Today’s item of the day is the Sempio Doenjang – Fermented Soybean Paste. Doenjang along with some other stuff like Gochujang, Curry Pastes, etc. makes up a group of stuff I call my “cooking cheat codes”, hey that sounds like it should be a show some day.
In any event what I mean by cheat codes is sure you can use them in the classic dishes they are intended for, and I do. However, where they come into a world all their own is in incorporating them into places you’d not expect to find them.
Here is an example, many times when making up a basting sauce to finish things on the grill with, especially chicken and pork, I will include this stuff. A couple three teaspoons depending on how much I am making. Make up a baste for instance with your favorite BBQ sauce, some soy, some beer, some copped chilopolte in adobo (another cheat code), a splash of really top shelf fish sauce (another cheat code) and enough Doenjang to thicken it.
Baste this onto any chicken or pork dish where you want a bit of “heat and sweet” and it will just blow your mind. If no one told you what was in there unless you’d had it before you could never put your finger on it. It adds depth and that funky umami flavor that is just awesome with a bit of heat and sweet along side it. When I made this to baste pork for Biltong for Breakfast, my buddy David kept eating it like fricken salsa on corn chips! Okay I will admit it, I did too.
Here is another use, I have been told tilapia are bland fish, oh really? Clean the tilapia head on and just gutted. Get them very dried off, cut a few slits in the skin on both sides. Now take Doenjang and Gochujang in about equal amounts and mix them together. Chop up about one clove of garlic and an equal size piece of ginger very fine, or you can use garlic ginger paste (another cheat code) and mix it into the paste.
Now this is the critical part, if you slather this paste on as it, it will BURN and that in the words of Alton Brown, “is not good eats”. Using a high temp cooking oil like peanut oil or similar, drizzle it onto the paste and mix until you end up with a “thick oil” something that is paste like but thin enough to just pour.
Rub the outside and inside of the fish with this oil/paste, really work it into the slits in the skin, into the flesh. Slice up a few stems of green onion and ginger like big match stick size and put them in the fishes belly. Add some kefir lime leaf or lime zest inside the belly too. Keep the coating on the outer skin light, go heavy again in the slits and in the body cavity.
Grill these fish over high heat until just done and skin is crisp, translation don’t close your grill down, or you will over cook your fish. Enjoy and DO NOT discard that skin, it is the best part. And if you think this fish is “bland” you need a tongue transplant or something.
You can also pan fry these fish in enough oil to cover about 50% of their thickness, if you do that the tail is so crisp it is like a delicacy with all that flavor.
I have also used this alone and mixed with other pastes to rub down red meat (beef and venison) and let it sit in the fridge at least 24 hours. Wipe off the excess and add some S&P and just grill. It can be that simple, the fermented components help tenderize the meat and that unique flavor finds its way in. Again wipe off the excess, if you apply heat to a layer of this paste it quickly burns, so does Gochujang.
So give this stuff a try, you will find yourself mixing it into marinades, bastes and doing all kinds of stuff with it, hmm, I wonder what it would do on a Sous Vide steak? I am not sure, but I am gonna find out!
On my brand of choice, I have tried many and Sempio Doenjang – Fermented Soybean Paste is simply the best I have found. First it is supposed to be “fermented soy bean paste” and crazy as it sounds that pretty much means just soy and salt and some starter. Well here is the full list of ingredients for Sempio Doenjang, (soybean, salt, distilled alcohol, water, koji starter). Next notice the ingredient is “soybean” not “soybean powder”.
The big thing is there is no wheat, other grains, MSG, etc. Every other version I have check out is full of wheat and other ingredients with no business being in this stuff. In Korea this stuff is made by many still in their homes, they just add some koji, salt and water to soybeans and ferment it. They don’t use soy powder, it is supposed to be chunky. I feel Sempio is closest thing to Korean House Wife Made Doenjang you are going to find for sale in the US.
It is important to me that we are actually talking about FERMENTED soybeans here. I am personally not a huge fan of soy from a health aspect, way to high in phyto estrogen, however all things in moderation. A two pound tub of this stuff will last for months on end, it is used to flavor things not to be eaten on a spoon and a little goes a long way, so don’t worry it won’t turn you into a soy boy or anything like that.
Anyway give Sempio Doenjang – Fermented Soybean Paste and I think you will be adding it permanently to your list of cooking cheat codes.
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