Banchan – Korean side dishes (part 2 of 2)

 

My banchan dinner!

In my previous post I wrote about banchan, aka Korean side dishes and shared some photos made at the Korean supermarkets (I shop at both H Mart and Korea foods @ New Malden, UK) of shelves full of banchan.

Today I want to blog about some of the banchan I actually bought during my supermarket trip. Most of these have already been eaten by the time this blog post gets posted, my meals in the last week mainly consisted of rice and banchan like the one above! Not that I’m complaining of course… 😛

Firstly the most important ones: Kimchi! It would be very unusual not to have any kimchi included in the banchan, it is such a Korean staple dish and a Korean meal without kimchi would just feel incomplete.  The kimchi in the photos below are matt kimchi (sliced kimchi) and cucumber kimchi. Cucumber kimchi is much less punguent than cabbage kimchi, mainly because of the high amount of liquid in cucumbers but also because it is hardly fermented at all. Whilst cabbage kimchi can be stored for months, cucumber kimchi is usually freshly made and eaten within a few days.

 

Another big favourite: fish cake. Fish cake is not a cake at all, but a savoury “thing” made from fish mixed with a starch and flavouring. This mix is sort of rolled into balls, or pounded into a flat sheet and can be boiled, steamed or pan fried. Rice cakes and fish cakes are also often combined together, cooked in a spicy sauce. But my favourite is bokkeum, ie stir fried with chilies. Whenever I buy this I can’t resist eating some before it even reaches the fridge at home!

 

One dish I can make myself, but it saves time to buy is Beef Jang jorim. Beef gets shimmered in a soy flavoured broth until it is tender, almost – but not completely – falling apart. The taste is slightly sweet and salty and it’s ideal for packing in lunch boxes as it can be eaten either hot or cold. Sometimes the beef gets combined with boiled eggs, quail eggs are somehow the best ones, as their creamy center works very well with the jang jorim sauce.

 

I also often buy these banchan. The bright yellow pickles are danmuji, a slightly sweet tasting yellow radish pickle. I love the refreshing crispness of these and always have some in the fridge. It is also an essential ingredient to make gimbap.

The green “sticks” are spicy garlic scape, which is basically garlic stems. I have never used this fresh, but I know that it can be used in a variety of dishes. The banchan I buy is a spicy salad one.

Next to it are some kongjang/kongjaban, soy braised soybeans with a sweet and salty flavour. I have never been a big fan of beans, often they are cooked to a too mushy texture for my liking, but these braised beans are chewy and great to eat with rice.

 

This time I also bought some never tried before banchan. The first is some seasoned pickled sesame leaves. Although these are called sesame leaves, they are actually Perilla leaves and not related to sesame at all, nor do they taste anything remotely sesame. The taste is a bit difficult to describe but slightly sharp and minty with a hint of aniseed. They are often sold as a fresh herb/vegetable in the supermarkets. This seasoned version is very nice to eat with rice on it’s own.

The other green leaves are garlic leaves with soy sauce. I had never seen this before and suspect it is quite a seasonal dish. They tasted very different to what I expected, I thought it would be vaguely garlicky or spring onions related. Instead it reminded me of a honey-mustard dressing, more a Western than Asian flavouring!

 

Lastly some seasoned Gim. Roasted – and often seasoned – seaweed sheets are delicious! It’s great to wrap around food or eat on it’s own as crisps. I included a photo to show how many different variations are on offer, and this is only about a third of the aisle! I usually buy plain roasted ones or seasoned with perilla/sesame, but I have seen versions that are kimchi flavoured or even wasabi! I also noticed that they are slowly infiltrating the crisps aisle of western supermarkets as they are a great – and healthier – alternative to more mainstream crisps!

 

I forgot to take a (single) photo of the spring rolls that are in the main photo, but basically I buy these ready made as well. Not sure if you could really consider them banchan though I have been served them one time as such in a Korean restaurant. 

I hope you enjoyed reading more about banchan. Also, I am curious to hear about your favourite banchan or Korean food, so feel welcome to share in the comments!

Banchan – Korean side dishes (part 1 of 2)

Last week fellow blogger “myeverydayeats” asked me about my favourite Banchan, after I had commented on some that she had bought and blogged about. Her question inspired me to dedicate a blog post about these amazing range of side dishes, and to show you some of my favourite ones.

(This will a very long post, so I will split it in two and post about what I actually bought in a second blog post).

