10 Korean Condiments You Should Be Using but Aren't

by Kristine Cannon
Feb 16, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. ET

There's more to Korean cuisine than Korean BBQ.

Sure, Koreans do love their beef, with South Korea importing roughly $500 million of American-raised beef annually according to Houston Press. And, yes — BBQ aside — we're all familiar with kimchi, fermented cabbage served at nearly every meal. 

But what sets Korean food apart from the rest is its many side dishes (called "banchan") served during meals. According to Spruce, the number of side dishes can range anywhere from two to 12.

Among these side dishes are condiments — and there are a lot of them. To give you a little background, Korean condiments are divided into two types: fermented and unfermented variants. Fermented condiments include vinegars, gochujang, ganjang and doenjang (don't worry; we'll go into more detail!). Unfermented condiments include red pepper, scallions, garlic, onions and more. 

So, before you head to the nearest highest-rated Korean restaurant in your area — or try something new in the safety of your own kitchen — study up on these condiments first. Your taste buds will thank you later.

1 /10: Doenjang

1/10 :Doenjang

Doenjang, or "thick sauce," is a soybean paste made of brine and (you guessed it) soybean. Considered one of the most important condiments in Korean cuisine, doenjang is sometimes used as a relish but is most well-known to be used in Korean miso soup.

2 /10: Ssamjang

2/10 :Ssamjang

Ssamjang is a thick, spicy paste made of onion, garlic, green onions, gochujang, doenjang, sesame oil and sometimes brown sugar. Typically, ssamjang is eaten with grilled meat and served as a dip with peppers.

3 /10: Mirin

3/10 :Mirin

Mirin is a rice wine also used in Japanese cuisine and pairs really well with soy sauce (both are ingredients in homemade teriyaki sauce). This is a great dipping sauce, broth, glaze and marinade typically used in ramen and udon recipes. Keep in mind when using mirin, though: less is more.  

4/10 :Cheong

Cheong is a type of honey. It's a sugar substitute in cooking and used to sweeten up dishes when used as a condiment.

5 /10: Gochujang

5/10 :Gochujang

Gochujang is basically a bolder version of Sriracha. This savory, sweet and spicy red chili paste is made of chili powder, barley malt powder, fermented soybean powder, rice and salt. This is another staple condiment you'll find in Korean cuisine.

6 /10: Guk-ganjang

6/10 :Guk-ganjang

Guk-ganjang, or "soup soy sauce," is a type of Korean soy sauce. Also made of fermented soybean and brine, it's a much saltier soy sauce mainly used in soups and vegetable dishes.

7 /10: Ganjang

7/10 :Ganjang

Ganjang, or "seasoning sauce," is simply — and better known as — soy sauce. Also considered one of the most important condiments in Korean cuisine (and other Asian cuisines), soy sauce actually has a Chinese origin and is made from fermented soybeans.

8 /10: Eoganjang

8/10 :Eoganjang

You can smell eoganjang, or "fish sauce," from a mile away. Made of fermented anchovies, you can find this sauce as a main ingredient in various types of kimchi.

9 /10: Perilla Oil

9/10 :Perilla Oil

Perilla oil is an edible vegetable oil that enhances a dish with its nutty aroma and taste. Apparently, a restaurant in Seoul uses perilla oil as a secret ingredient in its vanilla ice cream.

10 /10: Gyeoja

10/10 :Gyeoja

Gyeoja is a Korean yellow mustard made with powdered mustard seeds. It's a much brighter hue of yellow than we're used to and can be easily found in Korean grocery stores.