What is Banchan (Korean Side Dishes)?

Table of Contents

Introduction to Korean Banchan

The Korean Banchan or Bapsang is the collective name for Korean side dishes served alongside the Korean cuisine. 

Banchan are set in the middle of the table and are to be shared. At the center of the table is the secondary main course, such as galbi or bulgogi, and a shared pot of jjigae. Bowls of cooked rice and guk (soup) are set individually. Banchan are served in small portions, meant to be finished at each meal and are replenished during the meal if not enough. Usually, the more formal the meals are, the more banchan there will be.

The most amazing thing about Korean restaurants is the variety of side dishes that they offer alongside a meal.  Small plates of banchan which are light and not too greasy will help to boost your appetite and help you find the perfect palette for your taste.

Most Popular Types of Korean Banchan

Photo: KoreanBapSang.com

Kong Namul (Bean Sprouts)

Kongnamul is mainly composed of cooked bean sprouts and sesame oil. There are different variations of kongnamul. The most frequently eaten is a spicy variation. It is extremely common in both Korean cooking and banchan.

Photo: Korean Bapsang

Gaji Namul (Eggplant)

This dish is also known as gaji namul in Korea and is a staple side dish that’s super easy to make. The dish consists of steamed eggplants seasoned with sesame oil and seeds.

Photo: Ahnesty

Gim (Dried Seaweed Laver)

Gim is one of the popular side dishes offered at Korean restaurants,  it is a thin paper like dried laver or seaweed which is usually eaten with rice. It is rich in calcium, vitamins and carotenes, packed with mineral salts and iron the dish goes well with rice and grilled meat.

Photo: Marina Oh Kitchen

Musaengchae (Sweet & Sour Carrot Salad)

Tossed in both sweet and sour flavors, the dish is a popular Korean side dish. It is usually made spicy with chili flakes and red pepper. Various other seasonings like garlic and saewoojeot are also added. The final product is a crunchy side dish that will keep you asking for more.

Hobak bokkeum (Stir Fried Zucchini)

Diced carefully and seasoned with shrimp fish sauce this dish goes very well with meat dishes such as bolgugi and kalbi. Sometimes hobak bokkeum is also topped with sesame seeds.

Photo: Ryu Koch

Sigeumchi Namul (Korean Spinach Side Dish)

Sigeumchi namul is an easy Korean side dish (banchan) made with spinach.

Sigeumchi namul is a simple Korean side dish (banchan) made with spinach. Namul is the general term that refers to a seasoned vegetable dish, and sigeumchi means spinach in Korean.

Kimchi (Spicy Fermented Cabbage)

Kimchi is a staple Korean cuisine served as a side dish with almost every Korean main course meal. It typically includes napa cabbage and Korean radishes that are generally seasoned with ginger, garlic and chili powder. This satisfyingly spiced and sour cabbage makes a great complement with all the grilled meats.

Photo: Asian Inspirations Australia

Oi Muchim (Spicy Seasoned Cucumber Pickles)

Oiji muchim is a simple side dish made with Korean cucumber pickles! Fermented simply in salt water, oiji is a traditional way to preserve cucumbers beyond their growing season. During fermentation, a deep tangy flavor develops, the color turns golden yellow, and the texture becomes crunchy and slightly chewy. Oiji is a staple in Korean cuisine.

Photo: Korean Bapsang

Sukju Namul (Seasoned Mung Bean Sprouts)

A simple Korean side dish made by briefly blanching and seasoning bean sprouts.  The cooking method and seasonings for this dish are very similar to its soybean counterpart. The most notable difference is that because mung bean sprouts don’t actually have the bean parts, they take less time to cook. Also, they contain a much higher water content.

Korean Bapsang

Sesame Broccoli

Blanch (or steam) the broccoli, dress it with generous amounts of sesame oil and sesame seeds, and season with salt. There you have it – a delicious side dish that’s nutty, crunchy, and delicious! Eat your broccoli!


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