January 24, 2018

GCH: What’s on Your Plate? Korean Banchans

Spinach Banchan

If you read my post last week for Dubu Buchim (Korean Pan-Fried Tofu), you’ll remember that a Korean meal has many components:  the rice, kimchee, main dish, and the banchans.  Banchans are little dishes, meant to be shared, and are usually vegetable-based.  Today I’ll show you how to make two very easy banchans:  spinach banchan and a cucumber salad.

For the spinach, you can buy whole spinach, which is the cheaper option, or a bag of washed and trimmed spinach salad – it will cost more than whole spinach, but the upside is that the roots and sand have been removed for you!  This spinach banchan is also a component in several other Korean dishes, including kimbap, japchae, and bibimbap.  (We’ll get to those later!)  For the cucumbers, you’ll want to look for small cucumbers, often called Persian cucumbers.  They have thin skin and very little seedy pulp in the middle.  You could also use a regular English cucumber, or a hothouse cucumber, but you may want to take off some of the skin if it’s waxed or feels tough to you.  Also, the cucumber banchan calls for a pinch of Korean dried peppers.  If you don’t have these in your pantry, you can use crushed red pepper (like the kind used in Italian cooking or on pizza) or even a little cayenne.  It won’t be the same, but you’ll get the idea!

Both of these banchans are best made fresh, and won’t last in the fridge more than two or three days.  Make a batch, cook some rice, and  practice your chopstick skills:  it’s dinner time!

Spinach Banchan


  • 1 pound whole spinach, trimmed and cleaned, or 1 large bag prepared spinach salad (9 oz.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 green onion, minced


  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Prepare an ice bath:  a very large bowl filled with ice and water.  When the water boils, add the spinach, and blanch for 15 seconds.  You want all of the spinach out of the boiling water within 30 seconds at the max, or it will be mushy.  Remove from the water and transfer to the ice bath.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together garlic, oil, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and green onion.  Squeeze the water from the spinach – be firm, but don’t pulverize it!  Add the spinach to the garlic mixture, and using your hands, massage the sauce into the spinach.  (Korean housewives go through more plastic gloves than the school lunch lady.  I just get in there and don’t worry about the gloves.)  Let the spinach marinate in the sauce for about 30 minutes at room temperature.  Taste for seasoning – you can add a tiny pinch of sea salt or more soy sauce if you like.

Cucumber Banchan

Cucumber Banchan


  • 4 Persian cucumbers, or one large hothouse cucumber
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch hot pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds


  1. Wash cucumbers, and if you’re not using Persian cucumbers, remove the peel.  Slice very thinly into coins and put in a sieve.  Sprinkle with the sea salt and let sit for 15 minutes.
  2. In another bowl, mix together oil, vinegar, sugar and pepper flakes.  Rinse the cucumber and squeeze out any extra water.  Add to the oil mixture and let marinate for 30 minutes before eating.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Explore, experiment, enjoy! — Dana

Find more recipes from Dana, Korean and otherwise, at Frugal Girlmet!

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About Dana Kim

Dana Kim – Blog Contributor
Dana currently lives in Hollywood, California, with her husband and two children. She is currently learning to cook traditional Korean food, to teach her daughters about their heritage and culture. She loves trying all different kinds of recipes and is happy to share those recipes here!


  1. coleen hayden says:

    yummmmmy! thank you, dana, for these recipes! i love the flavor of sesame oil; it must be so delish with the spinach and the cukes! looking forward to trying these…. <3

    • Coleen, sesame oil is one of the keystones of the Korean flavor. If you like sesame oil, you will love these banchans! I would love it if someone actually tried these recipes and reported back – I really want to share how good this stuff is!

  2. As I told you yesterday, I cannot wait to try these recipes! You are definitely tempting my palate with these recipes!

    • Christi, it's healthy, simple, delicious food! I really hope you try it and let me know what you think!

  3. Well, Dana, I finally got around to making the Spinach Banchan for supper this evening. Delicious! And simple and quick too! Thank you! 🙂


  1. […] GCH: What’s on Your Plate? Korean Banchans (girlfriendscoffeehour.com) […]

  2. […] This Korean Sweet and Spicy Chicken is GOOD.  My family scarfed it up last night.  If you don’t have gochujang – Korean red pepper paste that is both fruity and fiery – you can add hot sauce instead.  The longer you marinate the chicken, the better, but don’t go more than 24 hours.  You can put this together in the morning before work and come home and cook it.  Serve with rice, a salad, or a full table of ban chan! […]