Ain’t no party like a banchan party – and this North Strathfield cheap eat does the Korean side-dish thing like a champion
WHAT’S NOT TO love about banchan, those free side dishes served in Korean restaurants? Myeong Dong in North Strathfield, however, steps things up a notch. It’s not just the number of banchan – at least a dozen seems to be standard – but the variety on rotation too. On any given day you’ll score cabbage kimchi, soy-marinated perilla leaves, mung bean jelly, soy bean sprouts, radish kimchi, fish-cake slices, simmered lotus roots, stir-fried spinach and more. Each offers variations in crunch, saltiness, acidity and heat, perfect for alternate nibbling throughout your meal. And if you need refills of anything, you can have that too. Also free. Get the haemul pajeon seafood pancake to start, and revel in a massive disc of prawns, calamari, mussels and shallots, bound together in a light and crunchy batter. Don’t overlook the classic simplicity of sundubu jjigae, a spicy soup filled with fresh curds of silky tofu and hunks of seafood. If you’re down with offal, you’ll love the tender chewiness of the beef intestine stew. You won’t find barbecue grills here, but you will notice the majority of diners – Korean families and groups of friends – sharing hotpot dishes, giant vessels set over portable gas cookers at the table. The gamjatang spicy pork-bone stew is a crowd favourite, a spicy soup piled with raw onions, cabbage, enoki mushrooms, green vegetables and sweet potato noodles. There’s not a huge amount of DIY cooking involved, just some gentle prodding. What you will be rewarded with is a piping-hot soup, swollen with goodies. The pork-rib bones are the best bit. Don’t even bother going for one unless you’re willing to do it justice by using your fingers to get into every last nook and cranny.