Banchan Explorer Guides

All those little Korean side dishes are called banchan, but they also have individual names and cooking methods.

Banchan Comic! Two pages, one recipe.

Here is a post all about the different varieties of banchan, and what is in them, and how they are cooked.

Banchan 101.

Important tip: you’re allowed to ask for seconds on a banchan dish if you really like something. Make sure you eat it all, if you do. (I say that if you ask for seconds on banchan, tip well. Banchan represents generosity from the host, but you be generous too.)

Also, don’t lift bowls off the table (slide them or bend over the bowl). Try not to leave any rice behind, because wasting rice is a big no-no to the older Korean generation. It’s better to take home your extra rice in a doggie bag than to leave a grain of rice on a bowl or plate.

Here is a post showing what they look like and what they are called. (It has an annoying javascript, but it’s worth putting up with it.)

Sonia from Korea answers a Chowhound question about how to eat banchan:

The hot orange sauce is called ssam jang. It’s mostly soybean paste (miso) with some garlic & sesame oil. That’s how most restaurants prepare it. You can add all sorts of other stuff to it, like hot pepper paste, sesame seeds, green onions, jalapeno peppers, etc. Anyway, it’s called ssam jang which loosely translates to “wrap condiment.”

You eat banchan throughout the meal. In a Korean household, you typically have everything set up, banchan & main dishes, so you just eat them all, sampling & taking turns. Take directly from the plates (although, if you’re squeamish about this, it’s perfectly fine to do it more buffet style). In a restaurant, they typically bring the banchan first. I almost always start eating them right away (mainly because I’m hungry) but continue to eat them after the main course is served.

Most banchan is heavily spiced & salty (meant to preserve) so it’s customary to eat it with rice. However, with blander ones, you can certainly partake freely with or without rice. Again, banchan usually contains some combination or other of salt, soy sauce, spice & vinegar because of the preservative nature of those things. In the days of yore, when refrigeration was not available, this was a way to keep foods longer. Even to this day, if you go to any Korean household, you see all kinds of banchan filling up the fridge. It’d be too much of a chore to make just enough banchan for 1 meal. Most people make a bunch and eat them for days.

When you say long silver spoon… the spoon is for anything liquid, like soup, chigae (stews), mul (water) kimchi, etc. It’s also considered perfectly acceptable to eat rice with your spoon. By the way, you should always use a spoon for your soup. You don’t pick up the bowl and drink it like you do Japanese miso soup.

I have a sad love of the stir-fried tofu and the simmered tofu. (Okay, maybe it’s the sauce more than the tiny bits of tofu, but still.) Korean restaurants have tastier tofu than Japanese ones, IMHO.

Anyway, what with winter coming on, we probably all need a fix of huge amounts of vegetables, pepper, garlic, and rice vinegar. And meat. Time for me to cook some Korean food… and maybe sneak in a visit to a local Korean restaurant.

Ginger Rice Punch. I’ve only had the grocery store kind, in tiny cans. Served cold but meant to warm you up, weirdly enough. Super-weirdly, it is made with malt powder as well as rice, so it’s a sort of ginger rice malted milk, except without milk. Hm. Maybe it needs milk. Anyway, it’s a totally legit dessert use of your rice cooker!

1 Comment

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One response to “Banchan Explorer Guides

  1. Banchan can definitely be confusing. Thanks for posting these handy guides!

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