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!

 

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.

Chasing away the rainy Monday Blues…

A cold, grey and wet Monday. Some days I just want to stay in bed! Obviously only with the remote control within reaching distance and copious amounts of tea, biscuits and other goodies 😀…

Unfortunately staying in bed was not an option today so I consoled myself with the second best alternative: comforting Korean food. 

Regular readers will know how much I love Dolsot Bibimbap so what better way to chase away my rainy Monday Blues than treating myself to a lunch out!

A lovely comforting bowl full of rice, veggies, beef and egg crisping up. Spicy gochujang sauce for that extra kick. Some soup and side dishes, the kimchi side will help combat any cold and sniffles the rain might bring on. 

Am feeling much better already 😊

Do you have any food favourites to combat the Monday Blues?

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!

Asadal

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I don’t often write about Korean restaurants. Mainly that’s because I actually don’t go to them that often and when I do, I usually go for a quick lunch and order a dolsot bibimbap.

However, this week, I didn’t make myself a packed lunch to write about, and I had recently been with friends to Asadal in Central London, so I thought to share this photo of our table full of delicious Korean food!

There are mandu, kimchi set, namul set, kimchi jeon, pajeon, japchae, kappongi (korean fried chicken) and teokbokki. And that was just starters!  We always tend to order loads of dishes to share before ordering our main dish – yep even after all this there is usually still space for a main 😛

I love the sundubu jjiggae at Asadal, and usually order that as main dish but I forgot to make a photo this time. Good reason to go again soon….

 

Name: Asadal

Address: 227 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7DA

Phone: 0207 430 9006

Webhttp://www.asadal.co.uk/

Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday noon-15.00 and 18.00-23.00. Sunday 18.00-22.30

 

Asian seafood soup

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Packed an Asian inspired sea food soup for my lunch.

I did not follow any recipe, just made a basic fish stock with some fish stock granules, dried anchovies and miso. Added some more flavour with fish sauce and soup soy sauce (Guk Ganjang) and wakame. Further filled it with carrot, leek and mini corn and of course sea food.  I used tiger prawns, crabsticks, mixed seafood (octopus, mussels, prawns) and some crab fish balls that I had cut up in smaller pieces.

Very easy and delicious.

The fruit is Korean melon. Never tried it before, but it was smelling so delicious so thought to give it a try.

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To be honest, it was a bit disappointing as the taste didn’t live up to the promising smell. Based on that, I was expecting it to taste like a cantaloupe, maybe even sweeter, but instead the flavour was very light, more like a pear than a melon.  It has a very thin rind, and the texture is very crisp, quite juicy, refreshing and nice but just not what I expected! Was good to try out though 🙂