Chuseok (추석), the mid-autumn festival literally translated as ‘Autumn Eve,’ is here! For the past two years, we’ve thrown a small Chuseok party with friends to celebrate the South Korean national holiday. This year is no different!
Often, the friends we invite have never eaten Korean, so we introduce them to the most famous Korean meal at our Chuseok celebration: Samgyeopsal (삼겹살)! Samgyeopsal, otherwise known as Korean barbecue, does not typically have a place on the Chuseok table. We serve samgyeopsal because it is impossible to dislike and is the perfect meal to ease people into an obsession with Korean food! For those who are vegetarian, and wish to try Korean food for the first time, we recommend meatless japchae (which is always on our table as well! We actually prefer japchae without meat!)
Samgyeopsal is always served with banchan (반찬) and dipping sauces. (By the way, my favorite banchan is gyeranjjim, a steamed egg dish!) Today, I will be talking about the sauces most commonly served when eating Korean barbecue. When traveling and eating in South Korea, you will find two dipping sauces in EVERY barbecue joint. The first is ssamjang. The second is sesame oil with salt and pepper.
After the two staple sauces, I’ll reveal a third “sauce” currently trending/hipster in South Korea. Now, without further ado, let me introduce you to Korean barbecue dipping sauces!
Dipping Sauce #1: Ssamjang (쌈장)
Ssamjang (쌈장) is a thick spicy paste that is often used for dipping your meat or combined with sides to make Korean barbecue wraps. Ssamjang literally translates to “wrapping sauce.” Ssam (쌈) meaning “wrapped,” and jang (장) meaning “paste” or “thick sauce.” It is perfect to add into a wrap of perilla leaves, lettuce, kimchi garlic, pork belly, etc…
Depending on the recipe, ssamjang is made with a combination of doenjang, gochujang, sesame oil, garlic, green onions, and/or brown sugar. If a restaurant makes its own ssamjang, it will be slightly different than the next restaurant.
My husband makes the most basic ssamjang at home and when we are having casual dinner parties. In all reality, you only need doenjang and gochujang in a 1-to-1 ratio to make a basic ssamjang at home.
Ingredients for 1 to 2 servings of Basic Ssamjang
- 3 Tbsp of Doenjang
- 1 Tbsp of Gochujang
All you have to do is mix the two together! Super easy and basic ssamjang!
I will write further posts about different and more complex versions of ssamjang later on down the line. Please reach out and let me know if you have a favorite version of ssamjang!
Dipping Sauce #2: Sesame Oil with Salt and Pepper
(소금 후추 기름장)
Sesame oil mixed with salt and pepper goes wonderfully with samgyeopsal and beef barbecue. Many people believe marinated meat completely masks the sesame oil flavoring (which defeats the entire purpose of the dip!) I personally agree with this assessment. So, stick to the meat that is not marinated and vegetables such as mushrooms, Korean peppers, garlic, etc!
The name of the sauce is translated word for word into its English ingredients: salt (소금), pepper (후추), oil sauce (기름장)
It is important to note when making this dipping sauce that you should make small individual servings in shallow bowls and not try to make one big serving. All of the salt will sink to the bottom and the pepper pieces will sometimes float or sink in the oil. If you make a big batch, the ingredients will separate and it will be impossible to spoon out into individual dishes. Just make each serving in its own dish and have multiple at the table!
Ingredients for 1 to 2 servings of Sesame Oil with Salt and Pepper
- 1 Tbsp of sesame oil
- A pinch of salt
- A pinch of black pepper
Each individual really caters the consistency to their own personal taste. You can always add or take away from the ingredients to get the perfect flavoring for yourself. For example, I typically skip the pepper altogether!
Trendy Dipping “Sauce” #3: Wasabi
We all know wasabi. We have seen it at every sushi and sashimi restaurant across the globe. If you haven’t, wasabi is Japanese horseradish ground into a green, spicy, sinus-clearing paste. In Korea, it is currently trending as a dipping sauce at barbecue joints! It is more popular with the younger generations and is considered hipster in some circles.
Wasabi is absolutely delectable with beef that has not been marinated. It is not really a sauce because it is only one ingredient. All you need to do is put some wasabi in a bowl!
The wasabi eaten in America is typically not Japanese horseradish. It is too expensive to import from Japan and is very limited because of mass cultivation. Instead, we use western horseradish made to look like wasabi. In Japan, it’s known called “western wasabi.”
Ingredients for 1 to 2 servings of Wasabi
- ½ Tbsp of Wasabi
Note: some people like to add soy sauce to the wasabi. The amount of soy sauce is personal taste!
That is it! Your easy guide to basic ssamjang, sesame oil dipping sauce, and wasabi. Please let me know your favorite Korean barbecue dipping sauce in the comment section below. I would also love to hear your personal recipes for ssamjang. Please feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org! We would love to hear from you!
I hope you have a wonderful Chuseok! Happy Chuseok Everyone! I hope you enjoy the dipping sauces! 추석 잘 보내세요!!
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