Banchan, or aka Korean side dishes, are an essential part of a Korean meal. They are not just snacks or side dishes, but often can be the meal, together with rice and soup.  Banchan is so important that restaurants are judged by the quality of their banchan—and how often they get refilled. (Unfortunately, here in the UK most restaurants will charge for banchan but luckily, I live close to New Malden where the Korean restaurants will always give you some for free)

Banchan are set in the middle of the table to be shared, and are always served in odd numbers, because even numbers are considered bad luck. Usually, the more formal the meals are, the more banchan there will be.

Korean families typically cook up large batches of these sides to be eaten over the course of the week. Depending on the cooking technique, they can last between 1-2 days (like some of the namul) up to months (most pickles and kimchi). There are endless variations of banchan, but the most common ones served are:

  • Kimchi: fermented vegetables (cabbage, cucumber, radish).
  • Namul: steamed, marinated or stir-fried vegetables usually seasoned with sesame oil, salt, vinegar, minced garlic, chopped green onions, dried chili peppers, and soy sauce.
  • Bokkeum: stif-fried food
  • Jjim: steamed food
  • Jjorim: food simmered in flavoured broth
  • jjeon: variety of pan-fried or pancake food
  • Ganmul: pickled food
  • Salad: this can be anything from simply some iceberg lettuce to korean potato salad
  • Gyeran mari: rolled omelet
  • Gim: seaweed

When I was at the supermarket yesterday (I went to both H mart and Korea Foods), I grabbed some of my favourites but I also made a few photos to show you the huge variety of food available.  Aside from banchan, the supermarkets also sells ready made food that is a meal on itself, like japchae and fried chicken. When I’m lazy or very busy, I often buy some of this and pack that for my lunch, like the supermarket lunch I wrote about in this post.

Loads of different banchan:

Loads of ready made food:

Bibigo had a food stall to promote their new mandu: 맛있어!!

And just to show you the sheer size of ramen options! So many to choose from… 😛

I will write in my next blog post more about the banchan I bought, so keep tuned! Or if you have any questions about the food seen in these photos, please let me know in the comments.

Soup for lunch (Slunch?)

How to call packing soup for lunch? Liquid lunch has a whole different meaning to me 😉 but not sure if Slunch sounds very appetising? I do realise that this lunch doesn’t actually look that appetising either, but that is mainly because I packed the soup (and made the photo) whilst it was cold. It does look – and taste – a lot better once I have heated it up ready for eating.

The soup that I packed is a Korean beef & radish soup called Seogogi-Muguk. I think this soup that is quite often eaten in Korea, as it is easy to make and non spicy. I really like the texture of the cooked radish, it is tender but retains a little bite and the slightly sweet flavour goes well with the beef and other seasoning (soup soy sauce/sesame oil/garlic). For this recipe it’s best to use Korean radish (Mu) but if you can’t find it, it can be replaced by daikon.  I won’t give a recipe here, as there are lots of recipes available online, this one at Maangchi is very easy to follow.

There is some more Korean radish on top of the rice, this is the yellow pickled one called danmuji. And some fruit, but I was a bit in a hurry so didn’t prepare the fruit into a container.

Looking back at the photo, I wish I could make the soup look nicer, but you will just have to believe me, google a recipe and try it out! 🙂

 

Trio of prawns

prawn bentoI do like prawns. Whether they are the tiny brown variety (which I think they call shrimp here in the UK) or the large tiger ones, I think prawns are delicious. Steamed, stir fried, tempura or a prawn cocktail, or added to pasta or soup, it doesn’t really matter how they are prepared, as long as they are not raw! I know that some (better) sushi shops offer a prawn nigiri made with a special prawn variety which I have tried several times, but there is just something in the texture that puts me off. But other than that, bring it on!

I have packed prawns before, some readers might remember the Song of the shrimp (and yes, I am humming the song whilst eating this lunch), or the home made prawn patties. I think that as long as prawns are cooked, it is perfectly safe to pack for lunch, but you might consider packing a cool pack or storing your lunch in the fridge if it’s a warm day. My lunch today was kept in the fridge, and I only reheated part of it in the microwave when I wanted to eat it.

So, which trio of prawn did I pack today? On the left there is some sweet & sour prawn. I bought this ready made at the Korean supermarket, so unfortunately I do not have a recipe. (I would love to find one, as it is delicious, so if any of my readers has made this dish, please feel welcome to share (your link) in the comments). Next to that are two prawn gyoza and two prawn dim sum (I think they are called siu mai). I usually buy these either ready to eat from a sushi shop, or frozen from the Korean supermarket. They can be packed cold and just need a minute or two in a steamer or microwave before eating. There is a little container of soya sauce for dipping, and I decorated with a few pickled danmuji flowers (danmuji = Korean pickled radish).

