This dish has origins basically nowhere. Standing in a Korean market yesterday, my girlfriend said “let’s have chili.” I said okay, and put some garlic sambal and gochu chang in my basket, and here we are.

This stuff is awesome. It’s meaty, warm and spicy with a background sweetness that makes it very hard to stop eating it.

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (more if it’s fatty)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • ~1/4 cup gochu chang
  • 1 pint baby portabello mushrooms
  • 1 16 oz. can kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp. garlic sambal
  • rice

First, fry up all the ground beef in your biggest skillet. Don’t just cook it till it’s grey, get it browned and crispy. Cook it as much as you can bear before it burns. This is important. If the beef is too lean (like mine was) and you have to add some fat, go for an animal fat (I used bacon fat, ran out, and finished with schmaltz) or a neutral oil like canola.

Take out the beef, leaving the fat behind if there is any, and put it aside. Then throw the medium onion, sliced, into the pan with the garlic cloves, whole, and the gochu chang. You’ll probably need more animal fat, my pan was totally dry by this time. Let this cook for a long time on medium low. The gochu chang will start to dry out and the sugars will start to caramelize. The onions will get thinner and will turn red. The garlic will be very red. When you think you’re in danger of burning the gochu chang from all the chewy caramelized bits (seeing a pattern here?) turn off the heat and scoop out the paste into a food processor. Leave as much fat behind in the pan as you can – you’ll need it for the mushrooms.

Buzz the paste in the food processor along with some water to make sure it can really come together. This substance is your chili paste, as if you were making chile con carne in the usual way. Leave it to one side for now.

Clean and halve the mushrooms (quarter the biggest ones to even out the sizes), throw them into the hot pan with a good pinch of salt and more fat if you need it. Cook ’em hot. Get some color on these guys, as much as you can stand (sound familiar?). While those cook, drain the beans and rinse them.

When you think the mushrooms are just about to burn, throw in the beans, chili paste, and beef. Add the sambal now as well – it’ll give you some more heat and a nice vegetable note to balance all the meaty maillardy stuff going on with the beef, mushrooms and beans.

If you want it hotter, you probably have a favored heat delivery system fairly close to hand. Use it.

If you want to eat it right now, go ahead. It’ll be spicy and have plenty of sweetness leftover from the gochu chang, and you’ll taste the caramelized onions binding everything else in the dish together. If you want to let it simmer for a while (adding water if it gets too dry) you’ll find that the oniony flavor melts away and you get more a chili/spice/beef flavor. Even longer on the heat (total an hour?) and you’ll taste more of the beans up front, with layers of spice and the other ingredients behind it. After that I don’t know because I was hungry, and served it over rice.

But after even a small bowl, I’m completely full. Wow is this a filling substance. It’s made our superbowl day a lot more interesting, while still having something to do with the whole football/heavy food thing. Now I have to go put away the leftovers so it can make my Monday awesome too.


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