I’m always so amazed at the culinary of art of Korean food. With such simple and few ingredients, such bold flavours, complex and layered - bite after bite dancing on your taste buds.
In any given Korean pantry there are only 7 basic items:
Garlic, DoenJang (Soy Bean Paste), KoChuJang (Red Pepper Paste), Soya Sauce, Sesame Oil, Salt and Honey/Sugar. Whether you mix equal parts, or shuffle two or three into one, there are an endless variety of sauces and marinades that you can create.
DoenJang, KoChuJang and Soya Sauce are all derivatives of fermentation of soy beans.
DoenJang is often mistaken for Miso. They may look the same, but are very different. DoenJang (Korean) is made from the fermentation of soy beans with salt, whereas, Miso (Japanese) is fermented rice or barley.
KoChuJang is red pepper paste. In the 16th Century, red peppers were introduced to Koreans by exploring Spaniards and Portuguese. Adding the red peppers to the traditional DoenJang and enhanced with sweet rice.
Soya Sauce is the byproduct of DoenJang; consisting of fermented soy beans, water and salt.
All three in it purest state are naturally gluten-free and vegan. Should yours contain gluten or is not labelled as vegan, there are additives and such that traditionally are not used.
One tidbit about these three mainstays - they are never used on their own. For example, you would have some ketchup with your fries, you wouldn’t do that with these three condiments. Even soya sauce is not usually used on its own - usually there is a splash of vinegar or a dollop of sesame oil - that’s as close to straight up soya sauce as you would get.