Banchan: A Guide To Your Favourite Korean Side Dishes

September 24, 2019 | Blog

Be it regular Korean restaurants or your favourite Korean barbeques, banchan, the collective name for these side dishes, are almost instantly recognisable with its cuisine. Banchan is thought to have resulted from Buddhist-influenced monarch proscriptions against eating meat, giving rise to only vegetables being served during general mealtimes. Take a closer look at some of the well-recognised, traditional banchan served in restaurants today.

Kimchi (Fermented Cabbage)

Kimchi, or ‘soaked vegetables’, is almost synonymous to Korea as a nation, and accompanies almost every meal. Although there are several types of kimchi, the most ubiquitous type consist of fermented napa cabbage and Korean radish mixed with seasonings such as chili powder, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. Although this preservation technique dates back to the early Three Kingdom period (from 37BC to 7AD), kimchi’s famous red tint only came into fruition after pepper was introduced into Korea in the 17th century.

Gosari Namul (Blanched and Sautéed Korean fernbrake)

Edible fern, also known as bracken fiddleheads or fernbrake, is seasoned with soy sauce and minced garlic and traditionally served as a celebration of Jeongwol Daeboreum, or the first full moon after Lunar New Year. Nutrient-dense and tasty, with a meaty texture, the preparation of this dish is a two-day process as it involves soaking the ferns for several hours prior to its consumption. On top of being a standalone dish, these ingredients are also generally included and served in traditional bibimbap.

Oi Muchim (Spicy Cucumber Salad)

A perfectly-balanced dish for its juxtaposing flavours of tangy spice neutralised by the alkaline taste of the cucumber, this dish is also a refreshing recipe for hot weather after it has been chilled. Though it tends to be spicer than the average kimchi, the cucumber’s high moisture content dilutes the spice, allowing for a more textured dish to accompany your meals. However, because of this, it should be prepared on the day of consumption due to the high moisture content of the cucumbers.

Japchae (Stir-fried Glass Noodles)

Although today it can be found in most Korean restaurants, japchae was originally invented by one of King Gwangaegun’s (who reigned from 1608 to 1623)’s subjects for a royal celebration. Accordingly, the King enjoyed the dish so much, he promoted its creator to a position within his royal committee. Originally made without meat or noodles, japchae is literally translated to mean a “mixture of vegetables”. However, the common version of recent times comprises glass noodles made from sweet potato starch which are stir-fried in sesame oil with beef and thinly-sliced vegetables, then seasoned with soy sauce and a dash of sugar for a hearty, delicious treat to begin your meal.


Craving some Korean food? You needn’t prepare all of these yourselves, just head over to Village Grocer for ready-packed side dishes that you can whip up in a few minutes instead!


Keep it fresh,

Your friendly neighbourhood grocer.

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