No Korean meal is complete without a colourful array of banchan, or side dishes. But did you know those petite bowls of salads, pickles and slaws aren’t just there to add flavour to your dinner? They also have a host of health benefits. Discover the cleansing benefits of banchan and see why Korean cuisine can be a healthy choice.
One of Korea’s essential banchan is kimchi. We’ve waxed lyrical about the health benefits of kimchi on asianinspirations.com.au, which include improved gut health and metabolism-boosting properties. Other banchan that have these nutritious properties include daikon and carrot salad, or moo saeng chae, a spicy radish salad.Why not try to make your own kimchi with cabbage, or try this gak dugi version made with moo radish.
Another aspect that makes banchan – and Korean food in general – so healthy is the variety of colours and ingredients that are consumed. Korean cooks believe in the balance of yin and yang in their cooking as well as the five elements, best represented by the colours red, yellow, green, white and black. Take a look at the spread of banchan dishes on your table next time your dining at a Korean restaurant: we guarantee they’ll follow the Korean colour code.
From beef bulgogi to barbecued galbi, Korean cuisine is known for its love of grilled beef and meaty hotpots. Banchan represent an antidote to all of that protein, with crunchy pickled vegetables and piquant salads cutting through the richness of the meat. Again, when enjoying Korean food, balance is key.
Banchan can be divided into two categories: meet-banchan and jeuk-seok. Meet-banchan is best described as long-term banchan, referring to dishes such as kimchi and pickles that can be stored in your fridge for weeks or even months. Jeuk-seok means “impromptu” banchan, such as blanched bean sprouts or a raw cabbage slaw (yang baechu), which you make just before serving. Aim for a mix of the two for your complete Korean meal.
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