01 November 2012

"Gangnam Style" pasta

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you've surely heard of "Gangnam Style", the K-pop hit by Korean rapper PSY. This funny little song and its famous "horse dance" have truly become global phenomena, from Seoul to Bangkok to Pretoria to New York. Do a search for "Gangnam Style" on YouTube and you will see thousands of different versions and parodies, as well as PSY's numerous appearances everywhere from the Ellen DeGeneres Show to a meeting with UN Secretary General (and fellow Korean) Ban-ki Moon at UN Headquarters! Gangnam is a very posh neighborhood in Seoul, and even though I didn't go there during my recent trip to Korea, I certainly heard the song in shops and street corners all over the city. My Korean friends and colleagues seem to be both puzzled and amused at the success of "Gangnam Style", but I for one love the idea of people in all corners of the world listening and dancing to the same song! Who says that music (no matter how cheesy it may be) can't bring people together!???

During my trip to Seoul, I of course stocked up on lots of Korean products. This included good sesame oil (chamgireum) and both white and black sesame seeds (bokkeun kkae and gumeun kkae), as well as the Korean red chili paste known as gochujang. Made from red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt and traditionally served with bibimbap, gochujang is my favorite condiment of the moment. On pasta, sandwiches, omelettes...there's nothing that can't be improved with a bit of gochujang! If you can't make it to Korea, you can easily find gochujang in any Asian grocery or any supermarket with a good international foods section (e.g. Whole Foods in the States). Or you can try to make your own!

Photo courtesy of Serious Eats

I used all of these ingredients and came up with this simple little pasta dash reminiscent of the flavors of Korea (though I certainly had nothing like it there). It has nothing to do with Gangnam or "Gangnam Style" but is simply my tribute to the world's most popular song of the moment. The ultimate spicy weeknight fusion dish! You can use whatever vegetables you like or have on hand, I opted for carrots, mushrooms and a big red and green chili (both not very spicy - and the extra ones in the photos were just for decoration), which I also got in Seoul. Tofu would be a nice touch as well and add some good protein. Use your imagination, and enjoy your "Gangnam Style" pasta alongside a side of steamed spinach (perhaps tossed in a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil).

Serves 3

260 grams (a little over 9 ounces) spaghetti or linguini, broken in half
Scant quantity of sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
1/2 large onion
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 medium or large carrot, sliced
1 large red chili, sliced
1 large green chili, sliced
1 cup chopped mushrooms, any variety
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tomato sauce or marinara sauce
1 tablespoon gochujang
1/2 tablespoon honey, optional
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 cup bean sprouts
2 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (ideally a mix of black and white)

1. Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water until just al dente. Drain and put back in pot. Toss with a scant quantity of sesame oil and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan or wok, warm the canola or olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and carrot and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots softened.

3. Add the red and green chili as well as the mushrooms (or any other soft vegetables you may be using). Stir well and cook for a few minutes more.

4. Add the water, tomato/marinara sauce, gochujang, honey (if using -- I didn't but felt that it would add a nice touch of subtle sweetness, though Luis said it was perfect without it) and sesame oil. Mix well and cook for about five minutes.

5. Remove from heat and mix in pasta, stirring well so that it is thoroughly coated with the sauce. Add the bean sprouts, scallions and sesame seeds and toss/mix well.

6. Serve garnished with additional chopped scallions and sesame seeds. You can also enjoy this cold or at room temperature the next day!


  1. I still don't quite get the popularity of this ridiculous video. It's insane! But I do love your beautiful pasta. So interesting combining Italian and Korean flavors. I'm really looking forward to trying this!

  2. I love this pasta dish and will be looking for the gochujang on my next trip to the Asian market. Great ingredients and I will add some tofu. Beautiful photo.

  3. Such a beautiful and colorful looking dish! Are those Korean alphabets on that fabric? I love the picture too!-Mom

  4. I have a little tub of gochujang (which I admit I usually refer to as "Korean chili paste") in my fridge, too. I don't bust it out nearly enough, so thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Un plato delicioso! Me ha encantado la receta y tu blog en general! Un abrazo, que pases un buen dia!

  6. That is some seriously spiced-up pasta! Looks super delicious! I think my kiddo will like it, she has a love-hate thing for that video :)