The Funky, Flavorful Side Dishes to Complete Any Korean Meal

“Banchan is very important to me,” says Sunny Lee, who leads the banchan program at the Korean restaurant Insa in Brooklyn, New York. “It has a very long history in Korea.”

Banchan means side dish in Korean, but in reality it’s a bunch of small dishes…

"Banchan is very important to me," says Sunny Lee, who leads the banchan program at the Korean restaurant Insa in Brooklyn, New York. "It has a very long history in Korea."

Banchan means side dish in Korean, but in reality it's a bunch of small dishes filled to the brim with pickles and the like that scatter the table at lunch or dinner. And if you've ever eaten at a Korean barbecue restaurant, or somewhere more traditional, you'll know them by their multitude, and that they all somehow fit together: often different kimchis and beans, or sprouts and tiny fish to snack on before and with a meal. I asked Sunny, and Michael Stokes, Insa's chef de cuisine, to give me a lowdown on banchan, and how its history details much of Korea's itself.

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Italians Hated Pizza for Centuries—Tourism Changed Everything

Sometime around the 12th century BCE, Troy fell to the Greeks. As the Roman poet Virgil recounts the story, the mythical hero Aeneas then fled his ravaged city aboard an uncooperative ship with a motley crew. The son of a goddess and a prince, he carri…

Sometime around the 12th century BCE, Troy fell to the Greeks. As the Roman poet Virgil recounts the story, the mythical hero Aeneas then fled his ravaged city aboard an uncooperative ship with a motley crew. The son of a goddess and a prince, he carried the ancestral burden of begetting a lineage of rulers in a foreign land. After many days at sea, Aeneas and his band disembarked on the shores of Latium (where many generations later, Rome would be founded). Exhausted and famished, they hastily prepared a meal. So hungry, the crew even ate their plates.

Admittedly, these plates would have been like trenchers, sturdy supports made of baked dough. When dry, they still posed a substantial dental challenge—akin to those ornaments made out of salt dough. In theory, they were edible, but eating your dishware was still considered uncouth. Aeneas looked on incredulously, as his men voraciously gnawed on their plates, like dogs with a rawhide bone, when suddenly he remembered the prophecy his father had foretold: When you find yourself in a foreign land and are so driven by hunger that you eat your own plates, that is when you can hope for home. They had found the “Promised Land.”

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Everyone in Maine Is Obsessed With These Chips

Growing up in rural Connecticut, Maine was always kind of a mystery to me. My family had spent ample time driving up and down the tree-lined highways in New England, visiting college towns like Northampton, Massachusetts, and Burlington, Vermont, and w…

Growing up in rural Connecticut, Maine was always kind of a mystery to me. My family had spent ample time driving up and down the tree-lined highways in New England, visiting college towns like Northampton, Massachusetts, and Burlington, Vermont, and we'd been all over New Hampshire to ski. Maine was just too far away. So when my wife, daughter, and I moved here from Brooklyn during the pandemic, I worried we’d feel alienated despite being home in New England.

I quickly learned that Maine shared more in common with my childhood haunts—and less in common with the insanity of New York City—than I ever could have imagined. Hell, you could find a dozen telltale New England things walking into a gas station: a 10-pack of mini Fireball bottles, Moxie soda, Red Snapper dogs, and my favorite: Humpty Dumpty All Dressed Potato Chips.

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In ‘Taste Makers,’ Meet the Immigrant Women Who Changed American Food

When I first met Mayukh Sen on a windy day in New York City a couple years ago, our conversation flowed like we’d known each other for years. I didn’t understand why at the time. But having blitzed through his new book, Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Wo…

When I first met Mayukh Sen on a windy day in New York City a couple years ago, our conversation flowed like we’d known each other for years. I didn’t understand why at the time. But having blitzed through his new book, Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America, at record speed (it’s as riveting as any novel, as page-turning as a thriller, and as moving as an inspirational book), I finally realize why. Sen has a knack for understanding the stories of those across from him in a way often overlooked by others.

In his new book, this James Beard Award–winning writer delves into the stories of seven immigrant women who shaped and changed the way people in America interact with foreign cuisines, but to whom history, and memory, have not always been as kind. Rather than tell their stories from his view, however, Sen has allowed each woman’s voice to tell her own story. In so doing, he brings readers not only a better understanding of the struggles many face in this industry, but also lifts up a mirror, forcing us to question what role we play in perpetuating these issues. As heartbreaking as it is inspiring, this is a book for anyone who cares about food and the people who create it.

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The Almost Lost, Cult Favorite Cuisinart Magazine

Over breakfast some months ago, my friend Ina Pinkney, former chef-owner of iconic, bygone Chicago breakfast restaurant Ina’s, pressed a small stack of Cooking magazines into my arms. Each 52-page issue, published by Cuisinart, bore a simple, stylized …

Over breakfast some months ago, my friend Ina Pinkney, former chef-owner of iconic, bygone Chicago breakfast restaurant Ina’s, pressed a small stack of Cooking magazines into my arms. Each 52-page issue, published by Cuisinart, bore a simple, stylized food image on its cover: a bright-red apple, a canelé framed with mistletoe, a wooden forkful of fresh pasta.

“I lived for these magazines,” she sighed. “I would sit down, read the whole thing, and want to make everything in there.”

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The Definitive History of Dorie Greenspan’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you ask James Beard Award–winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, she’ll tell you that every chocolate chip cookie recipe can be traced back to that back-of-the-bag chocolate chip cookie recipe, the mother of all chocolate chip cookies.

