Candied Korean Gochujang Almonds

It’s a dry heat. For half of my life, I’ve heard people say those words about the desert that is southern California. I never really understood that fully until I spent a few weeks on the East Coast this summer. You couldn’t escape from the humidity. Even at midnight in Memphis, standing along the banks of the Mississippi River sipping on a nightcap I was still sweating like I had inhaled a spoonful of Gochujang Korean Chili Paste “I’m next to a big ass water source. Shouldn’t I feel a breeze right about now?”

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Sweating next to the Mississippi at midnight.

I moaned aloud as I seriously considered dunking my fat sweaty ass in the most polluted river in America just to cool off. I decided on this evening not to skinny dip in the Old Muddy but it was tempting after the heat and humidity western Tennesse had oppressed on us for the last few days. So many Californias I know have abandoned the dry heat and concrete jungle of California for Tennessee in the last few years. In fact, over 168,000 Californians set sail for Tennessee in 2023.

I hope and pray for them they made it up to the Smoky Mountains at over 6,000 feet and didn’t get stuck at lower elevation cities like Nashville or Memphis that are just so damn hot, sticky and sweaty in the summer months. I’ll take our dry heat any day. You can keep the muddy Mississippi and those fireflies.

This whirlwind eight-week vacation our family enjoyed this summertime took us through some of the most unique places in America. We spent a few days in upstate New York betting on the ponies at Saratoga Racetrack and watching the Canadian Geese on a scenic campsite lake. We took a very brief drive into Manhatten, rode the subway and visited Statton Island for lunch. I’m honestly not a big fan of big cities when it comes to travel but we had to do something touristy while in Manhattan, right?

A journey through the heartland of America

A very sweaty upstate NY sunset

Sometimes you have to leave your home in good old California to appreciate having a Whole Foods within two thousand miles of your kitchen. I will admit it is easy to be able to shop for ethnic ingredients like Gochujang sauce or try out one of fifteen different kinds of Kimchee my local Asian market carries. That is life, trying to grocery shop in southern California

Craving ethnic foods while in the middle of the heartland is the healthy foodie’s greatest fear. What will you do when the only grocery option is Walmart? Let’s hope you stocked your motorhome pantry with almond flour, keto noodles and Korean barbeque almonds! A month into our road trip I was so sad when I accidentally dropped my bottle of homemade Korean salad dressing on the floor. I knew I couldn’t make any more; I did not have the correct ingredients packed. There would be no Korean Steak Salad with Gochujang Korean Chili Paste in the future until we returned home to Southern California.

As much as I love the ease of purchasing my favorite seared ahi from Whole Foods in Pasadena, I needed a major break from southern California this summer. Visitors from the East Coast might think of the sandy beaches and palm trees when they think of Southern California. I won’t walk barefoot on our southern California beaches because I’m afraid I’ll step on a discarded needle. After a lifetime of living in southern California and watching this state turn more into a toilet every day, I was so thrilled to visit the heartland of America and even Canada this past summer. I was looking forward to the backroads of America, salt of the earth strangers and not seeing piles of trash on every wilderness trail. I would like to walk on a sandy beach and not step on a used syringe. Now is that too much to ask?

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A relaxing beach day at Lake Superior.

I was yearning to visit a more conservative place where Christian music is played on the radio in small-town thrift stores.  Where strangers call you sweetie and they actually mean it. Southern California is a world-renowned tourist destination for palm trees, Disneyland and the Santa Monica Pier but what the tourists don’t see is the shantytowns, the graffiti and the piles of garbage everywhere from city streets to mountain town trails. California has become such a toilet in the last ten years. I’m so over it.

But I’m still not ready for Cracker Barrel or Waffle House yet. The foodie in me needs some spice, like Gochujang Korean Chili Paste, in her life. Cracker Barrel just does not have it.

I will totally admit I made it back east without stepping foot into a Cracker Barrel. Chicken Fried Steak with a side of grits in seventy percent humidity makes me feel a bit sick, actually. I did try a Nashville specialty Smoked Gouda and Chipotle Aioli Grits and I thought they were okay. But I’ve never met a grit I enjoyed either. On the other hand Hattie B’s fried chicken in Nashville was by far the best fried chicken I have ever tried in my life. If you make it to Nashville, you have to try Hattie B’s!

These Candied Gochujang Almonds are not something you would find on the menu at the Cracker Barrel. Here in California, even Trader Joe’s carries the Gochujang Korean Chili Paste these days. And Whole Foods is also known to carry it. These almonds are delicious on almost any salad to add a ‘lil zing.

Candied Gochujang Korean Chili Paste Almonds

2 cups roasted sliced almonds

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons Gochujang Korean Chili Paste

Heat a wok and add your sesame oil. Mix in the peanuts and roast for just a few minutes. Mix in the Gochujang Korean Chili Paste and just stir for one minute. Let your almonds cool and shove in your face by the fistful or add these crunchy almonds to the top of your favorite salad.