Do Koreans Eat Banchan Cold? Exploring the Traditions of Korean Cuisine

In Korean cuisine, banchan plays a vital role in enhancing the overall dining experience. These small side dishes aren’t just mere accompaniments; they’re an essential part of every meal, adding variety, texture, and flavor. While some banchan may be served warm or at room temperature, it isn’t uncommon to find many of them served cold. This unique aspect of Korean dining culture stems from the idea of preparing a few banchan each day, allowing them to be enjoyed in small portions over several days. The beauty of these cold banchan lies in their fresh, simple, light, and often spicy flavors, creating a harmonious balance on the taste buds. So, do Koreans eat banchan cold? The answer is a resounding yes, as these delightful side dishes are meant to be savored and enjoyed, providing a refreshing and feel-good culinary experience.

Are Korean Side Dishes Eaten Cold?

Korean side dishes, known as banchan, can indeed be eaten cold. Instead of preparing a large number of side dishes all at once for a meal, Koreans traditionally prepare a few banchan each day and enjoy them in small portions over several days.

The beauty of these cold banchan lies in their fresh, simple, light, and spicy flavors. From tangy pickled vegetables to refreshing salads, each banchan offers a unique taste that complements the main course and adds depth to the overall meal. Whether it’s the pungent kimchi, the savory soy-marinated tofu, or the zesty cucumber salad, these cold side dishes brighten up the dining experience and provide a delightful contrast to the warm rice.

Moreover, the practice of enjoying banchan over several days allows for a continuous rotation of flavors and an exploration of different tastes. It adds a sense of creativity to the dining experience, as you can mix and match the various banchan to create your own unique combination. This versatility and adaptability make banchan a beloved aspect of Korean cuisine and a testament to the countrys rich culinary heritage.

Furthermore, the Korean culture values the idea of warmth and hospitality, hence serving hot food is a way to show care and consideration to guests. Whether it’s a piping hot bowl of soup or sizzling barbecue, Koreans take pride in enjoying their meals at the perfect temperature.

Why Do Koreans Eat So Hot Food?

This belief stems from the idea that heat can help break down food more effectively, allowing the body to absorb nutrients more efficiently. Additionally, Koreans believe that hot food has cleansing properties, as it can help kill bacteria and other harmful substances that may be present in the food.

Furthermore, the preference for hot food in Korean cuisine also reflects the cultural value placed on communal dining and sharing. In Korean society, sharing a meal is seen as a way to strengthen social bonds and foster relationships. Eating hot food together creates a sense of warmth and togetherness, enhancing the overall dining experience.

Korean cuisine is known for it’s spicy flavors, with kimchi and gochujang (spicy red pepper paste) being staple ingredients. Spicy food is believed to stimulate the appetite and create a satisfying dining experience, hence further adding to the preference for hot food.

One important rule when it comes to banchan is that they shouldn’t be eaten on their own as a main dish. Instead, they’re meant to complement the main course and enhance the overall flavor of the meal.

How Do Koreans Eat Side Dishes?

For example, one should never take the last piece of banchan from a shared plate, as it’s considered impolite to leave nothing for others. Additionally, it’s customary to hold your bowl of rice with your left hand while using your right hand to pick up banchan with your chopsticks. It’s also considered rude to make loud noises or talk with your mouth full while enjoying the side dishes.

Koreans also have a particular order of eating banchan. Typically, the more basic and simple dishes are eaten first, followed by the more flavorful and bold ones. This allows the palate to gradually build up to the stronger flavors. It’s also common to take small bites of banchan instead of large portions, as it’s considered more polite and allows for a wider variety of tastes on the plate.

Another interesting aspect of Korean dining etiquette is the practice of “ssam.”. Ssam refers to wrapping a small portion of rice, along with a piece of banchan, in a lettuce or cabbage leaf. This creates a mini “wrap” that’s eaten in one bite. It adds a unique texture and flavor to the meal, and is a fun interactive way to enjoy the banchan.

Furthermore, banchan are often made with fermented ingredients, such as kimchi or soybean paste, which not only provide a unique flavor but also offer health benefits. Fermented foods are believed to aid digestion and promote gut health. Koreans have long recognized the importance of a balanced meal, and banchan play a crucial role in achieving this balance.

