Personal Musings

Red Chili Pepper With Love

kochu1My favorite season is coming, so as the season of kimjang (kimchi making). One important ingredient of kimchi and many other Korean dishes is kochukaru. ‘Kochu’ means chili pepper and ‘karu’ means powder. Although there are a lot of kochugaru brands in the market, I still try my best to make my own kochukaru to make sure that what we’re eating at home is clean and of good quality.

Actually when we were still in the Philippines, I used to buy packed kochukaru in a Korean grocery store. I had no problem with it until I saw a TV program exposing fake kochukaru products circulating in the market. Since then, I never buy packed kochukaru ever again.

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X-File Program
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Made in Korea vs Made in China
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Eew!

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Today, I bought some dried red chili peppers from a relative who owns a farm in the province. The quality of dried chili peppers depend on how ripe they are and how well they’re dried. There are two ways to dry chili peppers: in the sunlight and through drying machine. Chili peppers dried in sun (also called as taeyang kochu) are better but more expensive as they need longer time (few days) to be completely dehydrated. They also look and taste better.

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Just by looking at the dried chili peppers, can we tell if they are sun dried or not? Yes, we can. And here’s how.

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Look at the calyx and pedicle of the pepper. If the color is light and yellowish, it’s dried in the sun. If the color is greenish and dark, it’s dried through a dehydrator. So now if a vendor says she or he’s selling taeyang kochu, you know how to check it. And why should you check it? Because the price is different. 🙂

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What to do next with these peppers:

  • Wipe and clean the chili peppers (one by one) with dry cloth
  • Using kitchen shears, cut the stem off. Open one side and shake off the seeds. ( I leave some seeds coz it adds flavor)
  • Bring to the local rice mill (방앗간) or  to a rice cake store and have it ground

You can have the peppers ground according to your preferred particle size: fine or coarse.

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Fine (chili powder) – good for making sauce
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Coarse (chili flakes) – good for making kimchi, side dishes, stews, etc. This is a more versatile version.

Making my own kochukaru instead of buying it is indeed a lot of work. However, my loved ones’ well-being is a responsibility that I don’t want to neglect as it is truly one of my top priorities. Good quality food at home is a symbol of my love and care. Happy kimchi making! Happy living! 🙂

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