More flowers, this time vegetable ones, are in the other container, and also some radish and fruit to complete my lunch. I packed it all in my nice new lunch bag, which I was given by a friend (thanks G, I love it and use it daily). I do have a few specific bento bags, for example the one with the lovely Konglish slogan to Enjoy your well being life 🙂 but this new bag is a bit larger so most of my bento boxes fit in it with room to spare for a set of chopsticks/utensils, a small bottle of water, additional tubs/containers with rice, or fruit, or sweets etc.

I don’t know why, but this lunch makes me feel all ready for the Spring/Summer. I guess it’s because it’s quite a light lunch and full of colours, so it just makes me feel all happy and nice! Can’t wait for the berry season to start so that I can add even more colours to my lunches!

 

Dosirakbento

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A little bit of everything and nothing… Actually now I think about it, this is a vegetarian lunch as there is no fish nor meat in it. ..

Made little quail egg sticks with cherry tomato and carrot flowers and added some vegetable spring rolls. Filled up with more vegetables including radish pickles next to the rice and sprinkled that rice with some Perilla furikake. These radish pickles are very different to the ones I normally pack. You might remember seeing very bright yellow pickles in my lunches called danmuji, which is a slightly sweet pickle. The ones I packed in today’s lunch are a bit more savoury and less pickled if that makes sense, but I have forgotten how they are called.

There are a lot of vegetables that can be turned into pickles. So far my favourite are the Korean radish ones but we have just received some golden beetroot in our veg box delivery (our wonky veg one) so I am thinking of turning those into some Japanese pickles too!

I love sprinkling Perilla furikake to my rice as it adds a nice salty type flavour to it. Sometimes I even eat just plain rice with furikake, there are so many different varieties so your rice will always turn out different.  If you’re not familiar with furikake it’s worth looking this up. Basically furikake are Japanese sprinkles/seasoning which can be added to rice. You can find it at most Asian supermarkets, or you could make your own like I did here.

Recently, via another blogger, I learned about a different Japanese ingredient that I want to try out, which is called Mazekomi. Yukino is a blogger who shares her knowledge about cooking healthy Japanese food at home, and if you scroll to the comment section of this blog post, she explains what the difference is between Mazekomi and furikake. To summarise, both add flavour to rice but in a different way. Check out her blog though, the food looks delicious and I love her explanations and how she makes her recipes accessible for the not Japan-based cook!

 

Happy Valentine!

Valentine bento

I know! It has been some time since my last post but I thought today would be a great date to restart blogging again.

Today is actually 3 years ago that I started this blog, and a lot has changed. I can remember how totally obsessed I was with making bento during the first months, I bought loads and loads of bento stuff and spent so much time creating them. Since then my focus has shifted, I discovered cake decorating and a lot of my free time was taken up with that instead of making dosirak/bento. So sometimes I blogged about my cakes instead. Or took some time of blogging because I felt uninspired, my lunches were boring or life got in the way.

Anyway, 3 years later, I’m still there and although I don’t want to make any promises about how often I will blog or how active I will be be, but it’s good to be back again. I would also like to thank again all my readers, followers and people who comment. It always surprises me that even when I don’t have anything new to show, my blog is still being seen and liked.

So this Valentine Day inspired dosirakbento today is to show my love for all of of you! 🙂

In the box at the back, there is some pink sushi rice, which I tried to shape in a heart but not totally successful…, with heart shaped vegetables. The box in the front has some Korean meatballs, and more of the pink rice and heart shaped veggies. And I love how the beet slices are bleeding a bit onto the radish, this was not planned, but it does look very pretty!

The Korean meatballs are my own invention, I used some beef mince and mixed that with Gochujang, soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil before shaping that into small meatballs and frying. They are great to pack into boxes and freeze well, so I made a batch to use in the coming weeks.

I hope that you have a lovely Valentine’s Day, and here are a few links to some of my previous posts that highlight (my) LOVE (for food)!

A cute boy loves girl bento made from onigiri.

I had my first blog anniversary and remade my Bunnies in Love.

Who says eggs are boring? These lovebirds were created with eggs.

And cake can be turned into love too, as these halloween pumpkin wedding couple prove.

 

Sundubu Jjigae

Some more Korean comfort food, Sundubu Jjigae or aka Spicy Tofu Stew!

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I love this stew! So nice and comforting, especially now it is getting colder.

There are lots of different versions of this stew, with seafood (my favourite one) or with kimchi and pork, but they will all have this lovely soft dubu (tofu) in it which gives it an amazing creamy-melt-in-the-mouth texture. Hyosun on Korean Bapsang posted recently a very interesting white variation which had Perilla seeds. I quite like perilla but am often not sure how to use it, so her recipe is on my list to try out. A good recipe for the classic seafood version can be found on Maangchi, and she shows how to make the soup-broth-stock base for it.

