Side dishes make up a critical part of every Korean meal. Unlike their American counterparts, Korean side dishes aren’t heaping bowls of peas and carrots served with mashed potatoes.
The Korean word for side dishes is ban chan (bahn chahn). They’re small dishes that are refilled throughout the meal. Kimchi is the most famous side dish and many Koreans believe a meal isn’t complete without kimchi.
Given that kimchi is a must on every Korean table, the remaining side dish world is an open frontier. From steamed broccoli to tiny stir fried anchovies, if the food fits in a small bowl, it qualifies as ban chan.
However, we’re not going into uncharted territory this time. These two side dishes represent typical ban chan, at home or in a restaurant.
The first dish is kkak du gi, a radish kimchi. The process for making kkak du gi streamlines the cabbage kimchi technique (The link for quick cabbage kimchi is at the bottom of the page). As a result, you have a fresh type of kimchi in half the time. In addition, kkak du gi keeps in the refrigerator for months at a time.
The second side dish is oh ee mu chim, a Korean cucumber salad that comes together in minutes. In addition to the quick preparation, oh ee mu chim is a study in contrasts. It’s delicate but powerful, petite yet intense.
Even though making side dishes appears labor intensive, the results validate the effort. Because side dishes keep in the fridge for so long, a bowl of rice with a few side dishes makes a quick, healthy lunch or dinner.
Which is critical in these unpredictable times.
Check out the video to see how to prepare kkak du gi and oh ee mu chim.
Radish Kimchi (Kkak Doo Gi)
Makes two 16 ounce (475 ml) jars
Step 1: Prep the radish
One 3 pound Korean radish or daikon radish
1/3 cup salt
Chop the radish into ¾ inch (2 cm) cubes.
Salt the radish. Alternate the radish and a little salt in several layers and mix. Toss the radish and salt mixture every 20 minutes for a total of 1 hour salting time.
The radish won’t shrink but the salt will draw out considerable moisture.
Rinse the radish 3 times in cold water, place in a colander and let drain for one hour.
Step 2: Make the paste
½ cup cold water
1 ½ teaspoons sweet rice flour
Mix the water and flour together. Bring it to a boil and cook 5 minutes, stirring vigorously. Remove from the heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
Step 3: The Mixture
In a large bowl, combine the paste with:
1/3 cup coarse Korean chile powder
3 chopped green onions
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
Step 4: Putting everything in jars
Mix the paste/chile powder/veggie with the radishes. Pack the kkak du gi into jars, loosely seal the jars and let it sit overnight and then refrigerate. Kkak du gi will keep for up to six months.
Korean Cucumber Salad (Oh ee mu chim)
Makes one 12 ounce (355 ml) jar
Step 1: Make the seasoning
In large bowl, combine the following ingredients:
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
½ teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon coarse Korean chile powder
Step 2: The veggies
2 Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
½ green onion, chopped
Using a mandolin, cleaver or very sharp knife, slice the cucumber in 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices.
Step 3: Mixing
Combine the cucumber and green onion with the seasoning mixture and gently toss. Place in a jar and refrigerate. Oh ee mu chim will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
What are your favorite side dishes? We’d love to hear how you make your meals special in the comments section.
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