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Banchan - Korean Small Dishes

Banchan - Korean Small Dishes
At Korean restaurants, tables are usually provided with small plates called "banchan" alongside their main meal and bowls of rice. These complimentary portions of food are shared between everyone at a table, unlike the individual bowls of rice and soup. Fortunately, most restaurants refill banchan. The variety of banchan provided by restaurants varies between restaurants, but several small plates appear consistently.

Jangajji
Jangajji is a term for pickled vegetables, most commonly daikon or garlic. It is believed that pickling in Korean culture originated from the need to preserve vegetable rations in winter. Slices of dried or salted vegetables are left to marinate or pickle in Korean soy sauce, chili paste, or vinegar. They are then seasoned with sesame oil or sesame seeds to serve as banchan. Other possible pickled vegetables include cucumber, onion and mint leaves.

Namul
Namul, or muchim, refers to seasoned vegetables in Korean cuisine and essentially any vegetable can be used to create the small plate. There isn't one specific seasoning used in namul, but sesame oil, chili paste and vinegar are often preferred. The vegetables can also be blanched, steamed or fermented before the seasoning process. Popular vegetables to prepare as namul include bean sprouts, eggplant and spinach.

Jorim
Jorim describes braised vegetables, meat and tofu in a sauce. To cook the small plate, the ingredients are left to simmer in a thick broth. The sauce can vary between different recipes, but soy sauce is generally added in jorim dishes. Jorim with lotus roots is an interesting take on the banchan, as it creates a sweet hint to counter the pungent taste of soy sauce. Other variations of jorim are dubu jorim - a braised tofu dish - and algamja jorim - a sweet and savoury dish of braised baby potatoes.

Bokkeum
Bokkeum is a Korean small plate of stir-fried vegetables or meat, served in a thick sauce. Bokkeum can be made with seafood, mushrooms, beef or even offal. The dish can also be enjoyed with Korean-styled fried rice, called bokkeumbap. Myeolchi bokkeum, or dried stir-fried anchovies, makes the dish perfect for a salty snack before the main course!

Jeon
Though less flavourful than other Korean small plates, jeon is just as tasty. Jeon refers to savoury pancakes made of a variety of ingredients, including seafood, mushrooms and even buckwheat. Although they are usually served as a savoury dish, they can be made sweet with the addition of mung bean or sweet potato. Jeon is mostly considered to be banchan, but is also eaten as an appetiser before the main meal. 

Kimchi
One of the most famous delicacies to originate from Korea is kimchi, a dish of fermented and seasoned vegetables. The vegetables are marinated in a ginger, garlic, sugar, daikon and a plethora of strongly flavoured ingredients. People are most familiar with the cabbage kimchi, or baechu kimchi, which can be bought pre-prepared in a small container. However, there are plenty of other kimchi variations that often go unappreciated, such as daikon kimchi and water radish kimchi. Kimchi is best served with a meal of rice and meat, but can be combined with anything to balance out its spicy sourness. 

Try our delicious and quick Korean kimchi soup for your Kimchi-loving soul!

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