Side Effects.

Something noteworthy about Koreans is that they love their sides. At any and every Korean meal, in or out of a restaurant, you are absolutely guaranteed to have 반찬 (ban chan, or side dishes). It is usually the prelude and then also the accompaniment to a wonderfully orchestrated meal. While other cuisines may not be so elaborate on their sides, I still find the necessity to have some form of them in every meal. Even if they may not be extravagant Korean sides, I’ve managed to make, create and master some delicious American sides to be served alongside any magnificent meal. The most simple ones tend to be the most useful and versatile for adding that extra oomph to glitz and glam up any entrée.

Although cooking the perfect meal can presumably imply an overbearing amount of time and exhaustive exertion of energy, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. If you strategically break down your to-be-executed meal, each step involved really isn’t too bad. Simple sides can make your already fabulous meal more wholesome and they shouldn’t be marred by excessive ingredients and complexity. For example, these recipes for Wilted Spinach with Shallots and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes are straightforward and easy to make to go along with any meal. The spinach has a fresh tartness from the lemon juice and  a savory flavor from the shallots while the potatoes have a rich and creamy flavor from the butter, milk and buttermilk.

Wilted Spinach with Shallots
Adapted hardly from Everyday Food

Serves 4


2 tbspns olive oil
2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound baby spinach
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
In a heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and season them with just enough salt and pepper. Cook until soft, 4 to 6 minutes. Add spinach and cook, tossing just until wilted. Stir in lemon juice. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach to a serving dish.
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from Ina Garten (2007)
Serves 3-4
2 lbs boiling potatoes
1/2 cup milk
5 tbspns unsalted butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
salt & pepper
In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water and 1-2 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Add them to the boiling water and bring the water back to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes fall apart easily when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan, making sure it doesn’t boil. Set aside until the potatoes are done.

As soon as the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander. Use a potato masher or food mill to mash the potatoes. As soon as the potatoes are mashed, stir in the hot milk mixture with a whisk or rubber spatula. Add enough buttermilk to make the potatoes creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve hot.

*To keep the potatoes warm, place the bowl over a pan of simmering water for up to 30 minutes. You can add a little extra hot milk to keep them creamy.


  1. Haein

    Ginny – neither are Korean side dishes. They’re both pretty American to me, I just added that disclaimer about Koreans to emphasize how much I love side dishes of any kind!

  2. ginny

    shee gum cheee is totally a korean side dish! hahaha especially with the red onions for garnish?! it gives it the ultimate oriental touch lol

  3. Haein

    Haha, it is, but you have to try this particular recipe. Tastes nothing like the Korean one, especially since it doesn’t have sesame oil and uses lemon juice instead!

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