Indispensable Condiment

 

In Korea jang is one of the condiments indispensable to the people's eating habit. According to the historical book Samguksagi (Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms) written in the period of the Koryo dynasty (918-1392), a speciality of Palhae (the late 7th century-the early 10th century) was the soybean malt of Chaeksong, and people of Silla (the early mid-first century-935) chose jang for wedding presents to be sent to the bride's family.

Beans, which have long been referred to as ‘meat’ from the field, contain more protein than any other kinds of grain. Boiled beans digest at only 70 percent, and bean-curd does at 90 percent. But jang digests at almost 100 percent. It is counted as health food as it contains various nutritional ingredients such as protein, sugar, minerals and vitamins harmoniously. In the past each family used to make jang in Korea, so the preparation methods and the tastes were varied. And the nobility of a family depended on the taste of its jang.

Generally around Riptong (early November), the Koreans boiled beans fully and pounded it in a mortar. Then they made it into balls which are called meju (malt) in Korean. After the malt was fermented spontaneously for several months, they crushed the dried balls, put the powder in a sterilized jar, poured salt water in the jar and left the jar open to clean air and sunlight.

Two or three months later there came black liquid in the jar.

They poured it in a saucepan and boiled it to make soy sauce. And they fermented the leftover in the jar to make paste. They mixed the paste with red pepper powder and other seasonings and fermented to make peppered paste.

The Koreans season food with soy sauce, eat bean paste as it is or use it to cook a soup, and use peppered paste as a side dish to stimulate appetite. Jang performs two functions as side dish and seasonings, so it is put on table for every meal of the Koreans. It produces a unique savory taste which is known as the sixth taste adding to the original five tastes—salty, sweet, bitter, sour and hot.

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