Korean pantry staples you need to have on your radar

June 1, 2023 (Last Updated: May 31, 2023)

Are you tired of the same old boring pantry staples? It may be time for you to shake things up and introduce the vast world of Korean cuisine onto the menu rotation. Strong flavours, spicy condiments, and fresh ingredients make Korean food a great option to keep in your kitchen artillery.

With pantry staples like fermented chilli paste, soy sauce, and dashi, your warming winter broths are about to get a lot better! Here are all the staples you need:

It’s all about the condiments

Korean food is all about depth of flavour, and the easiest way to get there is through condiments. One of the most essential Korean condiments is gochujang, a fermented chilli paste that adds a spicy kick to any dish. It’s perfect for marinating meat, stir-fries, and even as a dipping sauce.

Sempio Premium Vegan Gochujang Korean Chili Paste 500g for R69.99 from Market Kokoro.

Kimchi is another delicious spicy, fermented vegetable condiment that’s a staple in Korean cuisine. It’s made with cabbage, radish, and a variety of seasonings like gochugaru (chilli flakes), garlic, and ginger. The fermentation process gives kimchi a unique tangy flavour and makes it packed with gut-healthy probiotics.

Koreans eat kimchi with many of their meals, and it’s also used as a condiment or ingredient in other dishes like stews and fried rice.

Original Kimchi 450g for R110.00 from Umami Food Studio.

If you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, you’ve probably heard of Kewpie mayo. But did you know that it’s also a popular Korean condiment? Koreans love to slather it on everything from sandwiches to sushi and fried chicken. It’s rich, creamy, and has a slightly sweet flavour that’s totally addictive.

Kewpie Japanese Sushi Mayonnaise – 450g for R199 from Takealot.

Bolster up those broths

Moving on to sauces for broths, there’s nothing quite like a comforting bowl of miso soup or stew. The key to making a delicious broth is to use the right sauce. One of the most common sauces used in Korean cooking is soy sauce. It’s used in everything from soups and stews to marinades and dipping sauces. Our soy sauce of choice is Kikkoman – they make a great low-sodium option!

korean soy sauce

Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce 148 ml for R92,99 from Woolworths.

But if you want to take your broth game to the next level, you need to try dashi. It’s a Japanese stock made from bonito flakes and kombu seaweed that adds a rich umami flavour to any soup or stew. Koreans also love to use it in their seafood soups and stews. Once you try it, you’ll never go back to plain old chicken stock.

korean dashi powder

Marutomo Bonita Dashi Powder 1kg for R229 from Takealot.

Let’s not forget about Nori

If you didn’t already know, seaweed is another top essential Korean pantry staple! Koreans use seaweed in everything from soups to salads and snacks. It’s packed with nutrients like iodine and calcium and has a unique umami flavour. We also love roast seaweed as a snack, which you can find at Woolies.

50 Nori Seaweed Sheets for R160 from Che Gourmet

Rice is the main character

Koreans eat a lot of rice, and they take it seriously. If you want to up your rice game, you need to try one classic Korean rice dish called bibimbap – a colourful bowl of rice topped with a variety of vegetables, meat, and a spicy sauce. It’s deliciously satisfying yet balanced and so easy to make and customise to your liking.

Getting back to the point – the commonly used rice in Korean cooking is short-grain white rice, which is sticky and has a slightly sweet flavour. Koreans also use glutinous rice, which is even stickier and is used for making rice cakes and desserts. Glutinous rice flour is also used for treats like mochi, which is a soft rice cake filled with goodies like cream, fresh fruit, and bean paste.

Glutinous Rice 1kg for R42.99 from Market Kokoro.

Don’t forget the drinks

And lastly, let’s talk about soju. It’s a clear, distilled alcohol similar to vodka. Soju is the most popular alcoholic drink in Korea, and it’s often enjoyed with meals or during social gatherings. It has a smooth and slightly sweet flavour, and it’s also relatively low in alcohol content, making it easy to drink.

Soju can be enjoyed on its own or mixed with other beverages like soda or fruit juice to create refreshing cocktails.

Chum Churum Korean Soju Original 16.5% 360ml for R105.00 from SunSun.

And there you are, the best Korean pantry staples to have on hand!

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By Savanna Douglas for Woman&Home Magazine

Feature Image: Getty

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