I actually cheat a bit and use this packet:

wp-1479421800474.jpgI buy these at the Korean supermarket – where they even sell an instant version of sundubu jjigae (which is quite ok actually) – together with the soft dubu. I can’t read the instructions on the packet, but I just put it in a pan, add some water to it and some seafood and veggies.

This time I used mini corn, crab sticks and spring onion. Sometimes I also poach an egg in the stew just before serving, but that doesn’t really work for a packed lunch. This lunch was packed in my Ms Bento set, which is supposed to keep it warm until lunch time. Unfortunately, it had cooled down a bit though, but luckily only needed a quick minute in the microwave to become piping hot again. I always eat rice with this stew, and the other container had some spice garlic scape and cucumber.

Bibimbap Hetbahn cup

Do you remember that I bought some instant Hetbahn cups at the Korean supermarket? Well, I tried some and they turned out to be pretty good. Actually much better than expected 🙂

The one I tried was the assorted vegetables Bibimbap. Bibimbap is mixed rice with vegetables, and I usually eat mine mixed in a hot stone bowl (a dolsot) so that you get some nice crusty rice. Of course that was not possible with this instant meal, but taste wise it was quite good. The Hetbahn cup consists of a pack of rice, some gochujang sauce and sesame oil and a packet of (vacuum packed) vegetables. It even comes with a little spoon.

Basically you heat up the rice in the microwave and add it to the cup before adding the other ingredients. I was surprised how good the vegetables were (carrot, beansprout and mushroom), they tasted really fresh although I do think it could benefit from some green vegetables like cucumber, courgette or spinach. But maybe these are not so suitable for vacuum packing?  The sesame oil and gochujang sacue were quite generous in quantity, you could adept it to suit your taste.

It is quite a small portion of rice though, compared to my usual bowl of Bibimbap this Hetbahncup was tiny. But a very tasty  and quick snack/lunch solution when you’re craving Korean food and can’t pack/make your own.

Korean supermarket lunch

imageAs I mentioned in my previous post, life is a bit busy at the moment, and I haven’t packed a lot of lunches to blog about. Fortunately for me, I live very close to some large Korean supermarkets, Koreafoods and H Mart in New Malden.

So today’s lunch is packed with courtesy of the ready made food counter of H mart! The container on the left has Japchae – stir fried potato starch noodles with vegetables and sesame/soy flavouring.  This version at the supermarket doesn’t have any beef in it, so the other container holds spicy chicken. So delicious!  There are some tomato pieces in the last container to add a bit of health to this lunch..

Whilst I was at H mart, I saw these instant Hetbahn Cupbahn instant rice bowls from CJ. CJ Cheiljedang  is a huge Korean food producer (among other), and brands include Beksul, Bibigo, CJ Hat Kimchi, DASIDA and Haechandle. I think that here in the UK, Bibigo is the most well known as they have also several restaurants in central London. Bibigo food products were originally created only to be exported, to spread Korean cuisine around the world, but it became so popular that it is now sold in Korea itself as well.

imageAnyway, to go back to these Hetbahn cupbahn rice bowls… apparently “bahn” is a traditional way of saying “bap = rice”, meaning main meal. As I will be away on a course for the next two weeks, I thought to try out a few. There were different flavours, but I choose the assorted vegetables bibimbap and soft tofu stew ones as these are some of my favourite korean dishes.

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I also bought some instant ramen. I know, not very healthy! But I won’t be able to prepare proper food for myself and I don’t want to have to go out for dinner every evening. Plus…secretly… I quite like instant ramen… it always reminds me of Korean dramas. Everyone in Korean dramas seems to eat ramen, usually bought and heated up at the local supermarket and topped up with some processed cheese. Not sure about the processed cheese…. but I will update on how the Hetbah cupbahn turn out!

Take care and let me know if you have any favourite instant Korean food!

Put some colour in your lunch!

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In my Miffy Bento post I referred to one of my favourite blogs Bunnyeatsdesign. Aside from blogging about her very photogenic rabbit Tofu, great recipes and other food related stuff, Genie also coordinates the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge.

You can read all about it here, but basically it’s a way to share with and inspire other food bloggers. The theme changes monthly and for August it is work day eating, so I thought to cheer up the start of the working week with a colourful lunch 🙂

In my lunch today I have covered the rice with loads of veggies like carrots, sugar snaps, broccoli and mini corn. The meat is soy marinated beef, it is called Jangjorim and very easy to make. Maangchi has a great recipe and also some examples on how to pack it in dosirak. My version didn’t have the eggs but next time I will make them with it as they are delicious as well.

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Cheryl at Businesschic

 

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