I was recently asked by a college bound student what basic ingredients he needed to buy to start cooking Korean food. And I remembered I wrote a post when I first arrived in Korea in 2012 about what I needed to buy to get my kitchen ready for Korean cooking. And the post about Korean Seasonings was written. But I realized that the post I wrote then was in order to stock a full Korean pantry. For a college student, they may not be able to nor want to do that. And so the reason for this Basic Korean pantry – list of essentials post. It is the minimalist version of my Korean seasonings list plus a few items you will want to have to make stock and other dishes.
- jinkanjang (진간장) or dark soy sauce – absolute essential for BBQ marinades, jorim and bokkeum. Can use Kikkoman soy sauce instead.
- gochujang/kochujang (고추장 red chili paste) – red chili pepper paste used for marinades, bokkeum and fresh vegetable sauces. No substitutes. 🙂
- sesame oil (참기름 chamgireum) – roasted sesame seed oil has more flavor. used like olive oil to flavor sauces, dressings and namul.
- sea salt (천일염 cheonil yeom) – see my K Ingredients page for more info on salt. used everywhere but very important for Kimchi.
- gochugaru/gochukaru (고추가루) or red chili powder – Korean chilis have unique sweet flavor that’s different so buy a Korean one if you can.
- sesame seeds (깨 Kkae) – adds great nutty flavor
- rice wine (sake)/mirin – used in marinades and fish jorim
- honey or maple syrup – always use these instead of mulyeot(물엿). I think many recipes will use Corn syrup as substitute for mulyeot but don’t do that! Originally Korean mulyeot was Malt syrup but most are Maltose or Glucose syrup now. YUCK! I NEVER cook with Mulyeot anymore. You can totally use a mixture of sugar, honey and or maple syrup to get the same taste and effect.
A more serious Korean Pantry list (in addition to above):
- Guk kanjang (국간장) or soup soy sauce – flavors soups, jjigae, namul with umami or gamchilmat. Adds great depth of flavor. If you are seriously into Korean food then this is a must have. If you feel like it is missing something, this may be it.
- Doenjang/Dwenjang (된장) Soy bean paste – for doenjang kuk, jjigae and namul. Will smell pretty strong so don’t use this if you are in the dorm! 🙂
- Deul gireum(들기름) wild sesame oil – for flavoring namul and soups. it’s a bit pungent and even some Koreans don’t like it so try a little at first.
- Hyunmi Shikcho(현미식초) Rice vinegar – is not as sour as regular white vinegar and more flavorful. For dishes like moosaengche and dipping sauces.
- Sssam jang (쌈장) sauce for ssam – although you can buy ready made ssam jang , you can make ssam jang from doenjang and gochujang. (See My ssam jang recipe)
- Saewooj jeot(새우젓) fermented shrimps – for jjigae, kimchi, sauce for pork belly
- Myeolchi Aekjeot(멸치액젓) fermented anchovy extract – for kimchi. substitute fish sauce.
Other dry pantry items:
- Dried large anchovies (국물용멸치 kukmul yong myeolchi) – for anchovy stock
- Dried kelp (다시마 dashima) – for stocks and soups
- Dried Seaweed sheets (김 gim) – for garnish and side dish
- Dried shitake mushrooms (표고버섯 pyogo beoseot) – for stock, for japchae/chopchae, jjigae, and more
Of course, by no means is this list complete or comprehensive but it is probably the most essential items you will want to keep in your pantry as you are starting to try different Korean recipes.
- See my Korean Seasonings post for more complete discussion and pictures.
- See K Ingredients post for more in-depth information about each ingredient.
Well, hope this was helpful!! Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I am missing something~