Which will win this time? The briny-savory-crispy-creamy tapas of Spain, or the spicy-sweet-sour-salty banchan of Korea? You decide!
THE RAMBLE: WHO IS YOUR WINNER?
LET’S TALK ABOUT Spain and Korea. I think these two countries have the most in common, cuisine-wise. They both have “small plates,” some of which are almost the same (brined/pickled anchovies, fried green peppers, pulpo a la gallega and sannakji, etc.), they both use their own pepper flakes in most dishes (pimentón, espelette and gochugaru), most things have pork (jamón and bulgogi) and/or seafood. They even have the same (semi-national) dish, meat/seafood and veg mixed rice (paella and bibimbap). I love it. Maybe that’s why my husband and I connect, I’m just the Spanish version (in my heart) and he is the Korean version (in his genes). Tapas are eaten in a “tapas crawl,” going from bar to bar and trying all kinds of great things, and banchan (“half-plates”) are usually just accompanied with every meal as the side dishes, so they’re a little different in how they’re served.
LET’S TALK ABOUT Banchan. They are served with every meal; the staple cabbage Kimchi being a totem of Korean cuisine and culture. Banchan offer a wide variety of flavors and textures, so there is something for everyone! These four dishes are just a few of the dozens of dishes. They are all very easy to make, and I have fallen in love with Korean apple vinegar used in the Spicy Pickled Radish Salad. Korean food, at first glance, seems to be the most unique of the Asian cuisines. Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese especially focus on balance of the 6 flavors, sweet, salty, sour, bitter, spicy and umami. We all love dishes from these cuisines, like Char Siu, Pad Thai, and Pho, and at first, Korean food doesn’t seem to have the same philosophy. However, after making different banchan dishes, you realize they have the same balance, but it’s in the banchan, not so much the main dish. You create the flavor spectrum you want in each bite.
Judy Joo’s book Korean Food Made Simple was an amazing recipe book. This really should be on your shelf if you love cooking any Asian food. She has all the classic Korean dishes, from banchan to main to dessert to drinks, and then a bunch of fun fusion she has come up with. She is an excellent chef, and that finesse comes through in her recipes. Everything is precise with professional results, and that is why I love it so much. A MUST HAVE!
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Spanish food: Sandee A @sandeea of her blog La Receta de la Felicidad and book Chocolate (y sorteo!) (can be translated to English), Asun @recetashuga of her blog Las Mejores Recetas de Huga, Miriam of her blog El Invitado de Invierno, and Donostia Foods, Sonia of her blog L’Equisit, Beatriz of her blog Tu Eres el Chef.
WHO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT making great Korean food: Hyosun of Korean Bapsang, Sue from My Korean Kitchen, Maangchi @Maangchi of Maangchi, Julie of KimchiChick, Judy Joo @JudyJooChef of Cooking Channel’s and cookbook Korean Food Make Simple and Jinjuu in London and Hong Kong, food truck pioneer Roy Choi @RidingShotgunLA of Kogi and cookbook L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food and LA restaurants Chego, Alibi Room, Sunny Spot and A-Frame, Holly @beyondkimchi of Beyond Kimchee, David Chang @DavidChang of PBS’s Mind of a Chef, his NYC restaurant and books Momofuku, and recipe/culture online magazine Lucky Peach @luckypeach, Robin Ha @RobinHaART of her recipe blog/Tumblr Banchan Comic and recipe-comic book Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes, HJ @haejn of the blog Yobodish Korean Recipes, James Strange and his YouTube recipe videos, Jinjoo of her blog, Kimchimari.
Korean Banchan Quartet
My Mother-in-Law’s Tofu in Soy Sauce
Serves 4, easy fuss, about 5 mins to make.
1 lb firm tofu, drained, cut into 1″ cubes, and soaked in boiling water (for cleaner flavor)
1/4-1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4-1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp sesame oil
sprinkle of gochugaru
1 green onion, cut into thin rounds
- Drain tofu and place in a serving dish. Mix together soy sauce, water, and sesame oil in a small bowl, then pour over the tofu. Sprinkle gochugaru over the tofu to taste, then garnish with the green onions in the center.
Sesame Bean Sprouts (Sakju Namul Muchim)
Adapted from My Korean Kitchen, serves 4, easy fuss, about 10 mins to make.
1 lb mung bean sprouts
1 1/2 tsp sea (fine) salt, divided
6 cups water
1/2 tsp grated/minced/pressed garlic
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
1 TBS sesame oil
- In a colander, rinse sprouts under cold water and pick out any mushy sprouts, if any.
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot, add 1 tsp of salt. Add the sprouts, turn off heat, and let blanche about 1-2 mins, just until tender.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix together garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, sesame seeds, and sesame oil. Set aside.
- Drain them back into the colander and rinse under cold water again, then squeeze the sprouts to get rid of as much water as possible.
- Add sprouts to the sesame oil mixture and toss to evenly coat. Can be served immediately or cover and place in the fridge until chilled, about 1 hour.
Spicy Pickled Radish Salad (Musaengche)
Adapted from Korean Food Made Simple, serves 4, easy fuss, 5 mins to make and 1 hour pickle.
6 oz Korean white radish (mu) or daikon, peeled and julienned
1 1/2 TBS Korean apple vinegar or rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 TBS sugar
1 1/2 tsp gochugaru
1 small clove garlic, pressed or grated
1 tsp kosher salt
- Stir everything together until the radish is evenly dressed. Then, cover and place in the fridge at least 1 hour before serving.
Sweet Cubed Pickled White Radish (Danmuju)
Adapted from Korean Food Made Simple, serves 4, easy fuss, 5 mins prep and 24 hour pickle.
1 lb Korean white radish (mu) or daikon, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup superfine sugar*
1 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of black sesame seeds, to garnish
*(If using granulated, just heat vinegar in the microwave until just warm, then add sugar and salt, dissolve, then let cool down to room temp before using)
- In a small bowl, mix vinegar, sugar, and salt until dissolved. Add radish and toss until evenly coated. Cover and let sit at room temperature for about 24 hours (ideal), then place in the fridge at least an hour to chill (it will shrink a little). Garnish with a pinch of the sesame seeds and serve.