Korean Banchan: Spicy Sesame Bean Sprouts
I just got back from the scorching hot Midwest, where I made sure to eat Korean food once in Chicago and once in Madison.*
Can you believe there is no Korean restaurant in Santa Barbara even though this is Southern California?! (My friends and family can believe it by now; I complain about it ALL the time.)
Since moving here (and since becoming obsessed with the spicy awesomeness that is Korean cuisine) I’ve gradually been expanding my repertoire of Korean food I can make at home. But the best part about eating out at Korean restaurants is banchan! A.k.a. side dishes.
Banchan at a restaurant in Berkeley, CA (although usually 4-8 side dishes is more typical).
The little dishes arrive in time to appetize and stay right through the end of the meal as a mid-feast palate-cleansing snack. And any Korean restaurant worth its kochukaru will give you free banchan refills.
The classic banchan side is, of course, kimchi. (Specifically baechu kimchi, made with cabbage.) Kimchi isn’t limited to wide slabs of fermented cabbage; there’s also oi gimchi (made with cucumbers), kkaennip kimchi (made with sesame leaves), and my favorite, kkakdugi (spicy cubed daikon radish).
Banchan can be as varied as broiled seasoned eggplant, satuéed zucchini, spicy stir-fried dried squid, sweet syrupy potatoes, lightly pickled shreds of daikon radish, simmered spicy fish cakes (eomuk jorim), parboiled spinach with sesame, steamed egg with scallions, mini whole grilled fish, sweet potato noodles with beef and vegetables (japchae), squid and scallion pancake (haemul pajeon), and…
…the star of my First Official Banchan Blog Post: kongnamul muchim. Bean sprouts seasoned with sesame oil and garlic.
Kongnamul muchim can be spicy or simply flavored with sesame. I made some of each.
This is a perfect prelude to a series of banchan that I’d eventually like to post on this blog, since it is probably the fastest and easiest to prepare. (And bean sprouts are cheap!)
Kongnamul muchim is so simple to make, you can even find time to mix some up alongside a Korean main dish– you may have noticed some spicy bean sprouts peeking out of the corner of a photo back in my blog post on Kimchi Fried Rice.
You might even feel like you’re dining out at a Korean restaurant.
* If I’m going to eat steaming hot soup and stir-fried goodness in 95° weather, I want it to be SPICY.
Korean Spicy Sesame Bean Sprouts
Adapted from the “Seasoned Bean Sprouts” recipe in the cookbook: Korean Favorites, by Yu-kyoung Moon and Jonathan Hopfner.
(Serves 4-6, as a side dish)
~ 1 cup water
~ dash of salt
~ 12-16 oz. bean sprouts
~ 1-3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 scallion, very finely diced
~ 2 tsp. sesame oil
~ 2 tsp. sesame seeds
~ salt and white pepper, to taste
OPTIONAL: (to make spicy)
~ ½ Tbsp. kochukaru (Korean red chili flakes), or to taste
~ pinch of sugar
How to make it:
1. Rinse the bean sprouts if necessary, then arrange in a metal steamer, or place directly into a pot, with only about ⅔-1 cup of water poured into the bottom of it, and a dash of salt.
2. Cover the pot and cook over high heat for 5-6 minutes. Then immediately drain bean sprouts and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking.
3. Mix other ingredients together in a large bowl. Then make sure to pat the bean sprouts dry with a paper towel or dishcloth before adding them to the bowl. Stir well to coat the sprouts in the dressing, and season with salt and white pepper to taste.
4. Allow to cool before serving. Serve as a side dish to a Korean main course. (Best if eaten the same day it’s made.)