This version of deodeok gui is based on my mom’s recipe. Traditional recipes use stronger seasonings, but I remember her toning down the sauce with onion. I added apple for a natural sweet flavor. Deodeok gui is typically served as a main dish in place of meat.
You can read more about deodeok and see the chef’s notes here.
10–15 roots of deodeok (Codonopsis lanceolata root)
2 tbs chamgireum (sesame oil)
2 tbs vegetable oil (any kind)
2 tsp pine nuts (for garnish)
For the sauce:
1/2 cup gochujang
1/2 cup puréed white onion
1/2 cup puréed sweet red apple
1 tsp gochutgaru (red pepper powder)
1 tsp jocheong (sweet rice syrup, optional)
1. Clean and peel your deodeok:
Lightly rinse your deodeok to remove excess dirt. Only rinse when you’re ready to start peeling your roots—if you rinse it and set it aside for too long, the texture will change. After rinsing, pick up a root, cut off the top, and peel off the skin in horizontal strips by making a small cut and tugging sideways. The goal is to pull off the skin going around the circumference of the root, not to scrape downwards. This way, you keep more of the flesh and also keep more of the texture intact.
Tip #1: Deodeok releases an incredibly sticky white milk when cut that is very hard to wash off. Wear a plastic glove on your non-knife-cutting hand.
Tip #2: If you want to avoid the sticky sap entirely, you can torch your deodeok for a few seconds by rotating it evenly over an open flame. However, be aware that this may slightly alter the flavor.
Tip #3: If you have no time to put up with all this, you can skin your deodeok with a potato peeler, or even buy pre-peeled deodeok at the market (though pre-peeled roots will lose a lot of their distinctive fragrance).
2. Tenderize the deodeok:
Take a peeled root and wrap in one layer of plastic wrap. Gently pound the root with a rolling pin turning it evenly (don’t pound so hard that the root splits). Unwrap and make a butterfly cut lengthwise down the side, folding it open so the inside of the root faces down. Cover again with the plastic wrap and pound until tender but not broken. You shouldn’t be able to feel any woody, stiff texture in the root. If you’re planning to grill your deodeok up to a day after tenderizing, cover with a damp paper towel and place in an airtight container in the fridge.
3. Mix your sauce ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.
4. Place your pounded deodeok flat on a sheet pan or plate and brush the gochujang sauce generously over the roots, flipping them to coat each side evenly.
5. Coat the bottom of your pan with equal parts chamgireum and vegetable oil and heat your frying pan on medium. Reserve enough oil for each batch of deodeok but don’t be stingy.
6. It’s time to cook the deodeok! Place several pieces of deodeok root in your pan and cook each side until the sauce turns from red to orange and the fibers become tender (around 2–3 minutes per side). Don’t flip constantly; let each side cook fully.
7. Arrange your deodeok on a platter and finish with minced pine nuts.
*Older, more traditional deodeok gui recipes call for a marinade called yujang (유장). If you want to try using this method, mix 1 part ganjang (soy sauce) and 3 parts chamgireum (sesame oil) and brush it over your tenderized deodeok. Lightly sear the marinated roots, and then brush on a gochujang sauce made with gochujang, gochutgaru, ganjang, minced garlic, sesame oil, roasted sesame powder and jocheong (sweet rice syrup). Lightly grill again.