This is banchan, a series of small side dishes that appear as if by magic on your table at the start of any Korean meal. They are supposed to be complimentary –  restaurants that charge you for your banchan are slightly taking the piss, although you may find more Westernised restaurants do charge by the dish – and re-filled if you’d like more. (Which I generally do.)

I think I had eaten Korean food once before I came to Manhattan. But with Dok Suni, one of the best known Korean restaurants in New York round the corner from our old apartment in the East Village,  there really was no excuse. I discovered I loved it so much that I started taking my UK vistors there – from  my best friend to Osman Yousefzada.

And then I met Judy who knows Korean food inside out, and who has made it her mission to introduce me to its finer points. Last Thursday when we were feeling particularly mis and in need of comfort food, we headed to Manhattan’s Koreatown on 32nd between Broadway & 5th Avenue, for warming soup.

Koreatown 32nd

IMG_0249 Soy sprouts
IMG_0254 kim chee

This is what we ate. From top right clockwise.

Kong-namul Cold boiled soybean sprouts with sesame oil, salt, chopped onions/scallions & garlic
Kimchee Napa cabbage/Chinese leaves seasoned with chili peppers and salt
Made from dangmyeon (cellophane noodles made from sweet potato starch), stir fried in sesame oil with onion, spinach, carrots and mushrooms,  flavoured with soy sauce, chopped onions/scallions, brown sugar, garlic & sesame seeds.

And the piece de resistance: soon dubu jjigae.

IMG_0256 IMG_0257 IMG_0258

It’s a hot  soup, filled with soft fresh as a daisy tofu (dubu) and, in my case, vegetables,  but often beef, pork or shrimp, served in an oven hot cast iron mini cauldron, with the liquid still bubbling away as it comes to the table. You can order  it as spicy as you wish (I asked for spicy and it came flecked with red peppers. HOT. Delicious.

Raw egg is usually put in the jjigae while it is still boiling, but I fear the raw egg, so I left it out of my bowl. It’s served  with a dish of cooked white rice,onto which you spoon the soup, and eaten along with several of the banchan.

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Yum, I love Koran food. There actually are some great Korean restaurants in London (and I can’t say that about all Asian cuisine here. Try finding decent Malaysian, nightmare). Best I’ve found is Soju on Great Windmill Street, but Corean Chilli on Charing X Rd is handy for a quick bite. And they do give you banchan, but only 2 dishes if memory serves correct x


This is all going into my notebook. I have always resisted Korean food because it’s so meat-heavy and I am a vegetarian, but I have no excuse now.


You’re killing me.

I went to art school in the city and my Korean friends would not only take me to the area you mention for a night out, but they would cook the most fantastic meals in their rooms, complete with family-sized jars of kimchi brought back after weekends at home. Delicious.


I’ve been dying for some Korean in London! New York ahs the best Korean restaurants, and that one looks absolutely delish! I love love love bimbimbap actually, that’s one of my all time faves int eh Korean food department. x LZ


I love Korean food there is a great little restaurant in Manchester, the dish we have ( I cant remember the name) is a bowl of rice along with a choice of ingredients, they bring it with a raw egg and you have to stir fry it in your bowl.. which is very hot.. delicious xx


One of the best meals I had when visiting Singapore recently was Korean-delicious!


I love Korean food and this is my husband’s favorite dish (japchae is probably my favorite). Did you know they CHARGE for banchan in London though? When I first moved there, I was aghast I wasn’t getting kimchee withour ordering it. But then I remembered I was in London where free bread before your meal is a treat. Yes indeed.


it looks so good- I live next to a Korean but I still haven’t been in because the menu is all in Korean! One of my colleagues is from S Korea and is always promising to show us the best place in London- and it never seems to happen- I will hustle her


as a korean myself..i cant help but love the food i was born with.
ive never been to dok suni but i would recommend kunjip. it’s right next to pinkberry. their staple ban-chan is the steam egg. it comes in this black ceramic bowl. if they dont give it to you, you should ask 😉
i love kunjip! it’s my go-to place. the food is close to authentic (unlike kum-kang-san) and really reasonably priced.
only draw back is that it’s always crowded and there’s always a wait (a very good sign) but it goes by really really quickly.

i definitely recommend going there 🙂


I LOVE korean food! I’m very lucky to be living with a Korean girl right now, and she cooks the most amazing things! This post is making me crave kimchee.

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