Red Hot Sweet Korean Chili Peppers

Korea is on a heater. Tour contemporary global culture and you’ll encounter innumerable instances of its soft power. An Oscar winner for best picture, Parasite. A streaming sensation, The Squid Game. The biggest boy band in the world, BTS. A girl group with a rabid fandom, Blackpink. A cuisine moving from the edges to centerstage. The examples go on.

What binds these is skillful blending of domestic culture with that of the larger world. Of mastery over foreign ideas and techniques. Going back millennia, Korea has navigated the influence, welcomed and otherwise, of neighbors with agendas and weight to push backing them up. Historically China and Japan. In modern times, the USA. Korea found ways to ride out the currents of dominion, consume pieces of other traditions and then splice them into a proprietary cultural DNA teeming with delicious tensions. 

Necessity. Survival. Pluck. They can reveal talents. Magnify what makes you distinct.

The Korean pepper, in native vernacular called gochu, has a quirky flavor profile. Like other peppers in the Capsicum annum category, it is hot. But at 1,000 Scovilles, mildly so. The Indian pepper is 1000 times spicier than gochu. The Thai is 500x. What distinguishes gochu is its sweetness—one with notes of juicy brightness. It is the genesis of the addictively radiant heat of kimchi. And of the syrupy blend of sweetness, umami and kickstarting spiciness of gochujang.

Gochujang, like other elements of the Korean universe, is having a moment. Fans are popping up in all sorts of new places. Its broad flavor profile imbues it with fantastic versatility. It's a legit everyday go-to. And comparable to other things Korean, it’s demonstrated the ability to fuse, morph and then emerge into novel formulations (check out: Bushwick Weak Knees Gochujang Sriracha). Gochujang is breaking out. Unexplored possibilities are being uncovered, helping locate the dynamic center of an identity that’s surprising in its revelations. One you simply follow and see where it takes you.
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