some brands choose to add additional sweeteners.

It’s tempting to use gochujang as a topping like sriracha, but it’s a bit too thick and strongly flavored for that. Instead, use it as a key ingredient in marinades, stews, and sauces for noodles, rice bowls, or even Korean chicken wings and tacos. You’ve likely eaten the condiment with bulgogi or bibimbap at Korean joints, so simply look up your favorite restaurant dishes to see how they benefit from the spicy paste.

You could make gochujang from scratch, but with the range of quality hot sauces on the market, it’s most practical to buy it. To find out how to pick out the best store-bought gochujang, we turned to Korean-American chef Roy Choi, who likes O’Food, Mongo, and Hai Tai brands. (We also like Haechandle Gochujang ($9), pictured above.) If you can’t find those, just head to Korean markets, the Asian section of most grocery stores, or even Trader Joe’s. “You can’t lose,” Choi said in an email to Brit + Co. “The worst choice will be better than many good choices you’ve made in life, TBH.” Spice levels do vary across brands, so if you’re concerned about heat, check the bottles for any spice-level indicators.

Gochujang is especially delicious in the marinade for BBQ Spicy Pork from Choi’s Park MGM Las Vegas restaurant, Best Friend. Check out the recipe below, and proceed to eat tender, sweet, and spicy pork by the truckload.

roy choi’s bbq SPICY pork from best friend

(Serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients:

Galbi Marinade:

  • 2 cups soy sauce
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 scallion
  • 1/3 cup whole garlic cloves
  • 1/2 kiwi, peeled
  • 1/2 Asian pear

Spicy Pork Marinade:

  • 3 cups Galbi marinade
  • 1 cup gochujang
  • 1/4 cup gochugaru (Korean chile powder)
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole garlic cloves

Pork:

  • 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced (approximately 1/2-inch thick) pork butt or shoulder
  • 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced (approximately 1/2-inch thick) pork belly
  • kosher salt

Directions:

1.Make the marinades. Purée all the ingredients for the galbi marinade in a food processor or blender until smooth

2. Purée spicy pork marinade in a food processor or blender until smooth.

3.Make the pork. In mixing bowl, coat pork with spicy pork marinade evenly and heavily. Allow at least 12 hours, or up to 24 hours, to marinate.

4. Remove the pork from the marinade. Season lightly with kosher salt.

5. Grill until nicely charred and cooked through. Alternatively, pan roast in a heavily oiled sauté pan until nicely charred and cooked through.

6. Drain excess fat from pan before serving.

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(Recipe via Roy Choi, Best Friend/Photos via Haechandle & Audry Ma)