Korean Banchan From 3 Specialty Shops | Los Angeles

The best grab-and-go banchan in Koreatown

It's considered nearly shameful if a Korean restaurant meal isn't supplemented with an endless parade of the small plates called banchan.

Because banchan is usually free, it needs to be extra-special if we're going to buy it. But we've found one new store and two standbys that have the goods.

A banner that reads "Kimchi House" greets visitors to Som See Neh, a tiny new shop where owner In Chun Jung sells glass jars of pungent cabbage kimchi, plus young turnips, radishes and leeks ($8 for 50 ounces; $15 for 120 ounces). 4100 W. Pico Blvd., Arlington Heights; 323-373-0650

Kaesung Kimchi owner Sook Jae Cho has been making kimchi for 35 years. Her stunning selection includes seasoned oysters ($13), dried baby octopus, the spicy fermented bean paste gochujang ($19), and turnip green water kimchi ($9 for 50 ounces). 1010 S. St. Andrews Pl., Koreatown; 323-737-6565

Jung Ye Jun opened her tiny shop, Jun Won Banchan, in 2008 to complement her nearby restaurant, Jun Won. When customers enter, she pulls up the curtain that covers the fridge and flips on the light to reveal the likes of codonopsis ($11 per pound), a crunchy dried root, and eggplant ($6 a pound) seasoned with sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic. 3160 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown; 323-731-0509