Fauxchujang Chicken. Say that five times fast.
Or don’t, it’s okay.
How did I learn to cook Korean food? I’ve been asked that question loads of time. There’s a simple answer- my step-father, a South Korean immigrant, didn’t feel like cooking for himself anymore, so he taught me how to cook for him. Now, don’t ask me how I learned taco Lebanese food. For that, there’s no logical answer- except, well, your girl is greedy.
When I was fourteen, my mother met and settled down with Mr. Lee (totally not a pseudonym). She would say, before she passed away, that they had more of a friendship than a love relationship- you’d have to know my mother and her luck with men to understand the arrangement. I couldn’t even judge her because the older I become, and the more people I hang around, I realize that many people have that type of relationship; most just don’t know it yet (but that’s a whole other reality show topic). So, Ma and Mr. Lee tied the knot and he takes full-advantage of having a young, budding, impressionable chef on his hands. He, “Gives me the honor,” of learning how to prepare typical Korean foods, and I soaked up the knowledge like a sponge. I was eager and very much willing to learn, and I’m grateful I did.
Fast forward 5 years and I’m sitting in a Korean restaurant introducing a guy to Korean food for the first time. This guy was someone I had met in a nightclub and who’d never had Korean food before. It was our first date. I remember, at one point during the meal, snatching the last piece of sigeumchi-namul (spinach kimchi) out of his chopsticks and shoving it into my grill. Most people would say that was, “Unladylike, classless, or tacky…” he said it was the moment he fell in love with me. My love of cooking and, oh, who am I kidding- eating Korean food has allowed me to share it with the love of my life. It even prepared him for a short tour of duty to the Korean peninsula a few years ago. A lot of American service members approached their tours of duty to Korea with trepidation because they’re unfamiliar with the cuisine. Mine went asking his KATUSAs (South Korean Soldiers attached to US Army units) to take him off the GI- beaten food path and introduce him to the underbelly of Korean cuisines.
*Wait a minute while I swell up with pride*
So, there you have it- I’m a Black-Puerto-Rican-adopted-New-Yorker-Army-wife-Korean-food-cooking type of chick.
Gochujang. I love saying it. Writing it, not so much. Making it is pretty simple, if not a lesson in acquired tastes, fermentation and a fantastic shopping experience to boot. As with most military installations, my current town is chock full of Koreans. At the risk of sounding super-stereotypical (Me?!?! Shocker, I know!), you’ll find a large amount of Koreans, Germans, and Hispanics near most military installations. This affords many of us the rare opportunity to not only the access to supermarkets dedicated to whole countries of foreign cuisines, but also to expats who are here from said countries preparing- and sharing- said deliciousness. We are very privileged- us military folk.
But, the sad truth is that you can’t be asking someone’s ajumma to cook for you every time you get a hankering. So, that’s where I come in to your beautiful life. Gochujang is one of the first ingredients Aboji (father) a.k.a. Mr. Lee taught me on my journey to Korean Food preparation. It’s one of the components of Korean cuisine that is an important staple. It’s a heavily spiced paste that used in a variety of dishes: soups, kimchi and these wings to name a few. The problem (or dilemma) for most Americans is that it’s a fermented sauce that takes years to prepare in the traditional way: add to that the fact that the oongi (earthenware jars) used to ferment it in are hard to locate here in the states. Most of the Koreans I know buy their gochujang premade and skip all of the formalities. The issue with ya girl here is that I’ve had homemade gochujang and the stuff is off the chain, y’all. For real good. So…
This gochujang isn’t the real-deal Holyfield (I’m pretty sure you know that was coming). It is, instead, a quick version- my version- that I can only compare to the taste of gochujang. I will make time for you and write about the legit version later, but for now, this quick fauxchujang (see what I did there?!?!) is a great substitute for the original.
What I love about this recipe is not only the fact that I can use it on these wings, but that I can throw it into my cabbage kimchi, slap it on to a bowl of kimchi jigae, or spoon a dollop onto a pile of bibimbap. It is that useful in Korean cuisine. I would venture to say in many other cuisines if you’re feeling froggy. The ease of prep with this recipe is crazy. The most effort comes in pulsing together the gochujang and allowing it to ferment for the week beforehand. Once that’s done, all you need do is keep it under constant refrigeration. I’ve held it under refrigeration for up to two months with no one dying or getting the infamous “bubble-gut”. Now, I’m putting in a disclaimer here: I’m not a scientist, a fermentation expert or a doctor, so please use your best judgment when fermenting your fauxchujang. If it has a fuzz on the surface, turns green, bubbles and squeaks or gets up and runs away- it’s bad. Don’t eat or use it. Throw it away. For real.
So the wings: I buy whole wings and separate them after I get them home and literally throw this together for quick snacks or parties. Seriously, salt, pepper and garlic powder are sprinkled on to wings doused in canola oil. Roasted for 35 minutes at 450°F and toss them in the fauxchujang sauce. I love hearing everyone go wild thinking I’ve spent hours preparing this for them. No one needs to know, it’s just nice when people feel beholden to you for feeding them complex-tasting dishes. Amiright!?! Name a baby after me or something.
So that’s the story of your Black Puerto Rican friend and her Korean wing recipe! Talk to me. Tell the one dish that makes people give you the RCA dog look when they find out you can make it? Drop a verse below!
- 2" piece ginger root, peeled and chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tbsp anchovy paste
- 1 tbsp thai fish sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- ⅓ cup Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 6 lbs chicken wings
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- ground black pepper
- garlic powder
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tbsp minced garlic1/2 cup fauxchujang paste
- 2 tbsp gochugaru (red pepper flakes)
- 6 green onions, separated, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped, to garnish
- toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
- A week in advance prepare the fauxchujang paste: in a food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse to a smooth paste. Add water a tsp at a time to thin out to an applesauce consistency.
- Place in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and allow to ferment at room temperature for 3 days, "burping the jar" as needed by twisting off the lid to release air pressure.
- Place the paste in the refrigerator and allow to sit for an additional 2-3 days before using.
- Preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and place the chicken wings on top.
- Coat with canola oil, and sprinkle, liberally, with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the wings are crispy and cook through.
- While your wings are cooking, prepare the fauxchujang: in a medium size mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, brown sugar, water, ginger, garlic, fauxchujang paste, gochugaru, and half of the slice green onions. Stir with a whisk to mix well. Set aside.
- Once the wings are cooked, drain any liquids from the sheet pan. Toss the wings in small batches (6-8 at a time) into a ladle full of the fauxchujang sauce.
- Place the coated wings on the sheet pan and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle on the remaining green onions, cilantro and the sesame seeds. Serve with daikon, carrot and/or celery sticks.