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  • Writer's pictureDavid Cheung

What is Banchan?

Banchan is an essential element of Korean cuisine that you'll encounter at almost every meal. It's a collection of small dishes, typically served in groups of three or more, and is designed to accompany the main dish. Banchan provides a diverse range of flavours and textures, giving diners a chance to sample a variety of different foods.

The word "banchan" means "side dish" in Korean, and the dishes themselves can vary depending on the region, season, and restaurant. However, some common banchan dishes include kimchi, pickled vegetables, marinated tofu, bean sprouts, seaweed salad, and fish cakes.

Korean cuisine has a long history of fermentation, which is reflected in many banchan dishes. Kimchi, a spicy fermented cabbage dish, is perhaps the most famous example of this. However, there are many other types of fermented foods that can be found in banchan, including fermented soybean paste and pickled radishes.

Banchan is usually served in small dishes and placed on the table for everyone to share. The idea is to sample a little of everything and enjoy the variety of flavours and textures. It's also common for banchan to be replenished throughout the meal, so don't be afraid to ask for more if you find a dish you really enjoy.

In addition to being delicious, banchan also has some health benefits. Many banchan dishes are low in calories and high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. They can help to balance out a meal that might otherwise be heavy in meat or rice.

If you're traveling to South Korea, trying banchan is a must. It's a fundamental part of Korean cuisine and an essential element of the dining experience. Many Korean restaurants offer a variety of banchan dishes with their meals, so you're sure to find something you enjoy.

When trying banchan for the first time, keep an open mind and be willing to try new things. You might find that you enjoy dishes you never thought you would. And don't be afraid to ask your server for recommendations or to explain unfamiliar dishes.

In conclusion, banchan is a vital component of Korean cuisine and provides a unique and flavourful experience for diners. By sampling a variety of banchan dishes, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for Korean cuisine and culture. So, be sure to try some banchan during your trip to South Korea!


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