They aren’t just side dishes, but a way to enhance the dining experience by offering a variety of flavors, textures, and colors. Whether enjoyed at home or in a restaurant, Koreans take great pride in their banchan, as they contribute to the overall harmony and enjoyment of the meal.

In addition to their spicy cuisine, Koreans have a unique approach to combatting the sweltering heat of summer. Contrary to what one might expect, they incorporate piping hot soups and other dishes into their diet during the hottest days. This unconventional practice is grounded in the belief that eating hot food stimulates the body’s cooling mechanisms, offering relief from the scorching temperatures. Let’s delve into the traditional Korean dishes that are commonly savored to beat the heat.

What Do Koreans Eat When They Are Hot?

When the scorching heat of summer hits South Korea, locals turn to a unique culinary tradition to beat the heat. Contrary to what one might expect, Koreans prefer to combat the hot weather by consuming steaming hot dishes and beverages. This practice, deeply rooted in traditional Korean culture, is believed to provide relief from the sweltering heat and help cool down the body.

One popular dish Koreans enjoy during hot summer days is samgyetang, a nourishing chicken ginseng soup. This hot soup is made with a whole young chicken stuffed with glutinous rice, ginseng, jujube, garlic, and other medicinal herbs. Despite the weather, locals flock to restaurants specializing in this delicacy, as they trust that the steamy soup will regulate their internal body temperature.

Another go-to dish during hot weather is bibim naengmyeon, a spicy cold noodle dish. This dish consists of long, chewy buckwheat noodles topped with a spicy sauce, thinly sliced cucumbers, pickled radish, and a boiled egg. Although the soupless noodles may sound counterintuitive for cooling down, the heat from the spicy sauce forces the body to sweat, helping to cool the body in the process.

For a refreshing beverage, Koreans turn to boricha, a barley tea served both hot and cold. While it may seem contradictory to consume hot tea on a hot day, Koreans believe that by drinking a hot beverage, the bodys internal temperature will rise, causing the body to cool down through natural perspiration. Boricha isn’t only hydrating but also provides a nutty and slightly bitter flavor that Koreans find soothing.

In addition to these dishes and drinks, Koreans also opt for samgyeopsal, grilled pork belly, which is a staple summer food. Grilled on the charcoal grill, the sizzling samgyeopsal releases a tantalizing aroma that attracts Koreans despite the heat. With a variety of accompanying side dishes such as kimchi, lettuce wraps, and dipping sauces, this barbecue experience is considered perfect for socializing while enduring the summer temperatures.

Ultimately, the concept of eating hot foods during hot weather may seem counterintuitive to other cultures. However, Koreans believe that the intense heat from these dishes and drinks warms up the body, thus triggering natural cooling mechanisms like perspiration. This unique tradition not only provides respite from the summer heat but is also deeply ingrained in Korean culture, reflecting the wisdom and creativity of the nation in adapting to challenging weather conditions.

Popular Korean Desserts and Snacks Consumed to Cool Down During Hot Weather

  • Bingsu – Shaved ice dessert topped with sweet red beans, condensed milk, and various fruits
  • Patbingsu – Similar to bingsu, but with additional toppings such as rice cakes and jelly
  • Popsicles – Frozen fruit juice or milk-based treats in various flavors
  • Melona – Creamy melon-flavored ice cream bars
  • Pingpong ttareungyi – Chewy rice cakes filled with sweet bean paste and topped with ice shavings
  • Sikhye – Traditional sweet rice punch served chilled
  • Hotteok – Sweet pancakes filled with brown sugar syrup, nuts, and cinnamon
  • Dalgona – Whipped coffee or matcha with milk served over ice
  • Seolleongtang – Milky beef bone soup served cold with noodles and vegetables
  • Bungeoppang – Fish-shaped pastry filled with sweet red bean paste

However, there’s another lesser-known Korean soup that’s specifically known for it’s effectiveness in soothing a cough. This special soup, called Samgyetang, combines chicken, ginseng, and various herbs to provide a comforting and nourishing meal that’s believed to be beneficial for respiratory health. Whether you’re battling a stubborn cough or simply seeking a delicious and nutritious meal, Samgyetang might just be the remedy you’ve been looking for.

