I came home from work one day last week to see a package in styrofoam and cellophane (the usual way to pack things in the produce section) that said “Chile Pepper Leaves” in Korean. These were dried and looked like dried sage.

I didn’t know you could eat the leaves. Then again, why not?

The next day, Eun Jeong soaked the leaves in water. This took around two days, and she changed the water whenever it got dark and cloudy.

To cook, she first made a sauce of pounded garlic, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and sesame oil in a mortar with a pinch of sugar.

She drained the chile leaves and stir-fried them in oil over high heat, adding the sauce last, cooking it through. Garnish with finely chopped green Korean chiles.

The taste was surprising. Eun Jeong didn’t expect me to like them, but I was impressed. The garlic makes the dish, and the leaves themselves taste herby — like lavender and sage. They’re even better chilled the next day.

This dish is obviously considered a winter food. I can imagine a harsh winter when the food was running low and someone got the idea to cook the leaves from the dead chile plants in the garden.

So, I guess you can try this at home by taking the leaves off those chile plants in your garden and drying them like herbs.


Don't make mistakes other travelers have made!

Get regular emails with insider tips on how to maximize your visit to Korea. Sign up now!

Tour Tips Newsletter

You have Successfully Subscribed!