Side dishes are essential staples of Korean cuisine. Getting to try a variety of dishes in one meal is why I love Korean food — why only have one main dish when you can have multiple small ones?
The dishes listed below are only a small portion of Korean side dishes, but they are some of the most common and popular ones. Expand your knowledge of Korean cuisine — it’ll definitely make you appear smarter than those who think Korean food is solely comprised of barbecue and kimchi.
It’s the dish that made Korean food popular in America (kimchi fries anyone?). Although it can be made with a variety of different vegetables, the most common kimchi dish is made of fermented cabbage with various spices and seasonings.
2. Spinach side dish
Take your plain spinach and upgrade it with sesame oil and soy sauce to create this classic dish. Since this is milder than other side dishes, it pairs well with strong flavors. Great for complementing your healthy lifestyle.
3. Perilla leaves
Perilla leaves are sometimes labeled as sesame leaves, but are actually from the mint family. It has a distinct aroma and strong taste that may be too powerful for some at first, but it pairs really well with plain rice.
4. Stir-fried burdock root
When stir-fried with seasonings such as rice syrup, soy sauce, and sesame oil, the burdock root is crisp with a mildly sweet flavor. Burdock root even has numerous health benefits, and it’s been traditionally used for centuries as a blood purifier, diuretic, and topical remedy for skin problems.
5. Korean black beans
This dish is sweet and savory at the same time; it has a delightful chewiness that pairs well with plain rice. It’s one of my favorites out of all of the side dishes that I have tried, mainly because it’s fun to keep popping them in my mouth one after another.
6. Stir-fried fish cakes
This is a simple side dish that can be whipped up in minutes, provided you already have Korean fish cakes in hand. Stir-fried with various vegetables such as bell peppers and onions, these fish cakes are both sweet and savory — a tasty accompaniment to your rice.
7. Cubed radish kimchi
This is another variation of kimchi, but since it’s made with Korean radishes, it has an addicting crunch. One difference between this and the cabbage kimchi listed above is that with normal kimchi, you can eat it before it’s fully fermented. However, with radish kimchi, it’s too bitter to eat it before it ferments. Patience is a virtue, right?
8. Stir-fried anchovies
These pan-fried anchovies are also sweet and savory, along with several of the side dishes on this list. The anchovies can come in different sizes, but for this particular side dish, smaller ones are more common. Don’t be afraid of the tiny fish because they’re insanely delicious.
9. Savory pancakes
These savory pancakes can be made with seafood, Asian chives, zucchini, and even kimchi, and dipped in a variety of sauces. There’s really no limit to what you can put in them as long as you let them pan-fry until they become slightly crisp.
This definitely isn’t a comprehensive list of all of the Korean side dishes — trust me, there are a lot more. But these are some of the more common ones that I’ve seen at my house and restaurants. Don’t be afraid to try them because they’re absolutely delicious!