Level 3 refers to ( in this case ) the level of hot in my jar of Korean hot pepper paste!
Recently I had a hanker-ing for some Korean BBQ and with no food trucks in sight I was forced to search the aisle of my supermarket for just the right stuff. There was only level 3 available, no #1 or #2 . I was worried this might blow the roof off my mouth, but I was brave and tried a tiny bit as soon as I got home. Straight up from the jar. It wasn’t bad. Downright tasty even. In fact I bet I could handle up to “level 4” should I come across it some day!
First, I applied a dry rub to the pork spare ribs I decided to use. A quick mix of ground ginger, seasoned salt, onion powder and smoked paprika did the trick. (I used 1 tsp each for about 2 lbs of spare ribs.) I let that hang out on the ribs for a few hours during the day while I did errands, etc.
Second, since I didn’t have all day to fire up the smoker in the back yard – oh wait I don’t have a smoker – I simply put them into a foil-covered baking dish into a 375 degree oven for about an hour to steam them to delicious. (longer if you have more ribs, use a thermometer if you want.) So at this point the ribs were cooked through and tasty but lacking the caramelized, charred outside that we all love.
Thirdly, I put those ribs directly onto a hot gas grill in my backyard – that I do have – and charred them a bit until they looked good enough to eat.
The final step was to brush on my homemade “Korean BBQ” sauce and char the ribs even more. Watching carefully that they didn’t cross the fine line of deliciousness to burned. With all that sugar in the sauce you have to be careful not to apply the sauce too soon.
1 tb +/- finely diced(minced) onion
1 tsp of oil for sautéing onions
2 small garlic cloves, super finely minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, super finely minced or paste
1/2 cup Ketchup
1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar ( plain or low sodium seasoned)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil*
2 tsp ( or more if you want it hot!) Gochjang paste ( Korean Hot Pepper Paste)
1 cup pan drippings from your spare rib oven-roasting pan or just plain water.
Saute the onion in the oil till nice and soft, and a bit brown. Turn off the heat and add the garlic and ginger in. The residual heat kind of warms the garlic and takes some of the raw “bite” out without really cooking it. (at least I thought so) Add the ketchup, soy, vinegar, oil and pepper paste to the warm sauce and stir thoroughly. It will be thick. Add enough pan drippings from your rib oven roasting dish or even just plain water to thin it to your liking. Sauce will end up being about 2 cups +/- of liquid.
This sauce can be served as a table condiment as is, used for a glaze in the last 10 mins on your grilled food or just eaten with a spoon. Probably keeps in the fridge for at least 5 days but I am no expert and frankly it was just the perfect amount for 2 lbs of ribs!
*due to sesame allergies in the house I actually used Pumpkin Seed oil but toasted sesame oil would be more traditional.
Note: gluten free folks – read your labels on the hot pepper paste – not all are created equal.