Aug. 11, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
A new store that specializes in Korean side dishes known as “banchan” has opened in Long Island City after much delay.
The store, called Little Banchan Shop, opened Saturday on the ground floor of 5-28 49th Ave., a three-story-mixed-use building near Andrews Grove Park.
The owner of the establishment, Hooni Kim, 50, has taken over a 2,000-square foot space inside the building which was previously a kids indoor play area.
Little Banchan is the second establishment owned by Kim, a Long Island City resident who is originally from Korea. He has operated Danji restaurant in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan since 2010. His wife also works in the business, and they have a 13-year-old son.
The 49th Avenue location was expected to open around 14 months ago, but delays in obtaining permits and equipment from overseas hampered Kim’s initial plans. Nevertheless, Kim said he is glad that his store is finally open.
Kim said that banchan is hugely popular in Korea and he wanted to bring the side dish to Long Island City. Banchan comes in the form of seasonal vegetables and barbecued meats.
“Basically, every family in Korea has a fridge stocked with at least three or four different types of banchan,” he said. “Some big families have 12 different kinds of banchan in the fridge.”
Kim said that banchan is typically served with a hot bowl of rice and at least one entrée.
“It makes Korean dinner quick and easy to prepare,” said Kim, noting banchan has also become popular with everyday Americans.
“I think that’s pretty attractive to people these days like young working parents who want to be able to prepare a very healthy meal prepared in a short space of time.”
Little Banchan offers around 70 various types of banchan which come in the form of seasonal vegetables and barbecued meats. Kim said banchan has unique flavors since it is often made with fermented sauces and seasonings like soybean paste, soy sauce, red bean paste and red pepper paste.
Kim sources his vegetables from local farmers while the business only uses hormone-and antibiotic-free meats. Ingredients for the company’s sauces and seasonings are imported from Korea.
The banchan are prepared inside a kitchen at the rear of the premises and then packaged in transparent pouches which are displayed in open refrigerators at the front of the store.
Little Banchan offers hot prepared takeout meals which go on sale at noon and at 5 p.m. every day. The meals include Korean-style fried chicken, bibimbap, and BBQ meats. The store also offers Korean seaweed products known as gim and drinks such as imported Korean coffee.
The store focuses mainly on takeout and delivery although there are four high stools inside the store where customers can consume hot food and drinks, he said.
Kim said that being forced to eat from home during the pandemic convinced him to open Little Banchan. He said he got fed up with eating takeout from restaurants given the food loses its quality during delivery.
“Our lives changed because of the pandemic, and I don’t eat out as much anymore, so I wanted to provide a service where our food is exactly the same quality as the food you experience at a restaurant.”
He said that banchan offers a solution to this problem given it is refrigerated and has a shelf life of a few days.
“Every town in Korea has a banchan store and I thought ‘why not have one in Long Island City,'” Kim said.
“Healthy food, delicious food, everybody deserves it.”
Opening hours are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.