Banchan: learning to cook Korean side dishes

Yes, I’ve been on a Korean-food kick lately. I’ve got a batch of kimchi in the fridge; it’s a lot less salty than the last batch, but not as spicy. I’ll keep working on it.

soup and banchan dishes on the table

And I’ve bought some little dishes for banchan, because I’ve been in love with those little dishes of joy since the first time I had dinner at our favorite Korean restaurant, Sura. At Sura, they bring out a dozen or more of these little side dishes, and sometimes the little treasures last long enough to be part of the meal, as they’re intended. My idea of heaven is small amounts of lots of different kinds of food, so banchan is a natural for me. Same with Indian thali–I just LOVE little dishes of food!

We gave this concept two tries this week. First, I made a Korean cold noodle soup. Bought the broth pre-made at Koreana, along with the noodles and the banchan dishes.

Korean cold noodle soup in a white bowl, before adding things

I put out a bunch of little bowls of ingredients to add:

boiled eggs, pickled herring, more boiled eggs, pickled daikon, peas, nori, gochujang (red pepper paste), pickled garlic, pickled red cabbage, dried fried garlic

Then we each added our favorite things from the little dishes (click to embiggen).

Serene's soup with nori, pickles, peas, and gochujang The kid's bowl, with egg, nori, peas, and garlic James's bowl with egg, gochujang, pickles, and nori

Later in the week, though, I decided I wanted to learn to make some of the items I get at Sura, so I headed over to find Korean cooking videos on YouTube, and hit the motherlode. Oh, Maangchi, where have you been all my life?

Maangchi is the embodiment of Mom Food. Simply and cheerfully, she makes the recipes of her childhood while telling stories of Korea and her family. She clearly tastes home when she eats the results of her cooking, and her love of sharing her Mom Food is palpable. (“You could palp it if you wanted to.” — Tripod)

I made most of the banchan you see in the photo below. If you want to know more about each dish, I’ve given the names, and you can go to Maangchi’s site and find out how to make them.

Rice in a covered bowl. Big bowls of figs and bulgogi. Little bowls of kimchi, pickled herring, seaweed, kongnamul muchim, pickled garlic, Korean barbecue sauce, musaengchae, plain myulchibokkeum, gamjachae bokkeum, spicy myulchibokkeum, and gochujang

I bought 5 of the things in this photo at the store: pickled garlic, seaweed salad, Korean barbecue sauce, gochujang, and pickled herring. I picked the figs off Guy’s tree. I made the rest.

The bulgogi is from Bonnie’s recipe; kimchi is from Closet Cooking’s recipe; the kongnamul muchim (soybean sprout side dish), musaengchae (radish salad), plain myulchibokkeum (pan-friend dried anchovies), gamjachae bokkeum (potato and oyster mushroom side dish), and spicy myulchibokkeum all came from Maangchi.

Thank you, Maangchi! As you can see, we really like this way of eating!

the remains of the banchan (mostly eaten)

Frugal Cooks Note: The recipes for banchan all make a fair amount, and most keep for a really long time, so beyond the fact that the recipes are cheap to begin with, they’re even cheaper because they’ll serve you for several meals. I plan to continue learning new banchan dishes and re-making faves so that we have a steady stream of things to fill our cute little bowls with.

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4 thoughts on “Banchan: learning to cook Korean side dishes”

    1. If you use the Closet Cooking recipe, either use much less salt, or do a really good job of rinsing after salting. Just sayin’. :-)

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