Every Korean meal begins with banchan! The word means “small dishes,” but banchan is so much more than shared sides: It is the heart of Korean cooking. They are a requirement at every meal, even a bowl of noodles—in many cases banchan is the meal: You pick up a little banchan with your chopsticks, put it on your bowl of rice for flavor and texture, and that’s dinner. On normal nights, most people have at least two or three banchan; for more formal dinners, the table could have a dozen or more. Banchan is about sharing, and even love: Some people say they know which child is the mother’s favorite by how many banchan they put on their rice when they were too young to do it themselves.