However, my absolute favorite cuisine is Korean. I love me some Korean food. So it turns out, my best friend happens to be Korean. Hurrah! Bonus.
My best friend's Mother (Ms. Kim) makes THE BEST dishes out of whatever she has. It amazes me. Anyway.. I was first introduced to banchan by going to Korean BBQ style restaurants. So, since I live in the Boondocks, and live an hour away from my best friend (and I'm not sure they'd enjoy us showing up for dinner every night...).... I started learning how to make some of my favorites.
One easy dish is Bulgogi or Galbi (you may call it Korean BBQ). Korean BBQ is thinly sliced beef or ribs cut the opposite way of American style beef ribs. Then it is marinated in the most delicious pear/soy/superyummygoodness sauce and grilled. If you as an American go to these Korean BBQ restaurants, you might be shocked.. the grills are in the middle of the tables and you cook the meat fresh right in your face. yep, I'm drooling.. However, the beautiful Korean women will feel sorry for you and come around and stand over you like the Korean mother you never knew you had and will cook it for you. By the way, the do not care if you DO know the way around a pair of tongs.
Now, getting to banchan. Banchan are these curious little side dishes that come out and you eat them along with the meat coming fresh off the grill and rice. These side dishes are extremely healthy, though there are a few (very few) I haven't cared for. My favorite banchan are sigumchi namul and sukju namul; which are seasoned spinach and mung bean sprouts. So delicious.
Since I had two big bags of Korean spinach and two bags of mung bean sprouts, I decided to make them last night. These dishes ARE cooked, but they are just blanched, so I decided to go ahead and make them.
Basically, you blanche (bring a pot of water to boil and dunk the vegetables for about 20 seconds) the spinach and mung beans (separately, not together) and then rinse in cold water. Once it cools, you take handfuls and squeeze out as much water as you can, and put it into a bowl. You really want to be sure its not holding water in it, or it will make the dish watery and not retain the seasoning.
After you squeeze the hell (seriously, go back and squeeze them again) out of the vegetables, then add cut up green onions (almost the whole sprig, just snip off the ends and cut in the middle, but you do want the greens), sesame seeds, sesame oil (I used an Asian roasted sesame oil) and sea salt. Just season it to taste. I wouldn't add a ton of oil, you aren't dunking chicken into it, just enough to lightly coat it. Then make sure you turn the vegetables over to ensure all the spinach is covered.
VOILA - a healthy and delicious side dish. I had some for lunch today. And thanks to Ms. Kim for teaching me how to cook my favorite dishes.. Next up: Kimchi!