Globally, every culture has something special about their dishes, such as the way they are presented and eaten. Sides dishes tend to vary across cultures, although some seem to be mandatory in a way, found in every meal to make it feel and seem more complete. Many meals come with a side along with the entree, but is there a limit to these side dishes? Korean meals seem to not have one, their spread being proportioned with a little of everything, making every meal seem like a feast!
Banchan (반찬), meaning “side dish” in Korean, refers to one small dish or a collective of other small dishes. The number of side dishes can range from three to twelve, twelve being considered royal cuisine. Rice is an obvious main side dish in every Korean meal, and every other side is all up to the one eating. These side dishes are commonly found in each Korean meal, while others can be seen here and there.
Kimchi, the most popular side dish, comes in different varieties including radish, cucumber, cabbage, and mustard leaf (gat); giving your meal a hint of spiciness. Without the side of kimchi, your meal will feel empty and incomplete! When do you see a Korean meal without kimchi? An absolute rare sight!
A dipping sauce made from vinegar and soy sauce, choganjang is usually served along with jeon (Korean pancakes) or dumplings. Cho means “vinegar,” and ganjang means “soy sauce”—the ingredients are right in the name!
This garlic chive salad is very popular in the southern provinces in Korea. It’s fresh and spicy, giving off an onion-and-garlic flavour. This salad goes great with meat dishes; it helps balance out the gamey taste and odor, leaving your taste buds feeling refreshed!
Seasoned bean sprouts tend to be mildly seasoned with the addition of gochugaru (red chili pepper flakes) and soy sauce for a small kick. When making this side dish, it’s important to not overcook the bean sprouts, in order to keep the crunchy texture.
A cabbage and soybean paste soup is also a favourite when it comes to side dishes. This soup can be made from any vegetable including radishes, spinach, and any others that come to mind. Soups are eaten year-round in Korea, so this side dish is perfect for any day.
Having these dishes along with your meals are sure to make an ordinary meal seem like a feast. Yet they are easy to make and even easier to enjoy, having these dishes will not only make you but everyone else happy, a bit of something for everyone! Which side dish do you want to add to your meal?
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Written by Andrea Villarreal