Many of you are already familiar with banchan—the little dishes of food that you can find on any Korean table, whether in a home or at a restaurant. Some people describe banchan as side dishes, though they are an essential part of any Korean dining experience. Having many different kinds of banchan means every person at the table can customize every bite of his or her meal. And in a pinch, rice and banchan make a perfectly acceptable meal.
Although Korean food is ubiquitous in Los Angeles, I'm interested in making my own. Take banchan. You can make a lot of it and eat it for days or weeks (months, in the case of kimchi). And honestly, some of these dishes are so easy to prepare that you can make several in one go. The other day, I made three types of banchan in under two hours, counting waiting time.
The one pictured above is oi muchim (oh-ee moo-cheem, "oi" meaning "cucumber" in Korean). I like to eat oi muchim on hot summer days, though I'll eat it any time with a bit of rice. Despite my rough English translation, oi muchim is not very spicy and tastes more like a quick pickle with a peppery kick. Make a lot, and keep it in the fridge. But don't wait too long to eat it; oi muchim isn't meant to ferment like kimchi. Like most banchan, serve oi muchim in a small dish, and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Everyone eats from the same banchan dish, though there's no rule against giving everyone his or her own.
I tried the recipe from Eating and Living, one of my favorite Korean food blogs. It came out great. A tad salty, but good. Give it a shot! My only tip is to make sure to use quality cucumbers. Korean cucumbers or Kirby pickling cucumbers are ideal. The worst are the flabby, flavorless ones you find at your standard grocery store.