The Beansprout Banchan at the Ali Rang Restaurant in Ottawa was complimentary side dish consisting of beansprouts with chili and sesame oil.
This particular dish, as was the case with the delightful Ali Rang Gamja Jorim, was not merely complimentary, but was given to me despite the fact that Banchan dishes were only supposed to accompany main course dishes, and not appetizer selections, which was all that I ordered.
For those unfamiliar, Banchan dishes are a feature of Korean cuisine that are somewhat similar to Dim Sum, or Tapas in so far as the number of types and overall variety are concerned, but there is one crucial difference. Rather than being served as appetizers, or the focus of a meal, Banchan items are served to the table alongside the rice and other main dishes comprising a meal. I have always thought that this is a wonderful practice and have decided that when I become ruler of the Universe I shall decree that everybody eats this way.
Actually, one of the drawbacks of Banchan service in restaurants, if it may be called that, is that the dishes are generally just plunked down on the table without any sort of introduction, so it is not always possible to much about the dish unless you are already familiar. At Ali Rang, the servers, as delightfully friendly and helpful as they could be, didn’t have very much English and it wasn’t really possible to have any meaningful exchanges about the food. It was not until after my meal that I was able to confirm the dish you see pictured above as a specific type of Banchan known as a ‘Namul’.
I have previously discussed the nature of a Namul in my previously posted recipe for a Namul of Daikon Greens, and the current dish, which is clearly a preparation of seasoned vegetables falls within that category. I am not sure whether the bean-sprouts in question are Mung-Bean sprouts, or Soy-Bean sprouts but both are used to make Namul dishes and, as far as I am concerned, are interchangeable when it comes to taste and texture.
Namul vegetables are generally cooked then stored and served cold and the degree of cooking generally depends on the texture of the vegetable. Beansprouts only require a brief blanching and here, the Ali Rang kitchen had limited the cooking time to just short enough to slightly soften the sprouts while still leaving them crisp or tender.
The season in question was limited, as far as I can tell, to some finely flaked dried red-chili and a little salt. The beansprouts were then tossed with just a little bit of Sesame Oil and then marinated for a while before reaching my table. The application of the seasoning and the oil was light enough that the fresh taste of the beansprouts was not masked and, for such a simple little dish, the result was exquisite.