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To many, toasted sesame oil is the finishing ingredient that defines Korean cultural flavor. While gochujang, soy sauce, and doenjang are considered the most famous ingredients, you will often note the nutty sesame flavor present in the background of the popular Korean dishes.
Recently, we wrote about sesame seeds in Korean cooking. Here, we will discuss toasted sesame oil as well as answer some questions you may have about the ingredient.
What is Sesame Oil (Chamgireum)?
Chamgireum (참기름), known as sesame oil in English, is an amber colored, fragrant oil used in South Korea, as a cooking and finishing ingredient. In Korea, people make this aromatic oil by pressing toasted sesame seeds until they extract the oil. While you can buy sesame oils that are not toasted, almost all Korean-made brands toast the sesame seeds before pressing into oil. This toasting method gives the oil a bolder, nuttier flavor.
Like I stated above, you can buy two types of sesame oil. Both types have different purposes which we list below:
- Regular (Refined) Sesame Oil: Refined sesame oil is made by pressing raw sesame seeds. Typically, people use this more for cooking around the world as the smoking point is high (410°F). You can use this for sauteing, shallow frying, and roasting, much like you would with canola, olive, or grapeseed oil. This type of sesame oil is not used in South Korea.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: Once again, like I stated above, people make toasted sesame oil by pressing toasted sesame seeds until the oil is extracted. The toasting process makes the nutty flavor more intense, allowing it to be the perfect flavorful finisher to a dish. Because of the toasting process, this type of sesame oil has a lower smoking point, making it unsuitable as the main oil used for shallow frying or sauteing. When cooking Korean food, this is the recommended variety.
Because of the intensely nutty aroma, you only need to use a small amount in a dish.
Sesame Oil in Korean Cooking:
I recommend watching a video produced by Eater to learn about sesame oil production in South Korea. In this video, you follow Nam Seon-Sik as he makes it. At the beginning of the video, he states, ‘In Korea, many, if not most, foods include sesame oil.’
Below, we list some of our recipes that include toasted sesame oil as an ingredient. Let us know if you try making them at home!
- Kongnamul Muchim (콩나물 무침): In English, this translates to Korean soybean sprout salad. This light and refreshing salad is quick and easy to make. Our recipe included nutty sesame oil as an ingredient! Try making it!
- Oi Muchim (오이무침): This dish is known as Korean cucumber salad in English, and is a Korean banchan (side dish) made by seasoning cucumbers in a soy-based spicy sauce. One of the seasoning ingredients includes sesame oil! Try making our recipe!
- Jumeokbap (주먹밥): In English, jumeokbap refers to a type of Korean handmade rice balls. Often, people eat these with spicy food! Sesame oil is a popular ingredient added to the rice before mixing and molding it by hand. Try making it at home with our recipe!
Like always, this is just a short list of dishes we wrote about on our blog. Toasted sesame oil is such a popular and common ingredient, making it impossible to list every recipe!
Chamgireum Frequently Asked Questions:
Now that we learned about toasted sesame oil, we want to answer some potential questions you may have about this ingredient as well! If we do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment in the section below or email us at [email protected].
What Is a Toasted Sesame Oil Substitute?
If you do not have toasted sesame oil at home but need a quick fix, I recommend toasting some sesame seeds in a bit of neutral oil. This adds sesame flavor to the oil that you can then add to the dish. While this is a quick fix, it does not completely replace the real thing!
Is Sesame Oil the Same as Perilla Oil?
You should not confuse toasted sesame oil, ‘chamgireum’ (참기름), with perilla oil known as ‘deulgireum’ (들기름). While people in South Korea refer to both as ‘sesame,’ they are not the same plant and do not have the same flavor.
Is Sesame Oil Gluten-Free?
Sesame oil is naturally gluten-free! As someone with celiac disease, I do not worry about cooking with or consuming sesame oil. As always, check the ingredients to make sure the product you choose does not have any cross-contamination.
What About Other Allergens?
Sesame oil does not contain any major allergens. This includes soy, wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, and milk.
That being said, I think it is important to note that some people do develop allergies to sesame.
How Should I Store Sesame Oil?
Sesame oil should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry location. I recommend keeping it in your pantry away from direct sunlight. You can also store it in the refrigerator, though it is not necessary.
How Long Does Chamgireum Stay Good?
Sesame oil can keep for over a year unopened. Once opened, it can keep for up to 6 months.
Where Can I Buy Toasted Sesame Oil?
You can buy toasted sesame oil in any well-stocked grocery store. Instead of looking in the oil section of the store (where you will find olive, grapeseed, avocado, and canola oil), shop in the Asian section of the International food aisle.
You can also buy Korean toasted sesame oil in any Asian grocery store such as H-Mart. Or, you can buy it online via stores like Amazon.
We Hope You Enjoyed Learning About Toasted Sesame Oil in Korean Cooking!
In the end, we hope you enjoyed learning about toasted sesame oil in Korean cooking. If so, let us know in the comment section!
If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find further recipes on our blog. We listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey Korean recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by our blended Korean and Southern heritage.
Korean Ingredient Articles:
- Sesame Seeds in Korean Cooking
- Dried Seaweed Sheets in Korean Cooking
- Persimmons in Korean Cuisine
- Chunjang Paste (Black Bean Paste)
- Perilla Leaves in Korean Cuisine; And
- Gochugaru (Korean Pepper Powder)
Further Carving A Journey Korean Recipes:
- Korean Rice Paper Fried Seaweed Trend (Rice Paper Kim Bugak)
- Traditional Kim Bugak
- Cheese Kimbap Recipe
- Tuna Kimbap Recipe
- Triangle Kimbap Recipe
- Tuna Mayo Rice (An Affordable Korean Meal); And
- Jumeokbap (Handmade Korean Rice Balls)
If you have any questions or comments, you can also email us at [email protected].
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