Los Angeles: 8 Free Banchan Spreads We Love

[Photographs: Katie Robbins, unless otherwise noted]

What's better than cheap eats? Free ones. But aside from the occasional bar bite or cheese store sample, here in Los Angeles, free food can be difficult to find. Except in Koreatown, where thanks to the staggering assortment of banchan served at the beginning of the meal at most restaurants, you're in danger of filling up before your steaming bowl of bean paste casserole or soon tofu even arrives.

Banchan, the small plates that accompany many Korean meals, complement, contrast, or accentuate the flavors of the main dish, putting out the flames of a particularly fiery spicy kimchi stew or adding a potent kick to a soothing bowl of jeonbokjuk, abalone porridge. They provide an astonishing medley of textures and flavors, from the earthy snap of funky daikon kimchi to the chewiness of sweet, braised potato gamja jorim.

And perhaps nowhere else in the U.S. are these side dishes better displayed than in K-Town in Los Angeles, where not only are they available in astounding quantities (never be afraid to ask for a refill), but they also accompany some seriously delicious main dishes.

The Best of Banchan

Best Variety: Genwa Korean BBQ »
Best Spicy Raw Crab: Sokongdong »
Best Cabbage Kimchi: Myung Dong Kyoja »
Best Daikon: Beverly Soon Tofu »
Best Beef: Mountain Café »
Best Radish: Mountain Café »
Best Variety on a Budget: Mapo »
Best in Show: Seongbukdong »

The Map

View Best Banchan in Los Angeles in a larger map