When it comes to Korean food, people are always looking to add more flavor and spices to their dishes. Some people like a heavy amount of spice and the regular Sriracha just isn't cutting it for them. Luckily, there is a development in a new umami flavor that is gaining steam in the past few years.
Gochujang sauce is the newest and trendiest form of chili paste that's making its way around the Korean food markets. It's a red chile paste that includes glutinous (sticky) rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. This combination makes for a variety of flavors: the peppers add a good amount of heat, the rice adds a sweet flavor, and the soybeans add the "umami" flavor that is the 5th type of taste. The paste-like substance is good for marinades, dipping sauces, and so much more.
You may see gochujang in small tubs at your local authentic Korean spot or you can find it in most grocery stores and pretty much all international markets. Many people say that its taste is so strong that the paste should be thinned out with a liquid. Since gochujang sauce is considered more overpowering than your regular Sriracha sauce, it shouldn't be treated as just an add on, it should be the main feature of any Korean dish.
Korean dishes that require gochujang as a primary feature include things like bibimbap and bulgogi. Here's the cool thing, you can make your very own gochujang at home, but it does take some time. This specific gochujang recipe involves just 7 ingredients! However, you have to keep the pot in the sun for 6 MONTHS - which will guarantee you some authentic, sun-roasted gochujang. If you don't want to wait 6 months for you very own gochujang, there are some alternative recipes that you can put this chili paste on; This recipe for Sweet and Spicy Gochujang Chicken is a popular dish with a ton of flavor!
If you're in a pinch and you want to add distinct sweet and spicy flavor to your cooking creation, then there are some last minute gochujang substitutes to consider. You can make an easy miso base that uses cayenne powder or paprika, instead of Korean chili powder. You can also make a paste with red pepper flakes: Just mix red pepper flakes with a bit of soy sauce and some sugar to sweeten. Another substitute is where Sriracha or Thai Chili sauce comes into play. The only problem is that these have more hints of garlic than your authentic gochujang, but they do provide you with that source of heat. The last substitute you want to use, if all else fails, is tomato paste. Tomato paste adds the same type of texture and sweetness, but the differences in flavor are so stark, it can hardly be compared.