Doenjang: Korean Bean Paste
Doenjang is a fermented soy bean paste popular in Korea and Asian cooking, used to add flavor and umami to many different dishes. Learn all about it.
Soybean has been a source nutrition and energy to the people of Asia for thousands of years. The great thing about this ingredient is its versatility. Early chefs discovered the wonders of fermenting foods and they kept experimenting with the process.
There are many great dishes that are prepared with soybeans like tofu and bean curd. However, the most popular and well-known ingredient made from soybean is soy sauce. This sauce is used in many dishes and people even love to dollop generous helpings of this sauce as a condiment.
Doenjang, or Korean Bean paste, is a byproduct of the soy sauce preparation process. The process of making Doenjang is simple but it takes a lot of time and needs a certain amount of commitment to prepare. Those who love cooking dive into the recipe just for the sake of fun.
In the old days, when there were not many resources, people had no option but to depend on fermenting and curing foods to keep their stocks edible for longer periods of time. The fermentation process makes the sauce a very healthy alternative.
What is Doenjang made of?
The main ingredient that goes into making Doenjang is fermented soybeans. With the help of fermentation process, it is possible to prepare the paste with a little bit of effort. It is very important for new chefs to follow the recipe carefully.
Another important ingredient of this dish is time. The time that is needed for fermentation and curing decides the concentration of flavors in the dish.
To prepare the dish, the first step is to soak and boil soybeans in a large pot for hours. Then you’ll need to prepare “Meju” or soybean blocks.
How do you Make Doenjang?
- Soybeans (5 kg)
- Concentrated Salt and water mixture
- Red Chili pepper
- Wood Charcoal
- Honey (to smoke the pot)
- Salt to taste for flavoring
Dried anchovy is another Korean traditional ingredient.
Soak 5 kg of soybeans in a generous amount of water over night. Boil the soybeans the next day for 5-6 hours. When the beans are completely tenderized, remove the water and mash them with hands.
Make Meju or soybean blocks from this mesh. Keep these blocks to dry out in a properly ventilated area. After 3-4 days, the blocks would be ready to hang in an airy place. Let the blocks dry further and ferment for 6-7 weeks. When the blocks have become rock solid, take them off the drying thread and wash them with a brush to remove the white fungus and dry it in sunlight.
In the meantime, take hangar or Korean earthen wear. Take wood charcoal and smoke the pot with some honey. Remove the charcoals and fill the jars with saltwater. Add the soybean blocks and spices like jujube, pepper, and charcoal in the salt water. A good sign of fermentation is the white fungus flower that is floating on top of the salty water.
Age the pots in a sunny area for 2-3 months. Now separate the soy water and soy blocks. The soy water needs to be boiled and made into soy sauce. Drain the water carefully and remove charcoal and spices from the mix.
Mesh the soy blocks into finer paste after draining all the water. Put the soy mesh back into the jar and let it ferment for a few months again.
Is Doenjang the same as Miso?
Miso is Japanese soy bean paste that consists of rice as an important ingredient. However, Korean soybean paste (doenjang) is made during the preparation of soy sauce. Although both types of bean paste are quite different in flavor, sometimes they are used as an alternative or substitute for each other.
Where to buy Doenjang?
Doenjang can be used in large quantities in many Korean dishes. It is sold at farmer’s markets and also by manufacturers who prepare soy sauce on a commercial level. It is also very easy to place an order online from authentic Korean Sauce makers.
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What do you eat with Doenjang?
There are many great recipes that can be made from Doenjang. Sometimes, it is used separately as a condiment. Due to its rich texture and mild flavor profile, it can prove to be a great base for pot dishes and even some types of curries. It is particularly essential to Korean cuisine and many popular Korean recipes, like Korean soup, Korean stew and other various Korean food.
It is not limited to only Korean home cooks, as it has made its way around the world and into the dishes of many different cuisines.
A popular way to enjoy Doenjang is making deserts with it. By adding some sugar and rolling it up in a pastry, it creates a unique and fresh flavor to baked goods.
Due to its fermented quality, it is also a very nutritional food. The sauce is also served as a side dish with fresh salads, soups, lettuce wraps and Korean porridge.