Korean cuisine is known for its assortment of side dishes known as 'Banchan' - small, flavorful dishes that are comparable to the Spanish Tapas in their diversity in colors and flavors.
Korean food is incredibly varied, from the meat-centric delights of KBBQ to the delicate and mindful vegan creations of Korean Buddhist Temple Food (사찰음식), which meticulously avoids the use of five pungent vegetables (onions, garlic, chives, green onions and leeks) that represent the strong flavors that Korean cuisine is typically known for.
Keeping in mind the diversity of Korean Banchans, the following is a list of side dishes that are commonly offered alongside KBBQ.
Complementing the Main Attraction: Banchan at Korean BBQ1. Kimchi (Fermented Cabbage)
Arguably the most iconic Korean dish, kimchi brings a refreshing, spicy kick to the palate. Its tangy and sometimes fiery taste balances the savory flavors of grilled meats.
2. Kongnamul Muchim (Seasoned Bean Sprouts)
A light and crunchy dish, Kongnamul Muchim, offers a refreshing contrast. The bean sprouts are seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, and other spices, providing a subtle, nutty flavor.
3. Japchae (Stir-fried Glass Noodles)
Japchae is a sweet and savory dish made from glass noodles stir-fried with vegetables. It's a delightful mix of textures and flavors that pairs wonderfully with heavier BBQ items.
4. Pa Muchim (Scallion Salad)
This simple yet flavorful salad, made with chopped scallions, is a perfect palate cleanser. Its zesty dressing cuts through the richness of the meat.
5. Corn Cheese (Cheesy Corn Dish)
A crowd-pleaser, this creamy and cheesy corn dish is comfort food at its best. It's a unique fusion element that adds a Western touch to the Korean table.
6. Gyeran Jjim (Steamed Egg)
Gyeran Jjim is a custardy, steamed egg dish that's both light and comforting. It's a soothing balance to the smoky flavors of grilled meat.
7. Sigeumchi Namul (Seasoned Spinach)
This spinach dish, seasoned with garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce, is a healthy and flavorful addition. It adds a fresh, earthy element to the meal.
8. Tteokbokki (Spicy Rice Cakes)
These chewy rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce add an addictive kick. Tteokbokki is a beloved Korean street food that has found its way to the BBQ table.
9. Cubed Sweet Potatoes
Roasted or fried, these sweet morsels are a delightful contrast to the savory meats. They bring a natural sweetness that complements the smoky flavors.
10. Pajeon (Green Onion Pancake)
This savory pancake, loaded with green onions and sometimes seafood, offers a crispy, flavorful bite. It's a perfect shareable dish that embodies the communal spirit of Korean dining.
Conclusion: A Feast for the Senses
Korean BBQ is not just about the grilled meat; it's a dining experience that engages all the senses and banchans play a crucial role in this, each dish adding its unique flavor and texture. From the spicy kick of kimchi to the comforting smoothness of steamed egg, these side dishes each add to the unique dining experience that is KBBQ.