Must-Have Korean Staples in the Kitchen

May 3, 2019 | Korea, Taste

Korean Staples | Emily

If you really love Korean food, you will love these kitchen staples.

The world has fallen head over heels in love with Korean cooking. The cooking channel Maangchi that features dozens of kinds of Korean dishes, has 3.1 million subscribers as of this writing, and normally rakes in 350,000 views and above every time it posts a new video.

Maangchi’s recipes from five years ago have accumulated more than 9 million views each, making it one of YouTube’s most successful regional cooking channels ever.

In the Philippines, where at least 100,000 South Koreans are now permanent residents, South Korean dishes like samgyupsal, bibimbap, beef bulgogi, kimchi, gimbap, and gochujang have become iconic regulars in restaurants, and take-out outlets in malls. It is no longer a luxury to buy Korean food in Manila and in other neighboring provinces simply because the fare is so common.

Cooking like a Korean

In order to cook like Koreans, you need to get the basics down pat. If you are familiar with Asian styles in general (stir-frying, deep-frying, stewing, simmering, etc.) you are going to be fine. You just need to get your hands on some tasty recipes and the staples of a basic Korean kitchen. And these staples are…

Sushi rice or short-grained, sticky rice. You can find this rice everywhere, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Pro Tip: Make sure that you wash the rice thoroughly before using it for any recipe. Washing removes excess starch from the rice, leading to better appearance and taste, too.


Jinganjang or light, brewed soy sauce. Jinganjang provides a medley of sweet and salty to your Korean or Korean-inspired dishes. Jinganjang is used for both cooking and dipping.  Korean soy sauce can be used interchangeably with Japanese Soy sauce as they are most similar in flavor.


Doenjang or fermented soybean paste. Fermented soybean paste will allow you to make several kinds of stews, as it is the base source of flavor of many Korean dishes. Make sure to refrigerate your paste once you open it. It should have a nice earthy color, not too dark, and the smell should be mostly neutral, with hints of salt and fermentation, but not stinky

Gochujang or hot pepper paste. Korean cooking is spicy, slightly acidic, and hot, for the most part. Hot dishes are viewed as a boon during cold weather, and spices are believed to help unlock the body’s blocks, making you healthier overall.

Gochujang is your basic source of heat while cooking. Remember: gochujang doesn’t just add heat – it adds lots of flavor, and people who have been cooking with it for a long time will say that the heat is secondary to the benefits that it provides to cooks. It is called the “magic paste” because it enhances the flavors of all kinds of dishes from soups to stir-fries.


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