Sookju Namul: The Korean Salad That Puts Bean Sprouts In The Limelight

After generations of dominance by Chinese, Thai, and even Japanese cuisines, it seems like Korean food has finally cemented its place as part of the American diet. Bulgogi marinades and kimchi can be regularly found in grocery stores across the United States, Korean tacos continue to be a mainstay of fusion cuisine, and Korean supermarket chain H-Mart now boasts more than 80 stores across 14 states.

Korean restaurants have also been gaining popularity, with some of the best Korean barbecue restaurants in America serving guests traditional dishes like beef bulgogi, galbi, and a variety of banchan (Korean side dishes) like kongjaban (sweet and salty black beans), miyeok-muchim (seaweed salad), and various types of kimchi. One particular side dish is wildly popular in Korea but hasn't seemed to have gained the same level of fame in the U.S., despite being incredibly easy to make with common American supermarket ingredients. It's called sookju namul, a Korean salad that really puts bean sprouts in the limelight.

How to make sookju namul

In Korea, sookju namul is traditionally made with mung bean sprouts, but at home, it can conceivably be made with any type of bean sprout. This salad offers a crunchy, refreshing balance to spicy sauces and fatty grilled meats and really highlights the bean sprouts. Bean sprouts are a healthy ingredient that, among other things, have been found to help regulate cholesterol, support digestive wellness, and contain essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (via WebMD). 

To make sookju namul, you'll need bean sprouts, scallions, garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and salt. The sprouts are briefly blanched before being tossed with the remaining ingredients. You can serve sookju namul immediately or refrigerate it to allow the flavors to meld. Various recipes use different proportions, but with so few ingredients, it wouldn't be out of the question to adjust each ingredient to suit your personal preferences.

Given how simple it is to throw together, there's no surprise why it's popular in Korea. Perhaps sookju namul needs to become a staple on your table, whether as a side dish for a good old-fashioned backyard barbecue or alongside some easy homemade bulgogi. However you serve it, it's likely this crunchy, delicious Korean staple will become a regular part of your meals.