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.

Many sides make a main

bento sidedishesThis weekend I looked in my fridge/cupboard and there were quite a lot of ingredients that needed to be used within the next couple of days, so I decided to make lots of side dishes to pack for my lunches this week.

The side dishes I made are all Korean (banchan);

  • Some Gamja Jorim (potato side dish, which I have made before) sprinkled with sesame seeds
  • Crispy tofu cubes, marinated in soy sauce/sesame oil and oven baked. I accidentally over baked them and they are very very crispy! But still nice 🙂
  • Oi-muchim: spicy cucumber salad, I used this recipe from Maangchi, only omitted the onion and replaced that with more green onion instead
  • A few Jang Jorim: quail eggs simmer in soy sauce (I always use this recipe) which are resting on a pickled radish/carrot salad.

Jorim is a Korean name for a type of cooking which means, “food in a boiled-down soy sauce or other seasonings”, and it makes for very tasty food but unfortunately it does make everything look rather “brown”. Because of that (and also to avoid mixing the “wet dishes”), I packed my lunch in this box which has colourful compartments and a leak-proof lid. I also used lots of food picks and added a few melon balls, both for colour and for some refreshing sweetness.

I won’t need to prepare more food for this week’s lunches so I can focus on my bakes for class (see previous post) 😉

 

A rose to mask my smelly lunch…

a smelly lunch with cucumber kimchi

Kimchi is Korea’s national dish and it will be eaten with (almost) every meal in one form or another. Kimchi is made by fermenting vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage or radish. It’s packed full of flavour, low in calories, helps boost metabolism, and contains immune- and digestion-boosting probiotics.

Kimchi can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a side dish (banchan), or as an ingredient for cooking like in kimchi fried rice, kimchi stew or kimchi pancake.

If you like spicy, strong and pungent flavours, you might like Kimchi, but be warned, it is very smelly!

I do like Kimchi and eat it regularly, but I don’t pack it very often in my lunch box because of the smell. I work in a small office, in an old building with bad ventilation, and we don’t have a separate room to eat our lunch. So although my colleagues are often quite interested in the contents of my lunch box, I don’t want to have them (and me) working in a room invaded by Kimchi smells!

It’s is not that difficult to make kimchi at home, every family will have it’s own recipe (allegedly there are over 180 different kimchi varieties) and Maangchi has some great recipes and also a video which answers a lot of Kimchi questions (here). But as said, be prepared for the smell…

It’s so strong that it’s no surprise there are special Kimchi fridges. Based on my limited and recent knowledge gained while watching K-drama (which is of course not the most realistic representation of Korean life…) possession of a kimchi fridge is the ultimate dream of a “proper” Korean housewife…  (But  I am happy to be corrected on this by someone with proper knowledge of Korean life). Apparently these special fridges offer not only the special storing conditions to properly ferment the kimchi, but they also keep the smell separate from your other food!

So instead of bringing Kimchi to the office, the above plate shows my lunch at home. The cucumber kimchi is shop bought and so is the Musaengchae (radish banchan). Lots of cherry tomatoes and plain cucumber to counteract the kimchi (actually cucumber kimchi is pretty mild because of the high water content of cucumber – compared to cabbage kimchi – but it’s still very smelly), plus some carrot bits and cress. There are also the end bits of a Korean omelet which I prepared for lunches later (I freeze part of it in portions)

Obviously, the single rose can’t mask the smell at all, but I had just bought some roses and was sad to discover one stem had broken. Luckily the stem was still long enough to pop into a small vase, which looks cute next to my plate.

First time potato Dosirak!

Actually there are 2 firsts in this Dosirak!

It’s the first time that I have included potato for my lunch & it’s the first time that I made this potato side dish: Gamjajorim!

dosirak bento lunch with gamjajorim potato side dish

Gamjajorim is a potato side dish, it can be eaten warm, tepid or cold and once made, keeps for a few days if stored in the fridge. The best potatoes to use are firm, waxy ones, as these keep their shape better. Also, make sure that you cut the potato cubes the same size to ensure even cooking.

Recipes can be found here at Maangchi or at Aeri’s Kitchen , they are both very similar. Maangchi uses olive oil though and adds onion. I wasn’t sure about olive oil, so I substituted this for sunflower oil as I think the taste is better suited. I also left out the onion and followed the quantities in Aeri’s recipe for the corn syrup.

Here it is, freshly made:

gamjajorim korean potato side dish

I prepared this yesterday, so this morning I only had to add the other elements, which are some sweet chicken pieces, salad, carrot, radish and some corn on the cob. I also added 2 apricots.

It all just fitted in my lunch box, it’s a good thing the lid of  this box closes very tightly…

Will definitely make Gamjajorim again, it’s very easy and delicious!

Lazy Dosirak zzzz

Lazy bento dosirak banchan dishes zzz

 Zzz…

A very quick and easy to make Dosirak as I used the same side dishes as for my Tour de France lunch,

so that’s why I call this a lazy Dosirak!

The only extra effort I made was adding a few cucumber hearts, some radishes and of course some carrot ZZZ’sss

The side dishes are:

Sookju namul (beansprout salad)

Odeng bokkum (spicy fish cake)

Musangche (radish salad)

Congjaban (sweet and salty soybeans)

Tour de France!

After Football & Wimbledon, it’s now time for the Tour de France!

bento dosirak lunch tour de france nori bike yellow and red polka dot jersey

You might all be thinking I’m a big sports person, but nothing could be further from the truth! I’m not sportive at all, contrary, I’m actually very lazy, and I don’t watch much sport either, aside from occasionally rugby or tennis or when the Olympics were in London (in 2012).

