This Korean Hot Sauce Is Fermented with Nonstop Classical Music

Many brewers and distillers claim that loud music is the secret ingredient to getting their products just right.
September 20, 2017, 2:17pm
Photos via Flickr users sescsp and Ed Kwon

You probably can't throw one of your AirPods without hitting somebody who will politely tell you about the benefits of classical music, from its abilities to chill even the crankiest babies and help control post-op pain to the (ever-controversial) claim that it improves overall brain function. But apparently classical compositions are also beneficial to condiments—or at least they seem to be.

Chung Jung One, a company that produces fermented foods such as gochujang—a spicy red chili paste used in Korean cuisine—has been using a classical playlist in its factory so long that no one can remember when it started, or who initially pressed play for the first time. The factory, which is located in Sunchang, South Korea, has a steady stream of Chopin, Mozart, and traditional Korean music, for the benefit of both its employees and the microbes that are hard at work in its fermentation tanks.

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"There are some who say that it is an old tradition and may relate to the general concept that music can also help with plant growth and animal well-being," Brian Tompkins, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Chung Jung One, told MUNCHIES. "It's part of a long tradition of believing that music helps all kinds of organisms to grow, and it has the double-benefit of being soothing and motivational while the workers are there."

Chung Jung One's facility in Korea. Photo courtesy of Kamilla Rifkin/Chung Jung One

Although Tompkins said that Chung Jung One has not conducted any studies into whether concertos affect the taste of its gochujang ("That's where it gets into opinion, for us," he said), other research has suggested music does stimulate the growth of microbes.

In January, scientists at India's Nirma University tested that theory and discovered that playing Indian classical music had a positive effect on bacteria and yeasts—although even they don't know exactly why.

Image via Chung Jung One's Instagram

"The ability of biological cells to sense and respond to wide variety of stimuli including light, mechanical force, chemicals, etc. is beyond doubt," lead study author Vijay Kothari wrote. "Though quite a few reports have accumulated in literature suggesting the impact of sound on cellular activity, explaining the mode of action of sound on biological systems remains a complicated and challenging task. Research in this field is at a relatively early stage and it is not very clear how sound-based mechanisms may work."

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And Chung Jung One isn't the only company to broadcast directly to its bacteria. Craft brewers, vintners and whisky distillers have used similar methods—if not similar soundtracks—to boost yeast activity, playing everything from David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen to the Wu-Tang Clan to 11 days of the darkest metal.

Regardless, Chung Jung One's gochujang hears beautiful music for the duration of its fermentation process, which can take anywhere between three and six weeks, depending on the ingredients. And even Tompkins, who is a frequent visitor to the factory, isn't immune to its effects. "I switched from my classic rock [playlist] to classical music about a week ago, and I feel like my own mental health has improved a little bit," he said. "It affects us all."