A tub of gochujang, the Korean sweet-spicy fermented chilli paste, has been sitting in my fridge for years, silently mocking me every time I peered in. I had bullied a friend into buying a box, believing that I’d use it regularly. But I didn’t. And it sat there. Waiting.
I like gochujang. The Koreans love gochujang. It’s their go-to sauce. They use it in almost everything: they put in soups, use it as a marinade, as a base for a sauce and stir-fry rice with it. I’ll bet some of them even spread it like jam on hot toast. The paste, which is made by cooking chilli powder with rice and fermented soy beans, and then leaving it to ferment in large jars, has a thick, sticky, batter-like consistency and can vary in flavour from pungent to sweet-spicy. The latter is almost a chilli nutella.
As with many base sauces gochujang is perfect to build up on. When paired with coconut milk it gives a mock Thai red curry effect; coconut milk as any Indian knows is commonly matched with curry leaves in south India. The baghar of ginger and curry leaves adds a pleasant smokiness to this rather unusual combination of flavours. It works rather well and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone puts it on a restaurant menu.
And yes, it’s buffalo, not beef. Unfortunately.
200 gm beef steak (undercut), thinly sliced
½ tsp soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
¼ tsp sesame oil
1½ tsp gochujang paste
75 ml coconut milk
1 tbsp fresh ginger, thinly sliced
15-20 curry leaves
1 green chilli, sliced diagonally (optional)
50 gm onion, quartered and opened up
30 gm red bell peppers, diced
20 gm carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tsp oil
Marinate the beef with the soy and oyster sauces, and sesame oil. Keep aside for about 15 minutes.
Heat about 1 tsp of vegetable oil in a wok. When hot, add the marinated beef in three batches, cook on high heat till the meat is lightly browned.
Remove and keep aside.
Lower the heat, add another tsp of oil and fry the curry leaves and ginger for about a minute and a half or till you can smell the aroma of the curry leaves.
Add the coconut milk and onions (and chilli, if using). Add the gochujang paste and stir well till the paste has completely dissolved in the coconut milk and there are no lumps.
Raise the heat to high. Stir well for about two minutes.
Add the carrots. Continue cooking for another 90 seconds stirring constantly.
Add the red bell peppers and cook for another minute.
Finally, add the beef and keep tossing till the sauce has reduced to a glaze.
Remove, and serve hot.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes