My fear upon buying a house in the suburbs was my dining-out ambitions would be reduced to chain family restaurants. To my relief, four miles to the west of my new home was one of Chicagoland’s most robust Korean restaurant scenes. On most weekends, if we’re not visiting a hand-pulled noodle shop, it’s a mom-n-pop selling spicy tofu soondubu stew, or a 200-seater specializing in samgyupsal, pork belly grilled over charcoals tableside.
So Korean flavors has been on my mind a lot, and I’m finding ways of integrating it into my everyday non-Korean cooking. What you’re about to read is a recent discovery, something I came up with independently and surely not original to me.
It came to me while cooking bacon one morning. I’m a fan of jeyuk bokkeum, the stir-fry spicy marinated pork belly. Could I, then, approximate this dish into my breakfast my brushing on gochujang, the fermented chili paste?
As an experiment, I took thick-cut bacon and fried it on a cast iron skillet (from a cold pan, of course). While the bacon was still flaccid, about 60 seconds on each side from my preferred doneness, I took gochujang and slathered it onto the bacon with the back of a spoon. I did this on both sides, allowed it to continue frying, but flipping it every 15 seconds so the sugars in the sauce wouldn’t burn.
I took the bacon out when the edges were crispy, but retaining some chew and a bit of squishy pork fat. They came out a tinge deeper on the fiery red hue, but, it wasn’t terribly spicy. Instead the gochujang added a savory sweetness, a bit like maple syrup on bacon with some Korean twang. The smokiness and chili piquancy was delicious with fried eggs (already in the vicinity of bibimbap) plus crispy hashed browns.
I wouldn’t add gochujang to bacon every time, but I will every once in a while, when I feel like being surprised and delighted by breakfast.