But I do find some of the events a good inspiration to be a bit more creative with my lunches. As you might have noticed I’m trying on my blog to show a mix of work day lunchboxes (which don’t take a lot of time to put together, max 15-20 minutes) and creative lunches (on days when I have more time and/or inspiration).

In this case,  the most time consuming was cutting out the bike (I used the same nori sheet technique as with the Wimbledon tennis racket) and making egg sheets for the Yellow and Polka Dot Jerseys. The polka dots are cut out from radish.

Side dishes are (from left to right):

Sookju namul (beansprout salad), Odeng bokkum (spicy fish cake), Musangche (radish salad), some edamame beans and Congjaban (sweet and salty soybeans). With the exception of the Sookju namul, the others are bought ready made at the Korean supermarket. I did make the Sookju namul myself, it’s very simple, I had just forgotten how long it takes to properly clean beansprouts!

Sookju namul (beansprout salad):

1 bag of bean sprouts (I forgot to look how much it weighted, I think about 750 gram uncleaned), wash and clean. After cleaning you are left with about 500 gram.

Boil the bean sprouts for 3-4 minutes in salted water & drain well.

Mix with: 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1-2 finely chopped spring onion, 1 tbsp sesame seeds.

 

 

 

Dosirak

A Korean meal is never complete without Banchan. Banchan are small side dishes, which are served alongside the main dish, soup and rice, and are shared together. Normally a minimum of 3 banchan are served, but at elaborate meals this can be much more.

The most commonly known Banchan is Kimchi, a fermented, spicy vegetable dish, mostly made with cabbage but there are also lots of other varieties with for example cucumber or radish.

There are a lot of different Banchan recipes available on the internet, some good ones can be found on Maangchi

Another well known Korean dish is Bulgogi, marinated meat which is sliced very thinly and grilled.

My Dosirak today consists of beef Bulgogi and several Banchan:

Dosirak Bento Korean Banchan Bulgogi

 

Clockwise from left above: cucumber & pickled radish slices, cherry tomatoes with pickled radish, beef Bulgogi with some cucumber star decoration, beansprouts banchan, spicy cucumbers banchan and  some rice flowers on carrot banchan  salad.

I made the carrot banchan myself, it’s very simple, just julienned carrot which is shortly fried with some sesame oil. The other two banchan are bought at the Korean supermarket.

 

 

Thanks

Today is one month since I started to blog about the lunches I make for myself. And although I initially started this blog as a diary to keep track of my creations, I have since been, well, kind of addicted to blogging and “dosirakbentoing….”

(Almost) the first thing I do when I wake up is opening my WordPress app to see what’s happening in blogland. Not only to see whether I have more likes, comments or followers, but also to see what others have been posting.

There are so many funny, inspiring, amazing blogs out there and I have been learning a lot by reading (and shamelessly copying ideas from) other Bento blogs. But not all blogs that I read are Bento (or food) related, I know that my blogroll shows mainly these kind of blogs, but I’ve been dipping in & out various other blogs as well, and follow some blogs elsewhere.

With my simple, 1 month old,  Dosirakbento blog, I sometimes feel very humble by the stories that other people share and comments made by their readers. But not humble enough to not enjoy blogging & receiving positive feedback :-). It’s great to get likes, receive comments and gain followers. I know I have only started, but this kind of interaction is very encouraging, so I hope to continue blogging for a long time.

Anyway, to mark my first anniversary, I thought to make a “Thanks Dosirak”: Thanks to all bloggers for your inspiration & thanks for those who read /follow my blog.

Thanks-dosirak

A special thanks goes to Harsh Reality /Opiniated Man, he was my first follower, and being new in Blogland I was a bit like, EEK, help, what do I do now! So, being a newbie and not yet knowing about blog courtesy, I totally ignored him and just started strutting my stuff.  It took some time to register that it would actually be polite to at least pay a return visit, so I started to read an post now and then, and now I’m hooked. Not only did he recently offer a platform for other bloggers to promote themselves (see here)  and offers guests the opportunity to post on his blog, his own posts are funny, and clever, sometimes challenging, or thought provoking, they can be touching and sad, but they all are very real and definitely opinionated. Plus  he offers some sound advice to beginning bloggers. Not so sure though about his so called random relationship advice…..

In the Dosirak some banchan (radish, carrot and broccoli side dishes), salmon and haemul panjeon (seafood pancake) plus rice & nori. The letters are made with eggsheet. Because this bento is not completely water tight, I wrap some clingfilm around the top compartment before putting the inner lid on. The banchan still have some liquid in it, and that way, I make sure it won’t leak all over my things when transporting. 

 

Dosirakbento

20140225-110001.jpg

Another dosirakbento, ie a mix of Korean and Japanese food.

The box in the front has again Korean radish salad in it (see also the lunch I made last Friday), some cherry tomatoes and a green onion cracker.

The box at the back has a layer of rice, I tried to cube it, but it doesn’t show up very clearly in the picture. I am making the pictures with my phone camera, and the lightning in my kitchen isn’t always great so I am struggling sometimes to make good pictures.

On top of the rice, on 1 side some Perilla furikake and on the other side Salmon furikake. I made the salmon furikake using this recipe from JustBento. The colour is slightly lighter in real life than in the picture. The Salmon furikake is made in advance, and frozen in little 2 portions tubs.

Because almost everything is made in advance, it only takes a few minutes to put together. I put the still frozen Salmon furikake on the hot rice, it helps to cool down the rice & the heat of the rice defrosts the furikake.

The lunchbox is bought at the Korean supermarket, I have noticed that they seem to stock more and more household products (H-mart), including some (cute) lunch boxes. This one is quite small, probably aimed for a child (also because of the design, it has Pororo the little penguin on it. Apparently this is a Korean children’s cartoon). I will have to see if I can make another dosirak based on this penguin….