Korean pastes

From Ironic Chefs

Two prepared pastes play very prominent roles in Korean cooking: soybean paste and red pepper paste.

Doenjang (된장)

Haechandle Jaeraesik Doenjang
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Haechandle Jaeraesik Doenjang

Doenjang (also sometimes anglicized as dwenjang, which seems closer to how it's pronounced) is a Korean fermented soybean paste, similar to Japanese miso. Wikipedia describes its history, uses, and how it is made.

Major Asian/Korean grocery stores like Hmart may carry several brands, and often more than one variety within a given brand. We have certainly not tried enough different varieties to know if we could taste the difference, and in most cases there is not enough English text to be able to tell what is supposed to be different. We followed a recommendation we saw on the web for Haechandle (Haechandeul), pictured here with a slightly different label than we found.

If you're looking for the Korean name "된장" on the label, which is not a bad idea, it's remarkably small, just above the picture of the blocks of soybeans in the bottom right. The biggest lettering is the brand name "Haechandeul", then just to the right "jaeraesik" which I think describes the style.

Grace Meng of One Fork, One Spoon taste-tested several varieties and found not much difference between them.

Gochujang (고추장)

Haechandle Gold Gochujang
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Haechandle Gold Gochujang

Gochujang is a Korean fermented chili pepper paste. You can make it yourself, but according to Wikipedia, hardly anyone does any more.

You may not be able to tell from the picture, but there is some Latin-alphabet text on the front, notably the brand name in the upper right corner and a description ("Red Pepper Paste" at the bottom). This is the Haechandle "Gold" variety that we used, whatever that means.

Grace Meng also taste-tested several gochujangs (not including this one) and had clear preferences, but also says, "in the end, no gochujang will fail you."