New grocery store specializing in “Banchan” Korean side dishes opens in Long Island City

A new store specializing in Korean side dishes called “banchan” has opened in Long Island City (Photo: James Song)

August 11, 2022 By Michael Dorgan

A new store specializing in Korean side dishes called “banchan” has opened in Long Island City after a long delay.

The store, called Small Banchan shopopened 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, took over a 2,000 square foot space inside the building that was previously an indoor children’s playground.

Little Banchan is the second establishment owned by Kim, a Long Island City resident originally from Korea. He has operated the Danji Restaurant in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan since 2010. His wife also works in the business and they have a 13-year-old son.

The 49th Avenue location was supposed to open about 14 months ago, but delays in getting permits and equipment from overseas hampered Kim’s initial plans. Nonetheless, Kim said he was happy that his store was finally open.

Kim said banchan was extremely popular in Korea and he wanted to bring the side dish to Long Island City. Banchan comes in the form of seasonal vegetables and grilled meats.

“Basically, every family in Korea has a fridge full of at least three or four different kinds of banchan,” he said. “Some big families have 12 different kinds of banchan in the fridge.”

Kim said banchan is usually served with a bowl of hot rice and at least one entree.

“It makes Korean dinner quick and easy to prepare,” Kim said, noting that banchan has also become popular with ordinary Americans.

“I think it’s quite appealing to people these days, like young working parents, who want to be able to have a very healthy meal prepared in a short amount of time.”

Little Banchan offers around 70 different types of banchan which come in the form of seasonal vegetables and grilled meats. Kim said banchan has unique flavors because it’s often made with fermented sauces and seasonings like soybean paste, soy sauce, red bean paste, and red pepper paste.

Kim sources her vegetables from local farmers, while the company uses only meats free of hormones and antibiotics. The company’s sauce and seasoning ingredients are imported from Korea.

The banchan are prepared inside a kitchen at the back of the premises and then packaged in transparent bags which are displayed in open refrigerators at the front of the store.

Banchan are displayed in open fridges at the front of the store (Photo: James Song)

Hooni Kim, pictured, is the owner of Little Banchan (Photo: James Song)

Little Banchan offers hot ready meals to go which are on sale at noon and 5 p.m. daily. Meals include Korean-style fried chicken, bibimbap, and barbecued meats. The store also offers Korean seaweed products known as gim and drinks such as imported Korean coffee.

The store mainly focuses 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 being forced to eat at home during the pandemic convinced him to open Little Banchan. He said he was tired of eating takeout from restaurants as the food loses quality upon delivery.

“Our lives have changed due to the pandemic, and I don’t eat out in restaurants as much anymore, so I wanted to provide a service where our food is exactly the same quality as the food you enjoy in a restaurant.”

He said that banchan offers a solution to this problem given that it is refrigerated and has a shelf life of a few days.

“Every city in Korea has a banchan store and I thought ‘why not have one in Long Island City,'” Kim said.

“Healthy food, delicious food, everyone deserves it.

Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.

Customers inside Little Banshan (Photo: James Song)

Some of the items on offer at Little Banshan (Photo: James Song)

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