10 Ready-Made Sides You’ll Want to Buy on Repeat at H Mart
Banchan are the anchor of a Korean meal — the brightly colored assorted side dishes cover the table, inviting eaters to dive right in, pick their favorites, and taste new ones. What I love about banchan is that you can have as few or as many as you want, but what I don’t love about banchan is that the sheer number can make it daunting to cook them at home.
And that’s where H Mart comes in. The grocery store is a great resource for prepared side dishes that you can pass off as homemade. The selection is extremely vast, including seasoned vegetables (namul), salted and preserved seafood, salads, snacks, and more. Most of these banchan will last over several meals or several weeks. But where to begin? Here’s a starter guide to the most delicious banchan buys that give you the best bang for your buck. Buy a few to try, or buy a whole spread to impress your dinner guests.
1. Seasoned Pickled Cucumbers, $3.99 for 4 ounces
2. Seasoned Sesame Leaves, $6.49 for 4 ounces
You may have seen sesame leaves at Korean barbecues alongside the classic red leaf lettuce to be used as ssam for wrapping meat. These tender leaves of the sesame plant are also delicious in this classic banchan, where a pleasantly spicy soy sauce mixture is brushed between layers of the leaves. Pull a leaf off the stack and wrap it around a spoonful of rice for a satisfying mouthful.
3. Seasoned Garlic Stems, $3.99 for 4 ounces
One of the best things about banchan is that they often feature seasonal ingredients. My new favorite seasonal find is these garlic stems, or garlic scapes, which are seasoned with gochugaru, garlic, and vinegar. They’re surprisingly delicate in flavor (not a huge garlic bomb) so they’re perfect for amplifying main dishes like bossam (steamed pork) or grilled mackerel.
4. Stir-Fried Fish Cakes, $3.99 for 4 ounces
Odeng jorim is one of the banchan I’ve loved since I was a kid. The Korean fish cakes are made with ground white fish that is mixed with vegetables and seasonings, shaped into sheets, and fried. The sheets are then stir-fried in soy sauce, sesame oil, and a bit of sugar and gochugaru. It’s just a wee bit spicy and a little bit sweet — a crowd-pleaser that’s guaranteed to appeal to both kids and adults alike. Not into spice? There’s a non-spicy version available as well.
5. Seasoned Lotus Root, $5.49 for 4 ounces
This braised lotus root side dish is a stunner — another important feature when setting your banchan table (we eat with our eyes first, after all!). Fortunately, they’re as tasty as they are beautiful. The root vegetable is sliced, boiled, then braised in a sweet-and-salty soy sauce mixture. The texture of the lotus root rounds is almost candied, giving way to the tender cooked inside. I especially love to put these out for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) spreads.
6. Seasoned Baby Octopus, $9.99 for 5 ounces
Jeotgal is a whole category of Korean banchan, consisting of salted seafoods such as oysters, various fish, or roe (including the salted pollock roe below). There are dozens of jeotgal, and one of my favorites is nakji-jeot (salted baby octopus). After being salted and fermented, the octopus is seasoned with gochugaru, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil. I love to wrap a bit of this with rice and some roasted seaweed. Try this one first, and then branch out into other jeotgal to find your favorites.
7. Korean Seasoned Pollock Roe, $10.72 for 0.4 pounds
Salted pollock roe, known as myeongnan-jeot in Korean and meintaiko in Japanese, is a prized culinary ingredient that dates back to Korea’s Joseon era. It’s quite the flavor bomb, made by salting Alaskan pollock roe sacs and marinating them in gochugaru and garlic. You can place small amounts on rice (it’s very salty, so use sparingly), melt into butter and toss with spaghetti, or use as a filling in onigiri.
8. Korean Omelette, $6.99 for 17 ounces
Gyeran mari is having a bit of a moment right now, and for good reason — this Korean rolled omelet is entrancing from first glance. Making this dish at home can be a bit laborious, because you have to gently cook the eggs, roll up the omelet, add more eggs, and continue the process until you reach your desired thickness. H Mart’s delicious version, which is dotted with minced carrots, onion, and jalapeño, and rolled with a sheet of roasted seaweed to complete the look, is a great time-saver.
9. Seasoned Eggs in Soy Sauce, $6.99 for 16 ounces
This side dish may seem incredibly simple, but it’s the simplicity that makes it so transcendent. True, they’re just hard-boiled eggs cooked in soy sauce and other seasonings, but you’ll be able to eat an entire bowl of rice with just a couple of these eggs. Plus, they’re great to have on hand for garnishing dishes, whether you add them on top of warm ramen, fold them into fried rice, or even use them to make egg salad.
10. Bibimbap Vegetables, $10.49 for 16 ounces
Bibimbap is one of the most recognizable Korean dishes, but truth be told, it really just consists of mixing rice with a variety of side dishes. H Mart makes this even easier for you by packaging the best bibimbap vegetables into one clamshell, accompanied by the spicy gochujang-based sauce. It makes bibimbap at home a snap — or, better yet, break out each vegetable into its own banchan for your table.
What ready-made side are you constantly picking up at H Mart? Tell us in the comments below.