No Korean meal would be complete without banchan or a variety of side dishes included with every meal. If you’ve eaten at a Korean restaurant you’ll notice they bring out a myriad of tiny dishes from kimchi (pickled, spicy cabbage or radish) to rice, to mini omelettes filled with green onion. When Robert first took me to a traditional Korean restaurant, I was so excited by all the free food that I decided if I ever became homeless, I would go to a Korean restaurant and order the cheapest thing on the menu and live on the banchan. No doubt this would be frowned upon, but everyone needs a Plan B right?
I will never have time to prepare the number of banchan restaurants do, so I’ve limited our Korean night to Robert’s three favorites: Kongnamul-muchim (marinated bean sprouts), Hobak Jeon (pan-fried zucchini) and Sigeumchi-namul (seasoned, pan fried spinach). Of course, no Asian meal would be complete without rice, so I include steamed basmati rice with our meal. I use basmati because it is much lower on the Glycemic Index than other, more glutinous types of rice. Traditionally, Koreans use sushi rice because of its sticky properties.
Next you’ll prepare your banchan:
Kongnamul-muchim (Marinated Bean Sprouts)
- About a 7 ounce package of fresh bean sprouts (I use Jonathan’s Sprouts)
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon of fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
- Bring pot of water to boil with 1/2 teaspoon of salt added. Once boiling add the bean sprouts and cook for about 5-7 minutes on medium high heat.
- While bean sprouts are cooking, mix together the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl to create the marinade.
- Drain the bean sprouts and rinse with cold water. Make sure they are well drained and then add to the marinade and mix well.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Hobak-Jeon (GF Pan Fried Zucchini)
- 1 zucchini
- 1/4-1/3 cup of GF flour of choice (I use Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose GF Flour)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Salt (I use Redmond Real Salt)
- Oil for frying
- 2 Tablespoons on GF soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon of rice vinegar
- Slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch thick slices and lay in a single layer on a plate or cutting board. Lightly sprinkle the slices with salt and allow the zucchini to pickle for about 5-7 minutes. Once you see beads of moisture forming on the zucchini and the slices bend easily, they are ready for coating.
- Measure the flour into a small bowl and mix about a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt in. Place the beaten egg in another small bowl in preparation for coating the zucchini slices.
- Cover each side of the zucchini slices with flour and set aside.
- Begin to heat a medium sized skillet and add cooking oil. I use good quality olive oil.
- Lightly dredge the zucchini slices in the egg and then place in the skillet. You will need to fry the slices in batches as you don’t want to overcrowd the pan.
- Let the slices cook on one side until golden brown. The easiest way to see if they are ready is to check underneath one slice.
- Flip the slices to the opposite side and let cook another 1-2 minutes until golden brown. The second side takes less time to cook than the first.
- Remove the cooked slices and then put in a new set and continue until finished.
- Mix together the dipping sauce.
- Serve warm with dipping sauce.
Sigeumchi-Namul (Seasoned, Pan Fried Spinach)
Note: Traditionally you would steam the spinach and then add all the other ingredients, but I find it much easier to just saute everything together in one pan.
- 5 ounce package of fresh, organic spinach
- Salt to taste
- Oil of choice for sauteing
- Sesame oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- 1 green onion, sliced
- Heat medium sized pan with oil and add minced garlic. Cook garlic until tender.
- Add spinach to pan and salt to taste. Saute until wilted.
- Turn off burner and lightly drizzle with sesame oil.
- Transfer spinach to serving bowl and garnish with green onion and sesame seeds.