What Is a Korean Soup for a Cough?

What’s a Korean soup for a cough? Samgyetang This hot stew made with chicken and ginseng is a popular dish in Korea and is traditionally eaten when a person is sick with a cold or flu. The main ingredients of samgyetang include a whole young chicken, ginseng, jujubes, garlic, ginger, and glutinous rice. These ingredients are simmered together in a rich, flavorful broth until the chicken is tender and infused with the medicinal properties of the herbs and spices.

Samgyetang is known for it’s healing properties and is believed to boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and alleviate respiratory symptoms such as coughing and congestion. The combination of chicken and ginseng provides nourishment and warmth to the body, helping to strengthen the immune system and aid in recovery. The broth, infused with the natural flavors and nutrients from the ingredients, is soothing and comforting, making it an ideal dish for someone who’s feeling under the weather.

In Korean culture, eating samgyetang is seen as a proactive approach to taking care of ones health. It’s often consumed during the hottest days of summer, known as sambok, as it’s believed to replenish the body and prevent heat-related illnesses. The tradition of eating samgyetang when sick dates back centuries and has been passed down through generations as a home remedy for coughs and colds.

Whether consumed as a preventive measure or as a remedy, this traditional Korean stew offers a delicious way to support the bodys healing process and boost the immune system.

Korean cuisine offers an array of delectable cold dishes that are enjoyed across the nation. From the renowned naeng-myun, a refreshing cold noodle dish, to the enticing flavors of maemil-guksu and kong-guksu, cold noodles in soybean soup, the options are endless. Furthermore, the delightful hwachae, a traditional fruit punch, and various kimchi dishes make for a truly satisfying meal in any season. Let’s dive into the world of Korean cold cuisine and explore these mouthwatering delights.

What Korean Food Is Eaten Cold?

When it comes to Korean cuisine, there are several delectable dishes that are best enjoyed cold. One of the most iconic cold Korean dishes is naeng-myun, a chilled noodle dish that’s perfect for hot summer days. It typically consists of buckwheat noodles served in a tangy broth made from beef or dongchimi, a type of radish water kimchi. Topped with refreshing cucumber, pear, and spicy mustard sauce, naeng-myun is a refreshing and satisfying meal.

Another popular cold noodle dish is maemil-guksu, also known as soba noodles. Made from buckwheat, these thin and chewy noodles are typically served cold, either with a savory soy-based sauce or in a refreshing broth. The soba noodles are often accompanied by a variety of toppings such as sliced beef, vegetables, and eggs, creating a well-balanced and flavorful dish.

For those looking for a lighter option, kong-guksu might be the perfect choice. This dish features noodles served in a chilled soybean soup, which is made by grinding soaked soybeans and extracting their creamy milk. The silky smooth texture of the soup pairs wonderfully with the chewy noodles and is often garnished with fresh cucumbers, sesame seeds, and chopped scallions.

Korean cuisine also offers a refreshing cold dessert known as hwachae. This fruit punch-like dish is made by combining various fruits such as watermelon, pineapple, and kiwi with a sweet syrup made from honey or sugar. It’s often served with crushed ice, creating a cool and revitalizing treat that’s loved by both locals and visitors alike.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that many kimchi dishes are also consumed cold. Kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables, is often enjoyed as a cold accompaniment to meals.

Cold Tofu Dishes: Korean Cuisine Offers a Variety of Dishes Featuring Cold Tofu, Such as Dubu-Haejangguk, a Cold Tofu Soup That Is Commonly Enjoyed as a Hangover Cure.

  • Dubu-haejangguk: cold tofu soup usually eaten as a hangover cure.
  • Other cold tofu dishes: various dishes that feature cold tofu in Korean cuisine.

Source: 5 delicious Korean dishes to cool down your summer


This practice stems from the tradition of preparing a variety of banchan in small portions each day, allowing them to be enjoyed over several days. The cold serving temperature highlights the freshness, simplicity, lightness, and spiciness of these side dishes, providing a satisfying and comforting dining experience.

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