Korean Banchan: Perfect Summer Salads

After a Summer of barbecued ribs, 'slaws, and gentle - but inactive - swaying in the office hammock, it's time to get some greens back on the menu. At such nutrient hungry times, Korea is our go-to country for recipe ideas - few cuisines includes so many different vegetable dishes as part of the daily meal. The flavours are fresh, simple, light, and spicy - food to feel good after.

These Korean 'banchan' or vegetable dishes tend to be thought of as side dishes, even though they might take up most of the table at a dinner. They include cooked or wilted vegetables (namul), raw vegetables (sangchae), soups (guk), and kimchi, the famous spicy and fermented cabbage condiment. Because many of the banchan are served cold, rather than preparing many for a meal at once, a couple of banchan might be prepared each day, and then enjoyed in small portions over several days.

The flavours are fresh, simple, light, and spicy – food to feel good after.
Each dish tends to include one seasonal vegetable, along with a combination of sesame oil, raw garlic, spring onions, Korean red pepper powder (gochugaru), rice vinegar, and sesame seeds. A simple meal might include a number of cold banchan, along with a bowl of hot steamed rice. Some of our favourite cold Korean banchan recipes are below:
  • Kimchi Recipe - If kimchi isn't served as a side dish, then it's certainly not a Korean meal! Kimchi is a deliciously fizzy combination of cabbage, fermented with anchovy sauce, and Korean red pepper powder. You'll need to prepare this a few days ahead.
  • Daikon Sangchae Recipe - Julienned daikon radish, lightly pickled with rice vinegar, sugar, and Korean red pepper powder.
  • Cucumber Sangchae Recipe - Ribbons of cucumber tossed with a zesty dressing of garlic, hot pepper paste, and rice vinegar.
  • Spinach Namul Recipe - Our favourite way to serve spinach; lightly steamed, and then chilled, and tossed in garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil.
  • Broccoli Namul Recipe - Steamed broccoli, tossed with a sweet, spicy dressing.

Plus, perhaps the most unusual is Gajinaengguk - a cold, steamed and vinegared aubergine soup, not dissimilar to a gazpacho. This recipe is from our favourite Korean youtube star Maangchi - enjoy!


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