Side dishes (반찬 banchan) are an integral part of the Korean meal. Banchan acts as a tasty compliment to the main course of rice, stew, and/or main dish.
You would usually prepare banchan in large quantities to be eaten throughout the week. You would store pre-made banchans in the fridge makes so that you don’t have to prepare them again for every meal.
The traditional Korean meal is set up so that each person gets a bowl of rice and a set of utensils but they all share the side dishes in the middle of the table. This communal aspect of dining is reflective of the larger, community-oriented culture.
This is just the seven out of the endless list of yummy, healthy, vegetarian Korean side dishes.
1. Seasoned bean sprouts (콩나물 kong namul)
This is a simple recipe; all it requires is bean sprouts, garlic, and a bit of sesame oil. I like the refreshing crunch that the bean sprouts add to the meal.
2. Seasoned bracken fern stems (고사리 나물 gosari namul)
Gosari has a distinct earthly taste and is widely loved, because of its high nutritional content. It is prepared by sautéing with soy sauce, garlic, green onions, and sesame seeds.
3. Seasoned spinach (시금치 무침 sigeumchi muchim)
You can almost always find seasoned spinach as a side dish, because of its simplicity and the easy preparation required. A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds can add an extra nice finishing touch.
4. Braised black soybeans (콩자반 kongjaban)
Get your protein and calcium for the day with this slightly salty black soybeans side dish. The dark color contrasts with the white rice in your bowl. The glazed finish actually adds an aesthetically pleasing finish to this traditional side dish.
5. Braised lotus root (연근조림 yeongeun jorim)
Yeongeun jorim boasts the magical balance between salty and sweet. I like the crunchy texture. Loaded with fiber and vitamin C, this is another popular vegetarian Korean banchan.
7. Fried zucchini pancake (호박전 hobak jeon)
Delicious and healthy vegetable zucchini with a thin layer of flour and egg, cooked until golden yellow. The sweet, tender taste combined with a crispy outer coating makes a tasty combination. Optional: add red chili flakes for a spicy finish!
By Hajin Lily Yi