Spice: Korean Chili Threads

The pretty shreds of dried chili you see pictured above are commonly (and almost exclusively) used in Korean cuisine where they are often included in Kimchi preparations, both for their flavor and their attractive appearance. Indeed, beyond the basic spice function, this culinary item is handy to have on hand as a useful and versatile visual enhancer for all sorts of dishes…

As you can see, these commercially produced threads are very fine indeed but, surprisingly, although made from dried chili, they are not at all brittle and remain quite soft and pliable even after prolonged storage. It is possible to make them in the home kitchen but, as you might guess, one needs to have exceptional knife skills to produce a result that approaches factory-made quality. I have tried it myself in the past and, though I didn’t do too badly, I have to admit that it is difficult to get such feathery thin shreds consistently.

As a flavor ingredient, the threads have the same earthy smokiness as any one of a number of dried chili preparations and none of the commercially produced ones I have ever tasted have been particularly hot. If being used as a spice (as opposed to just as a garnish), it helps to dry-roast the threads in a pan before using as this will help to enhance the flavors.

As a garnish, the dried threads can simply just be placed, or sprinkled, over a finished dish and, in the above picture you can see them used to garnish a Tindora Pakora appetizer I featured well over a year ago.

In other dishes, the shreds add visual appeal as an ingredient that is incorporated into the dish itself. They work particularly well in soups and rice dishes, but you can also use them in more prosaic applications as simple mashed potatoes. One dish where they are very commonly used to add an attractive note of color as well as a bit of added flavor is in the popular Korean savory pancakes collectively known as ‘Jeon’.  I enjoyed a nice seafood Jeon at the Alirang Korean Restaurant in Ottawa not long ago and I really want to try reproducing here at home sometime soon. They just used chili flakes rather than threads in that version but in my attempt, which I will naturally share with you, I plan to use the real thing…

 

8 Comments

  1. Those are awesome! I have to admit that for a split second, I thought they were saffron threads. I wonder how they get them so thin . . .

  2. I hadn’t ever seen those before. I saw the picture on this post and thought you had bought $5,000 worth of saffron.


  3. Help! I have purchased some chili breads and am anxious to use them in my kimchi. However I do not know how much to use. Can you tell me, either by the number of cabbage heads, or. By the pound?

    1. Sorry… Meant to say, chili breads…

      1. Hmmm … there really isn’t a particular answer there. As with fresh chili, it will depend on the hotness of the particular product you purchased and your own heat tolerance. To be honest, I generally use the threads for visual appeal more than heat… especially as they tend to be mild. Also…. for chili in Kimchi, I have mostly used a chili paste, especially the Korean ‘Gochujang’…. If you are doing a mild Kimchi, I would try, say, 2 tablespoons of the threads for each large cabbage head and see how that goes…. just a rough stab at a guess, though 🙂

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