Jong Ga House, Oakland
If you’ve ever eaten in a Korean restaurant, you’ve invariably been served an assortment of small dishes you didn’t order. These small bites, collectively called banchan, accompany every Korean meal and often reflect local, seasonal produce. In Korea and parts of the world that celebrate the four seasons, banchan will vary throughout the year. In California, the selection changes less so. Pricier restaurants generally offer more elaborate and colorful presentations, while budget eateries dole out a few basics, including at least one kind of kimchi (fermented vegetables, typically napa cabbage and/or daikon).
During my recent East Bay bibimbap roundup for The Bold Italic, I couldn’t help but photograph the banchan spreads that accompanied my orders. Here are the goodies I had.
BOWL’D, ALBANY: (clockwise from top) tangy daikon, sour napa cabbage kimchi, sweet & tangy seaweed, potato/pasta salad, sweet beancurd, sesame broccoli; (center) daikon kimchi
SPOON, BERKELEY: (left to right, top) sesame broccoli, sweet & tangy seaweed, spicy cucumber; (bottom) sesame beansprouts, sweet fishcake, spicy napa cabbage kimchi
BE BOP, BERKELEY: (top) miso-y vegetable soup with daikon and carrots, mustardy pickles (onions, peppers, cucumber); (middle) sesame broccoli, napa cabbage kimchi; spicy beancurd; (bottom) the most amazing sweet pumpkin porridge ever!
OHGANE, OAKLAND: (left to right, top) tangy seaweed, pungent beancurd, sweet toothy black beans, napa cabbage kimchi; (middle) soybean sprouts, sesame broccoli, pickled daikon, sesame beansprouts; (bottom) pickled cucumber, mung bean jelly, daikon kimchi, greens kimchi
PYEONG CHANG TOFU HOUSE, OAKLAND: (clockwise from left) white napa cabbage kimchi, mild daikon, spicy daikon kimchi, sweet & spicy smoky eggplant, spicy napa cabbage kimchi, sweet soy potato, mild cabbage (slightly pungent, like mustard greens); (not shown) bubbling tofu soup
JONG GA HOUSE, OAKLAND: (left to right, top) rolled omelet, sweet & spicy beancurd, sweet fishcake, sesame green beans, mung bean jelly, white napa cabbage kimchi; (middle) sweet candied fried potato, sesame broccoli, sweet & tangy daikon, rapeflower, sesame soybean sprouts, picked cucumber; (bottom) sesame sweet potato noodles with rapeflower, boiled eggplant, sesame beansprouts, tangy napa cabbage kimchi, tangy spicy daikon kimchi, potato/carrot salad
T-TOUST, BERKELEY: (left to right) tangy & spicy napa cabbage kimchi, sweet soy potato, sweet fishcake