The Absolute Best Canned Tuna According To Chef David Chang

David Chang wants to change the way you think about canned tuna. In a Facebook post from April 2020, the Momofuku chef and host of Netflix's "Ugly Delicious" came to the defense of canned tuna, writing, "Canned and tinned food is beloved in Europe and Asia but not so much America. I hope that changes." In an effort to kickstart that change, Chang put in a good word for his favorite brand of canned tuna.


Tuna is one of those must-have canned foods, a practical basis for sandwiches, salads, rice bowls, and more. But on its own, canned tuna can be a bit boring, tending to be bland save for a hard hit of saltiness ... at least, that's true of most canned tuna in the U.S. Chang recommends the Korean brand Dongwon (which also happens to own Starkist) for a more flavorful canned tuna experience. Dongwon Tuna With Hot Pepper Sauce comes packed in a can with potatoes and carrots. Chang calls it "outrageously good," but the real thing that makes Dongwon's tuna so unique is the inclusion of a very special, spicy ingredient: Gochujang.

The ingredient that makes Dongwon canned tuna unique

David Chang's favorite tuna alludes to a "hot pepper sauce," which sets it apart from other canned tuna varieties. The sauce in question is made from chili peppers and gochujang, and if you don't know gochujang already, it's high time you did. Gochujang is a fermented chili paste made from gochugaru chili flakes, sticky rice, soybeans, and salt. It is fermented for months or even years, over which time the starches in the rice break down into sugars.


Gochugaru can have varying levels of spiciness from mild to hot, but what really makes it stand out from other spicy condiments is the flavor of the rice and soybeans. The sugars produced by the rice lend a subtle sweetness to gochujang, and the fermented soybeans give it a strong umami base. Bringing spicy, salty, sweet, and savory flavors together makes gochujang the ultimate flavor bomb, and the perfect ingredient to take something seemingly mundane, like canned tuna, and elevate it to a new culinary dimension.

How to use Dongwon tuna

There is so much more flavor packed into a can of this spicy tuna than you'd get from the typical canned tuna brands in most American grocery stores. You really don't need to do much to turn a can of this fish into a full meal. Many people simply serve the contents of the can over a bed of steamed rice. If you'd like, you can dress up your rice bowl with some seaweed or furikake, or even kick the spice up another level with some gochugaru flakes or a squirt of sriracha.


You could also use Dongwon tuna to make a spicy twist on a tuna melt, or take inspiration from a classic tuna salad by mixing in a little bit of mayonnaise. If you take this route, make sure to use Kewpie mayo. It's the secret to Japanese egg salad sandwiches and countless other treats, with a more complex flavor than other mayo brands. David Chang had his own twist on this at his former restaurant, Momofuku Ssäm Bar, where he served an appetizer called "Double Hot Tuna Can," which consisted of Dongwon Tuna With Hot Pepper Sauce mixed with Kewpie mayonnaise and slices of chili pepper, spread on slices of toasted baguette.