BANCHAN (SIDE DISHES)
Clockwise from top centre
Kimchi – Chinese cabbage kimchi is the best known type of this fermented condiment.
Doragi cho gochujang muhim – Ginseng with vinegar and chilli sauce
Tofu - Tofu pan-fried in soy sauce with chilli
Mu Cheung - Daikon stem and leaf wilted in a pan with sesame oil and sesame seeds
Kkagdugi – Spicy radish kimchi made with daikon
The ‘little plates’ called banchan served with every meal are an indispensable part of Korean cuisine. From a simple dinner made at home, to a full ceremonial celebration, banchan are there. Even street food stalls offer at least one or two small banchan because they are a definitive part of Korean cuisine.
The larger the variety of banchan, the greater the indication of quality of care, service, economic stability and social status. Depending on the cook of, banchan served with main dishes can be incredibly diverse, with secret recipes and regional variations. They can be grouped into a few loose categories based on ingredients and how they are prepared.
Kimchi and jangajji refer to fermented and pickled dishes, while namul muchim are lightly seasoned produce like vegetables, roots or sprouts. Bokkeum are lightly sautéed or stir fried, and jorim are braised in seasoned broth or sauce, with jjim referring to steamed things, usually vegetables. Three categories will always be present to anchor the banchan offering. No meal will be complete without a kimchi, a namul muchim and a jorim.
Banchan add seasoning and texture to the meal. As guests help themselves to food, they take a little of this and a little of that to add to their dish. Thanks to banchan, no two bites of Korean food ever taste the same.
It would be impossible to do banchan justice in these few pages. They are the subject of a huge cookbook on their own. They are invariably simple to prepare, consisting of a few basic ingredients. Coming up with banchan to complement different dishes is an adventure on its own. Enjoy the ride.