The term banchan comes from Korean. It is used to describe Korean side dishes. This is also the literal translation of the term banchan into English. Banchan are usually served together with cooked rice. Originally, banchan were exclusively vegetarian. In the meantime, however, banchan based on meat or fish have also become very popular.
How banchan originated
Banchan have an extremely long tradition and are believed to have been eaten in Korea for centuries. It is believed that the first banchan were eaten between 100 and 500 B.C. in what is now Korea. At that time, this area belonged to Buddhist kingdoms.
Among Buddhists, foods containing meat were frowned upon, which is why banchan are often vegetarian even today. In order to provide culinary satisfaction to the royal families, and to be able to offer them ever new and exciting varieties of food, their personal chefs developed a huge number of banchan, some of which were prepared at great expense. The common people also enjoyed banchan. However, these were usually simpler and made with less expensive ingredients. Then, between 1231 and 1270, what is now Korea was occupied by the Mongols, who made meat eating popular in Korea. Since then, there have also been banchan containing meat.
See: K-Pop / Korean dictionary
How banchan are served
Banchan always come to the table in small bowls. Not every member of the family, or every guest, receives his or her own bowl of banchan. The banchan are served to all the guests and are placed in the center of the table so that everyone can help themselves.
In addition to the banchan, a complete Korean meal also consists of a meat-based main course or stew. In addition, each guest at the table receives their own bowl of rice and their own bowl of soup. The number of banchan is not specified. However, either three, five, seven, nine or twelve banchan should be served. The more banchan there are, the more wealth and generosity is symbolized by them. In the old Korean food tradition, as it was lived in the royal courts, it was customary to serve twelve banchan per meal.
These vegetarian banchan are among the standard banchan.
Koreans really eat at least one variety of kimchi at every meal. Kimchi are a subspecies of banchan. Kimchi is fermented vegetables that are enriched with chili and salt. There are Koreans who claim not to have eaten a full meal without kimchi. There are different varieties of kimchi, depending on which vegetable forms the basis for the kimchi.
The most popular is Chinese cabbage. However, there is also kimchi based on spring onions, cucumbers or radishes. In addition, kimchi variants are listed as banchan, made from different vegetables mixed together. Other popular banchan are fried vegetables, usually dressed with garlic, chopped scallions and soy sauce. Again, there are no limits when it comes to vegetable choices. Other options for tasty banchan include vegetables marinated in sesame oil, vinegar and salt. These varieties of banchan are collectively called namul.
Meat and fish banchan
Banchan containing meat and fish are known as bokkeum. They are fried and served with sauce. Again, there are countless different varieties. Bokkeum made of fish or meat mixed with kimchi are especially popular. Often squid and pork are used in the preparation.
Other variations of banchan
Banchan can also be cooked in broth or steamed. The variants cooked in broth are called jorim. The broth here usually consists of stretched or undiluted soy sauce, which may or may not be enriched with sesame oil. Meat or tofu are most commonly prepared as jorim. Steamed banchan are commonly known as jjim. Anything from vegetables to fish, meat and egg-based dishes can be served here. Pancake-based banchan are referred to as jeon. They can resemble crepes, quiche or even potato pancakes. Depending on what ingredients are used to make them.
In addition, banchan come in the form of various salads.