One of the nicest things about Korean cuisine is the array of banchan, or little dishes of goodies, that are served with the main entrée.
At restaurants, these come free with the meal, and are the chef's choice - they may vary from day to day. I've never been able to determine whether the banchan selection is based on your chosen meal, or whether it's whatever the kitchen happens to have that day.
Banchan are perfect for eating with rice, but they can be eaten by themselves, too. It's not rude to tuck right in while you're waiting for the main course. At the table, the little dishes are to be shared, and most people eat communally, directly from the little plates.
|Napa cabbage Kimchi|
Namul are vegetables that are lightly cooked, either sauteed or blanched, and seasoned. Sometimes they are very simple, like spinach or broccoli. Some Korean vegetables sound exotic to Western ears, like fern sprouts, asters, amaranth or bellflower stems. Namul also include eggplant and bean sprouts.
|This array includes raw carrot sticks, garlic clovers, seasoned salt. The dish at center is, I think, chicken gizzard|
|Soy-braised lotus root, sold in the supermarket|
Jeon are pan-fried items, often pancakes stuffed with vegetables or seafood.
|Tiny crabs in spicy sauce|
|Steamed squash with nuts and syrup|