Spicy Korean Chicken Soup

Do you know what the secret ingredient is in Korean cooking? Okay, it’s no secret, really, because Koreans everywhere are addicted to it. So I guess its less of a secret ingredient and more of an…essential ingredient. It’s called gochujang (go choo jong) and it’s a hot red pepper paste and is commonly used in sauces and condiments, or in today’s case, in soup.

The slight change of seasons and general exhaustion has left me feeling slightly under the weather. So when I read a recipe for Korean Chicken and Rice Soup in a book I found at Barnes & Noble called The Best Soups in the World, I was craving it like whoa. And yes, perhaps I have a mild gochujang addiction as well. If you have a head cold, this will definitely do the trick–it’s nourishing and will definitely open up your nasal passages.

Spicy Korean Chicken Soup (from The Best Soups in the World by Clifford Wright)
Yum Factor: Alex – 7.8, Jessalyn – 9 

Base flavors – none, unlike Western soups, most Asian broth-based soups don’t need onions/carrots/celery
Aromatics – 4 cloves minced garlic, 2 heaping tablespoons minced ginger, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon prepared gochujang paste
Liquid – 2 quarts chicken broth
Garnishes –  1/2 cup brown rice (or handful of noodles), 1-2 poached chicken breasts, lightly beaten egg (optional), shredded, sliced scallion, sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds

In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil and add the garlic and ginger. Add your rice or noodles (or don’t and serve rice in its own bowl separately; or if you have some leftover cooked rice, just add it in) and cook until tender. Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, and gochujang, and stir with a whisk so that the paste will dissolve. Stir in the chicken until heated through, and a beaten egg, if you feel like it. Serve in bowls and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.

The gochujang is what gives this soup its slightly red color. The amount in this recipe is just enough to give the soup a little kick (and likely some would like it hotter), but it was just spicy enough that Alex could handle, so you know it wasn’t too bad. (You can find gochujang paste at Asian specialty groceries or at online Korean grocery providers).

I feel better already. Give it a try and see what you think!

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