Jeotgal (젓갈) is salted seafood that is an essential item in any Korean kitchen. Most of us are familiar with jeotgal as a staple seasoning in Korean kimchi, but its uses are far from limited to kimchi. Endearingly referred to as a “meal thief,” this addictive side dish will have you piling down your meal even when you thought you weren’t hungry. Made from fermented seafood, a little bit goes a long way with this staple of traditional Korean cuisine.
Jeotgal can be eaten on its own or used as a condiment that can substitute for salt, or even soy sauce to add a special kick. It is most popularly consumed with a bowl of rice or stews to add a salty, spicy and savory flavor. In Korea it evolved as one of the few ways to preserve fresh fish and seafood. Like kimchi, the different bases of seafood used to make jeotgal contribute to the variations in flavors. Standard ingredients used to season the dish include salt, garlic, ginger and red chili pepper which contributes to jeotgal’s signature red hue. As a healthy coincidence, the fermentation process used to make jeotgal means that the dish is loaded with beneficial probiotics to keep your digestive system up and running.
With all that said, let's dive into the five varieties of jeotgal that you should try next!
1. Squid Jeotgal 오징어젓갈 (Ojingeo Jeotgal)
If you are new to this dish, this is a great place to start as squid jeotgal tends to have a milder fishy flavor. Made with thinly sliced squid, squid jeotgal is then coated with coarse salt and a variety of other seasonings including gochutgaru (chili powder), mullyeot (rice syrup) and aekjeot (fish sauce) prior to undergoing the fermentation process.
2. Baby octopus jeotgal 낙지젓갈 (Nakji Jeotgal)
Octopus jeotgal is similar to squid jeotgal in taste, sharing many of the same seasonings. While most of us think of a giant eight legged creature when we think of an octopus, nakji jeotgal is actually made with a miniature type of octopus called nakji, hence the name. To make this dish the octopus is thinly sliced, seasoned and fermented.
3. Pickled Pollack Innards 창난젓갈 (Changnan Jeotgal)
Pollack intestine is chopped into small pieces and fermented with salt and spices. This changnan jeotgal has a nice juicy firmness and savory taste that comes through the more you chew.
4. Seed Jeotgal 씨앗젓갈 (Ssiat Jeotgal)
Seed jeotgal (ssiat jeot) is a unique variety of jeotgal. It mixes jeotgal’s fermented seafood base with a variety of seeds such as pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds whose nutty essence enhances the umami flavor and soft chewy texture of the dish.
5. Belt Fish Jeotgal 갈치속젓 (국내산) (Galchi Sot Jeot)
Belt fish jeotgal (galchi sot jeot) is made with the innards of the belt fish (or hairtail). The innards of the fish are responsible for the savoriness of this jeotgal, which is why this belt fish jeotgal is used as a special ingredient in kimchi marinades. Try it as a condiment to go with bbq or any protein to add more of a kick. And don’t forget, a little goes a long way!
Tag us @kimcmarket and let us know your favorite variety of jeotgal!
Image by kyungeu.