As soon as you take a seat at any Korean restaurant, the first thing that captures your attention is the assortment of small meals that are presented to you. When you sit down in any Korean household, you will observe that the family hastily arranges dishes that appear to be similar in order to satisfy your hunger before the main course arrives.
Known as banchan, which translates to “side dishes,” these foods constitute the core of Korean cuisine. They are comparable to having a salad to finish off a Bolognese. You are likely familiar with kimchi, which is considered to be one of the most well-known meals in Korea; nevertheless, there is a great deal more to banchan and much more to kimchi than you might realize.
The following is a list of ten delicious Korean side dishes that you can prepare at home or eat at a Korean restaurant on the side of a traditional Korean meal. Each of these banchan comes with a recipe that will assist you in preparing the side dish at home, as well as suggestions for which meals you should match it with to get the most delicious flavor combinations.
You can’t go wrong with a bowl of kimchi, which is a staple in Korean cuisine, when it comes to the best of all Korean side dishes. Even though there are hundreds of different kinds of kimchi, I believe that geotherm is the most delicious of them all. Not to be confused with other varieties of kimchi, which are typically fermented, geotherm is a sort of kimchi that is intended to be consumed in its fresh form.
Many different primary components can be used to make kimchi, and geotherm is not an exception. Baechu geotherm, which is produced with Napa cabbage (also known as Chinese cabbage), is considered to be the best type of geotherm. Although the leaves of napa cabbage (baechu – 배추) are long, they are not excessively thick, and they have a crunchy texture, which makes them ideal for these banchan.
1: Geotjeori 겉절이 – Fresh Kimchi
This Korean side dish may be prepared in a short amount of time and is simple to prepare. It is a versatile accompaniment to a variety of traditional Korean cuisines. It is versatile enough to be consumed with nothing more than a bowl of rice, as a side dish for a bowl of noodles or stew, or with whatever else you like. It is recommended that you consume this side dish within a few days at the most, as it is not used as an ingredient in Korean dishes.
Since geotjeori is not fermented, this particular variety of kimchi does not have the same level of sweetness as other varieties, which acquires a natural sweetness with time. When you are making it, you can add a little bit of sugar or corn syrup if you want it to have a sweeter flavor. Compared to fermented kimchi, geotjeori can have flavors that are more robust and fresher, while also having a lower level of sourness.
This classic Korean side dish pairs exceptionally well with a wide variety of other traditional Korean foods, including kalguksu, Korean barbecue, bossam (pork shoulder slices), kimchi braised ribs (deung ggalbi kimchi-jjim), and many others.
2: Jangjorim 장조림 – Soy Braised Beef
Among the most popular side dishes in Korea, jangjorim is a dish that is made with beef, shisito peppers, garlic, and eggs that are cooked in soy sauce. The beef pieces that are used to make these banchan are boiled in a flavorful soy marinade before being served. Your steamed rice will have the ideal savory bite thanks to the beef, which absorbs all of the ingredients, including the garlicky and herbaceous flavors.
These days, it is not uncommon to find quail eggs in jangjorim. Not only does it contribute additional minerals and protein, but it also helps to balance out the chewiness of the meat and smooth out the saltiness of the sauce. Additionally, it is a favorite among Korean youngsters, and you can find mothers preparing it on a weekly basis for their children’s lunchboxes.
Given that the sauce is made from soy, it may appear to be rather salty; therefore, it is important to ensure that a side dish of jangjorim is balanced with steamed rice and other dishes that are based on vegetables. Jorim is the Korean word for braising, and it is a popular method of preparing side dishes in Korea. Jorim is a type of meal that is prepared by boiling ingredients in a broth that has been seasoned.
3: Ganjang Gejang 간장게장 – Soy Marinated Crabs
4: Pa Kimchi 파김치 – Spring Onion Kimchi
The second kimchi side dish on this list of banchan is pa kimchi, which translates to spring onion or scallion (pa) kimchi. This type of kimchi looks very different from the aforementioned geotjeori and is fermented, not fresh. It still packs the same great spicy taste that you’ll find in other kimchi.
5: Dubu Jorim 두부조림 – Braised Tofu
Dubu jorim is an easy to make side dish of braised tofu that is kid-friendly, vegan-friendly, and can be prepared in under 20 minutes. Similar to the Chinese dish mapo tofu, this simple banchan requires a few thick slices of firm tofu to simmer in a blend of soy sauce, water, black pepper and garlic.
6: Gosari Namul 고사리 나물 – Marinated Fernbrake
Gosari namul is a Korean side dish made from wild fern brake or bracken and seasoned with minced garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Unlike some bracken, which can be poisonous, this version is edible and makes for a healthy addition to a selection of banchan for a traditional Korean meal.
7: Kongnamul Muchim 콩나물 무침 – Marinated Beansprouts
Kongnamul muchim is a refreshing side dish made of marinated beansprouts that’s best served in summer or as an accompaniment to hot winter stews and soups. With its crisp bite and neutral taste, kongnamul muchim is tasty banchan that can be prepared in 10 minutes and goes with any meal.
As this dish contains soybean sprouts, which are an excellent source of antioxidants and calcium, dishes like kongnamul muchim are eaten regularly across Korea. You can find soybean sprouts in a wide range of Korean banchan and main meals as they’re cheap, healthy, and versatile.
8: Baek Kimchi 백김치 – White Kimchi
Baek kimchi, also known as white kimchi, is a version of kimchi that has a clean, refreshing taste and is made without the spicy chili pepper powder that gives regular kimchi its famous kick. Thanks to the lack of spice, this is a popular Korean side dish for children and those who prefer simpler tastes.
As with other fermented kimchi, beak kimchi is made with healthy ingredients all packed with nutrients. However, instead of marinating the cabbage with a red chili pepper marinade, it is salted, sliced, and left to soak in a brine that is made from blending pears, apples, garlic, ginger, and onion.
9: Gyeran Jim 계란찜 – Steamed Eggs
Gyeran jjim is a soft, fluffy Korean side dish of steamed eggs that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as quick snack. The key ingredient in this side dish is gyeran (egg) – sometimes called delayal (달걀) – and the method of cooking it is known as jjim (steaming), hence the name gyeran jjim.
10: Hobak Jeon 호박전 – Zucchini Fritters
Hobak jeon is a popular Korean side dish that can be prepared quickly to accompany any home cooked meal. Hobak is the name given to the group of vegetables that includes pumpkin, squash, and zucchini (courgetti), while jeon is a type of Korean pancake dish that comes in many varieties.