Gochugaru is Korean red chili pepper powder. Gochu means chili pepper and garu means powder. It’s a very common ingredient used in many Korean dishes such as kimchi, bulgogi, or tteokbokki. With a proper amount, it will make dishes savory and arouse more appetite.
The quality of gochugaru depends on how well gochu (chili peppers) are ripe and how well they get dry in the sunlight. There are two ways to dry gochu; in the sunlight or with heat. Drying gochu in the sunlight is better - this gochu is called taeyangcho - because it generates spicy taste and red color better while naturally drying than while drying with heat.
While drying gochu in the sunlight, it’s important to keep chili pepper clean and dirt-free. Any dirt or germs ground into gochugaru eventually affect the taste of dishes - yes, it can change the color and taste of kimchi.
I remember helping my mom wiping each pepper with a clean cloth after drying was done. It’s not a pleasant task because it took a long time, there were so many of them, and sometimes I ended up crying because of the spicy flavor from chili peppers.
Most Koreans, including me and my mom(!) these days, buy packaged gochugaru instead of making their own. It’s important to find a good brand when you buy gochugaru from your grocery stores. Well, this is true for shopping grocery in general, but it’s much more important with shopping for basic ingredients such as gochugaru, gochujang, ganjang, or doenjang.
- Packaged Gochugaru
It’s recommended to store gochugaru in the fridge after opening it.