Late summer, early autumn is the time to pick chillies. My parents-in-law grow chillies on their small farm in the countryside so I asked my mother-in-law to show me how to make my fave Korean side dish – shishito peppers and anchovy. (꽈리고추 멸치볶음)The main ingredients are chillies, anchovies and garlic. It’s so simple and delicious. And adds a spicy and tasty kick to any Korean meal alongside some kimchi.
We started off by picking the chillies right off the plants. We picked a whole basket-full of chillies because my mother-law makes large batches at a time and then freezes them in portions to eat later in the year too.
The chillies used are called gwari (꽈리 고추) chillies (not the small spicy green cheongyang chilli (청양 고추) which are the spiciest of the Korean chillies) Gwari chillies in the shops usually look smaller, flatter, and more wrinkly like this though.
There were larger green chillies growing on the farm too but they are usually eaten raw with a soybean paste dip. I was told NOT to pick those for this dish… (there’s great info on Korean chillies here)
Then we picked the stalks off the chillies and broke the large ones in half.
And then (and this is IMPORTANT) we checked that there were NO holes in the chillies. Holes = insects.
Bugs like to move in and feast on their edible organic chilli house so each one was inspected carefully. I did indeed discover a hole in one chilli and when I broke it in half, a live wriggly wormy thing fell out…
Anyway, lets focus on the organic and fresh aspect of the chillies rather than on the insects.
My mother-in-law doesn’t use measurements when cooking, so we started off by frying ‘some’ cloves of garlic in oil. You can use crushed garlic but whole or sliced cloves are better. Korean garlic is very strong raw, but the cloves will become soft and not too overwhelming after they have been cooked.
Next we added dried anchovies. We used a lot more chillies than anchovies – say four or five cups of chillies to one cup of anchovies. (Anchovies come in different sizes – small ones are fried and eaten whole. But when using larger ones like these ones, remove the heads and guts first. There’s some info on Maangchi about anchovies here)
So we fried the anchovies for a few minutes with the garlic until the anchovies were covered in the oil and there was a good smell going on.
Then the anchovies and garlic were taken out of the pan and the chillies added with some oil. At first the chillies were bursting out of the pan but gradually after about 10 minutes of cooking and stirring they got softer and flatter and reduced in volume.
While the chillies were cooking my mother-in-law prepared the soy sauce mix which is used to add flavour to the dish.
When I lived in Britain I thought there was only ONE kind of soy sauce. I know. I hang my head in shame. Because there are whole AISLES of different soy sauces in the supermarkets in Korea. For this dish my mother-in-law used 양조간장 yangcho kanjang, literally ‘brewed soy sauce’ which I believe is the go-to soy sauce in many homes and a staple of any Korean kitchen.
*NOTE ON SOY SAUCES IN KOREA
Trying to work out all the different soy sauces in the supermarket will get your head spinning. Types of soy sauce can be divided up based on all sorts including the processing methods, ageing time, ingredients, and colour. But there are two main types of soy sauce in Korea: classic Korean soy sauce and Japanese style soy sauce.
CHOSUN KANJANG 조선 간장 (Classic Korean soy sauce)
Your classic Korean soy sauce is known as Chosun kanjang. Chosun kanjang is the traditional one that everyone made at home before companies set up and soy sauce became mass produced. These days only about 20% of families make their own soy sauce. (including my mother-in-law) The main ingredients are soybeans, salt, and water. Traditionally, cooked soybeans are crushed into blocks called meju and tied together with straw and hung out to dry to make the fermenting agent. You can even buy Chosen kanjang on Amazon!
WHE KANJANG 왜간장 (‘Japanese soy sauce’)
Other types of soy sauce are know as whe kanjang as they were originally introduced from Japan and have a different fermentation process which involves soybeans and WHEAT. So the main ingredients are soybeans, water, salt, and wheat. These soy sauces can also have added ingredients such as anchovy, bonito, kelp or vegetable stock, and they may have added flavourings like garlic, onion, or even fruit like pear.
In this category yangcho kanjang (the soy sauce we are using in this recipe) is the most popular commercial soy sauce because it is the most versatile. It can work as a dip or salad dressing but also in cooking too. This one is made by the company Sempio, the biggest soy sauce manufacturer in Korea. According to the label on the bottle and their website this has been the number 1 soy sauce in Korea for over 70 years (since mass production of soy sauce started in Korea) and the company occupies more than 61% of the market share of soy sauce in Korea! They’ve got some useful info in English too about all the different kinds of soy sauce they produce.
I got a bit side-tracked there. Who knew soy sauce could be so complex? Anyway, getting back to the recipe. We mixed soy sauce with water (it will be too salty otherwise. one third soy sauce to two thirds water) The amount of soy sauce mix depends on how many chillies you’ve got. Here we used about 2 cups of soy sauce. The mixture just covered the bottom of the pan but as it cooked the chillies reduced and soaked in the sauce.
We added a dash of corn syrup (mul-yeot 물엿) too, to take away any bitterness and fishiness. Mix everything together over the heat and bring the sauce to a boil.
The sauce won’t cover all the chillies at first. So it will need some stirring. But after a few minutes the chillies will flatten and change to a deeper green mixed with the soy sauce.
Once the chillies are soft and a darker green then the dish is ready. If there is a lot of soy sauce mix still left then turn up the heat and let most of this boil away.
Then turn off the heat and add sesame seeds and sesame/perilla oil. Mix everything together and it’s done – it only takes about 20 minutes to make. Once the chillies have cooled down my mother-in-law divides them up into portions to be frozen and eaten gradually over the year. I brought some home too of course. Delish.