Kimchi Craftsmanship

An artisanal wonderland at Banchan Chosun

A common rule of thumb when judging a Korean restaurant's quality is to count the number of banchan, those small side dishes included with the meal.

The most prized banchan are homemade, but because they're commonly aged or fermented anywhere from a few days to several months, they're often too labor-intensive for the casual home cook.

That's where Banchan Chosun comes in. This recently opened store in a Koreatown plaza specializes in more than 24 rotating varieties ($4 to $9 per pound), all ready to be packaged to go.

Vibrantly colored options like braised sweet potato vines, pickled shiitakes, black beans simmered in brown sugar, grilled deodeok root or oysters marinated in house-made gochujang line the store's lengthy glass display case.

Think of it as the Koreatown version of New York's famed curer Guss' Pickles.

Owner Youngji Cho, who previously cooked at high-end restaurants Bann and Woo Lae Oak, also makes soy sauce; organic doenjang (fermented soybean paste), aged for over a year in large clay pots; and up to seven types of kimchi.

A home-cooked Korean feast has never been easier.

Banchan Chosun, 356 S. Western Ave. #106, Koreatown, 213-487-1280 or haninmart.com/banchan-chosun.htm