Kochujang Chicken

We haven’t acquired a new grill since we re-located to D.C., but with warmer weather on the way, I have noticed T. hanging out by the grill displays when we’re supposed to be picking up potting soil and plants…

As I look over grill recipes, the ones that keep rising to the top are our favorite flavors from Hawaii that we now miss so much. This one for Kochujang Chicken is actually the last one we made before we gave up our gas grill on Oahu. Literally. We made this chicken as part of the lunch for the moving crew who were packing up all our household goods and furniture. After they were done, we offered to let them take anything that we didn’t plan to take with us, including the grill. One of the crew took us up on it and the grill found a good home!

Kochu Jang (also spelled Gochujang) is a wonderful Korean condiment that has found many uses in our home. It’s a thick paste made with medium hot peppers, garlic and other spices and glutinous rice powder. It’s a great shortcut to adding layers of flavor to soups, marinades, and sauces. This sweet-spicy marinade will give you a juicy, flavorful chicken with familiar yet exotic notes.

The Korean red pepper used in Kochu Jang, and also found dried as a flakes, is a mild to medium heat pepper with a sweetness to them. They are more similar to Aleppo pepper than to what is called “crushed red pepper” or to cayenne pepper powder in the U.S. Substitute 3/4 amount of Aleppo pepper for Korean red pepper powder called for in the recipe below. If neither is available, omit the dried peppers — the marinade will still be spicy from the Kochu Jang.

This recipe is my own. Most recipes call for the chicken to be cooked in a sauce, but I wanted something that was marinated and cooked dry, either on a grill or oven. Kochujang Chicken was also part of the Korean-theme meal we shared with friends in January when we also had Bulgogi Letttuce Wraps and Watercress Dumplings. For that meal, the chicken was simply baked instead of grilled.

For 4-6 persons
This recipe easily doubles and triples for large BBQs. Allow to marinate overnight for best flavor.

2 lbs./1kg chicken thighs, with or without bones

2 TBL kochu jang
1-2 tsp Korean red pepper flakes
2 TBL soy sauce
2 TBL raw sugar
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp sesame oil
2 TBL sake or mirin

Combine marinade and stir well to dissolve sugar. Place chicken in non-metal bowl or plastic zippered bag, pour marinade over chicken, and massage marinade into meat. Place in refrigerator at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight, and up to 2 days.

One hour before grilling (or baking), remove from fridge. Prepare grill or pre-heat oven to 350F (180C).

Remove chicken from marinade and lightly pat dry. Oil grill or baking pan. Grill/Bake until juices near bone run clear, about 40 minutes.

Serve with rice, kimchee and/or other pickles, and vegetables such as Choi Sum, Watercress or Mustard Greens.

T. with his beloved grill on Oahu for the last time…