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3 Korean Banchan Side Dishes

3 Korean banchan side dishes that are vibrant and tasty yet easy to make.  Today, we have watercress, zucchini and eggplant on the menu, each with its own flavors and textures.

Lately, I’ve been craving Korean food something fierce.  The days of plentiful Korean BBQ joints and tofu houses are gone since moving to our little rock.  If I’m going to enjoy Korean fare, I have to take matters into my own hands.  Banchan or Korean side dishes are the bedrock of such fare.  FYI: each Korean meal is served with plenty of side dishes, per tradition.  Of course rice and kimchi are indispensable components but beyond those staples are the composition of many different tiny plates of bowls of these healthy and colorful side dishes.  It’s not to say that you won’t find some choices bound together with mayo {I’m looking at you, random but ever delicious Korean potato salad}.  More often, it’s fresh, crunchy veggies that are hit with a rotating handful of aromatics.

First up today is a bright and peppery watercress.  It gets wilted in a flash then plunged into ice water before getting its treatment.  Because it already has a subtle spice to it naturally, I omitted the pepper flakes and swapped it with the savory yet mild edge of scallions.  The eggplant comes next.  My husband is not a fan of eggplant.  Baba ganoush, caponata, eggplant parm?  Forget about it.  He actually enjoyed eggplant in this way.  Chunks of eggplant get tossed into a ruby, garlicky infused oil before getting hit with a bit of liquid for a quick steam.  It leaves them tender, not mushy with good flavor since the sesame oil, garlic and pepper flakes are nice, bold flavors.  Lastly, the zucchini.  These are the least finicky of all.  Since they are, I leave them last so they can soak up as much of the residual flavor from the pan.

Korean Banchan Side Dishes

When you have all of your banchan assembled, it’s easy to build meals around it.  It’s even easier still to create a bibimbap aka mixed rice dish.  It’s the very meal I had that night after making these.  Additionally, if something isn’t in season, it can easily be swapped out.  Spinach {I recommend using mature, not baby spinach for this recipe} or collards for watercress, summer squash or pumpkin for zucchini or mushrooms for eggplant.  Growing up, I watched my mother peruse through the market aisles and my father’s garden alike and plucked out what pleased her out from obscurity to transform into all sorts of delicious banchan.  I urge you to do the same.

3 Korean Banchan Side Dishes
Prep time

Cook time

Total time


Serves: Banchan for 2

  • 1 bundle of watercress
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 chopped scallion
  • 2 ts sesame oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 ts sesame oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 ts Korean red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 chopped scallion
  • 1 tb water
  • 1 tb soy sauce
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 ts sesame oil
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Salt



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