How does Korean chili powder differ from "US" chili powder?
I've been looking at a number of kim chi recipes and they all call for 'Korean chili powder'. My visit to the local Asian grocer only yielded 'Asian' chili powder and other nondescript chili powders.
Is there a particular chili powder that is Korean? Can I simply use cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes?
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The first time I made kimchi I used regular red pepper flakes. Not exactly what I wanted. Later,I was able to find the coarse ground red asian pepper (gochugaru) which I currently use for kimchi and other dishes. Recently, I noted that Pensey's Spice carries the Aleppo pepper which surprisingly tastes very much like the kimchi pepper, although the price is quite high. I recently bought a 3 pound bag of the gochugaru for about $12 at Uwajimaya asian market.
Korean chilli is a little different as it has a slight smoky flavour, in addition to being slightly sweet and also quite hot.
The actual name of the chilli use in kimchi and for that matter, most Korean dishes is gochugaru (고추가루). It comes in a variety of preparations, typically, finely ground, flakes and a paste.
You should be able to find this in most good supermarkets or an Asian store. If you can't get this, you can still use a good quality chilli powder or possibly, a paste.
Actually, most kimchi recipes call for gochugaru (transliterations vary), which is simply red chili flakes. Gochujang is a fermented soybean paste with lots of chili added to it and is not usually used in kimchi (though it is used in many other Korean dishes), as a quick google can tell you.
It's worth noting that the typical chilies in gochugaru are not particularly hot, which is why they are used in such large quantities. "American" chilies, alas, is not super specific, as all varieties of chilies are essentially genealogically traceable to the New World, but the least spicy varieties of cayenne peppers are probably "typical" here if someone specifies chili powder.