“Everythin…

If you ask James Beard Award–winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, she'll tell you that every chocolate chip cookie recipe can be traced back to that back-of-the-bag chocolate chip cookie recipe, the mother of all chocolate chip cookies.

“Everything starts with the Toll House cookie,” Greenspan told me recently, explaining what delights her most about the form and function of chocolate chip cookies—their simplicity, their flexibility, and their nostalgic flavor profile. “There are things that can be changed in chocolate chip cookies and still have it be recognizable as a chocolate chip cookie. And the form is so delightfully play-around-able.”

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The 200-Year-Old History Behind Why We Carve Pumpkins

It’s that time of year again! You know, the one where we lop the heads off of unsuspecting gourds, to then scoop out their guts and chisel evil patterns into their flesh. Spooky, right?

But where does this rather odd tradition come from? Well, let’s s…

It’s that time of year again! You know, the one where we lop the heads off of unsuspecting gourds, to then scoop out their guts and chisel evil patterns into their flesh. Spooky, right?

But where does this rather odd tradition come from? Well, let’s start with Halloween itself, first. You’ll likely be unsurprised to learn that Halloween, like many American holidays, was once a religious observance that became secular over the years (about a thousand years, actually). Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated on November 1st. On the day of Samhain, people believed that the souls of the dead returned to their homes, so they’d dress in costumes and light fires to ward off evil spirits.

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How Pepper Went From “Black Gold” to Everyday Seasoning

It was Britain’s enterprising nature and quest for food that led to colonization—and effectively changed global cuisine, suggests Lizzie Collingham in The Hungry Empire. There’s no question the spice trade made a permanent impact on the way we eat, one…

It was Britain’s enterprising nature and quest for food that led to colonization—and effectively changed global cuisine, suggests Lizzie Collingham in The Hungry Empire. There’s no question the spice trade made a permanent impact on the way we eat, one of the largest being the discovery of black pepper. Native to the Malabar Coast of India (present day Kerala), black pepper, or Piper nigrum, is a flowering vine that is cultivated for its fruit, the peppercorn. Regarded as the world’s most traded spice, black pepper gets its spicy warmth from a compound called piperine. Now considered a commonplace ingredient in the pantry (right after salt, and often ground into dust and left to sit on supermarket shelves for long before it’s used to season food), black pepper’s treatment in many kitchens can only be described as unfortunate. We seem to have forgotten about its glorious early years—and its contribution to myriad styles of cuisine.

The spice trade started before the Common Era, with Arab merchants in the Middle East who controlled and conducted the luxury goods business along the Silk Road, an important pathway that connected Asia to the Middle East and other parts of North Africa and Europe, which eventually led to the Romans entering the market. While there are records of black pepper in ancient Greek and Roman texts, the spice was largely popularized in the late 15th century, after a discovery by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama on the shores of Calicut (present day Kozhikode), India—the spice was so abundant, it ultimately led to Portuguese domination of the area.

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The Unlikely Resilience of the Calcutta Chop

The Bengali chop might be the perfect metaphor for the British colonial era. The British forged an Empire that sought to impress its culture upon India, but was so heavily influenced by the colonized that a hybrid new form emerged. The chop traveled fr…

The Bengali chop might be the perfect metaphor for the British colonial era. The British forged an Empire that sought to impress its culture upon India, but was so heavily influenced by the colonized that a hybrid new form emerged. The chop traveled from English kitchens to Indian ones gathering spice, egg wash, mince, breadcrumbs, and chickpea flour until it had only the faintest resonance with its original. Along the way, it paused at that most British of institutions—the Club—which was crucial in disseminating it through Bengal.

Once the British subjugated India, they began prospecting for a simulacrum of home for the "preponderance of single British men, or married men living singly in India, especially in the early decades of colonial rule," writes Mrinalini Sinha in her essay, “Britishness, Clubbability, and the Colonial Public Sphere.” Clubs fulfilled this purpose splendidly, banding together to form a community. Unsurprisingly, these mirror kingdoms of Britishness functioned on exclusion and racial homogeneity. Club members—largely upper class, male, white European colonials—cupped the power of the country firmly in their hands; it was at these old seats of power that deals were brokered, policy was decided, and social connections were started or scuppered.

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The Swirly, Brain-Freezing Origins of the Frozen Margarita Machine

From the outset, Mariano Martinez’s restaurant, the place that put frozen margaritas on the map, was an experience. Then called Mariano’s Mexican Cuisine, the original was located in Dallas’ Old Town shopping center, a 5-minute ride from Southern Metho…

From the outset, Mariano Martinez’s restaurant, the place that put frozen margaritas on the map, was an experience. Then called Mariano’s Mexican Cuisine, the original was located in Dallas’ Old Town shopping center, a 5-minute ride from Southern Methodist University. Inside, Mexican music piped through the dining room and blue lighting simulated moonlight. Sorority sisters wearing skirts and gaucho hats worked as greeters. The floor was covered with inexpensive shag carpeting, and at the end of service, employees used yard rakes to clean up fallen tortilla chips. The house specialty was the margarita.

It was 1971—the same year that a coffeehouse called Starbucks opened its doors in Seattle and just a year after Texas passed a constitutional amendment making liquor by the drink legal. Prior to that, it was a “brown bag state,” meaning customers could bring a bottle of alcohol to a restaurant as long as they kept it in the bag, off the table. As Mariano explains on a recent phone call, people would order a “setup,” like Coke over ice with a lime, and pour their liquor of choice—usually whiskey or rum—into the mix.

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