We seem to love everything Korean these days, from music (K-pop) to snacks (fried chicken – sinful but oh-so-delicious!) to desserts (bingsu)…and so much more. And when it comes to Korean food, there is a lot more to discover than just kimchi, army stew and bibimbap (although these are a staple to the cuisine, of course).
Even though Korean restaurants have been dotted all over Singapore for many years now, it can be hard to tell sometimes what’s authentic and what’s just generally Asian food with a Korean twist — so we’ve done the work for you. Here are some Korean restaurants that will give a bonafide experience and please anyone with a love for the country, and its cuisine.
Run by a Korean couple, this friend chicken store may seem to be Toa Payoh’s best kept secret, until you run into long lines during lunch and dinner hours. The menu is simple – choose between chicken, bones and all, or chicken tenders if you just wanna pop them into your mouth (and believe us, you would want to). It comes in four flavours: plain, soy sauce, sweet and spicy, and our favourite, honey butter.
Reminiscent of honey butter chips, these tender chicken bites have a nice sweet-savoury taste with the fragrant aroma of butter. Expect a wait of between 20 to 60 minutes during weekends.
125 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-523, Singapore 310125.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 5.30pm-10.30pm. Sat-Sun/PH, 1pm-10.30pm (Closed on Tuesdays)
If bibimbap is your favourite Korean dish, this is the place to go, as it offers a modernised version of this popular food. This restaurant chain is the brainchild of Jong Won Paik, one of the most successful celebrity chefs in Korea. The first restaurant in Singapore opened in 2013 and there are seven outlets here now. You’ll find modern interpretations of the traditional dish here and the bibimbap is served with a hearty serving of fresh vegetables so you won’t feel guilty indulging in this. And, if you prefer noodles to rice, there are noodle dishes too, such as Paik’s Bibim Warm Noodles with Soy Sauce, which is packed with savoury soy minced meat and lots of vegetables.
At various locations such as Vivocity, Citylink Mall and Tiong Bahru Plaza, visitwww.facebook.com/paiks.bibimsg/ for details.
There’s a fascinating – and inspirational – story behind this restaurant and the dish that it specialises in. Guksu is a type of Korean noodles that has been part of Korea for over 4,000 years. It was initially only enjoyed regularly by royals as flour was a rare commodity and, therefore, expensive. However, after the end of World War II, when many of the country’s rice fields were lost, the Americans brought lots of flour into the country. Mdm Park Mi Suk began preparing these noodles with her closely-guarded secret recipe and fed the town that she lived in. This restaurant was started as a tribute to Mdm Park’s fervour and is helmed by Executive Chef Kang Heunseong, who just happens to be Mdm Park’s grandson. The homemade noodles are made with Mdm Park’s recipe, with specially-imported Korean flour. The Korean noodles take centrestage here and there are three types to choose from (from thinnest to thickest: So Meon, Jung Meon and Kalguksu Meon) then you match it with the broth of your choice. The restaurant is also famous for its Korean fried chicken so make sure you order some with your meal – or as a meal, we won’t judge.
At 3 Temasek Boulevard #02-385 Suntec City Convention Mall, Singapore 038983, tel: 6334 7950. Visit www.facebook.com/guksu1945/
Wang Dae Bak
Stepping into this BBQ restaurant will make you feel like you’ve travelled to Seoul. It harks back to the days when people used to meet to eat, drink and talk, and aims to remind diners of that communal spirit that brought friends and family together. It uses real charcoal for its BBQ (which adds to its flavour) and only high-quality meats are served here. Take your pick from a variety of marinated and non-marinated meats or you can go for its set menus too. Other items include kim chi pancake, ginseng chicken soup, Korean style instant noodle and spicy chicken stew.
At 98 Amoy Street, Singapore 069918, tel: 6226 0450, and 22 Cross St, #01-64 China Square Central, Singapore 048423, tel: 6225 2646. Visit here
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8 Korean BBQ
If pork is your meat of choice, this is the place to go. It serves thick slices of Mangalitza pork belly, which is often referred to as ‘the Kobe beef of pork’. The Mangalitza Hog is a rare pig of Hungarian origin and its meat is lower in cholesterol, and has higher levels of zinc, copper, iron and oleic acid. Order the 8 Colours Set and you’ll be served the pork belly in eight flavours – wine, original, ginseng, garlic, herb, curry, miso paste, and red pepper paste. Beef aficionados will love this restaurant too as there’s a choice of Argentinian grass fed, USDA prime and Japanese Wagyu beef. The Korean Grilled Squid is a good choice from the seafood selection and other popular dishes here include Army Stew, Seafood Pancake and Black Ginseng Chicken Soup. It’s a full-service BBQ restaurant so all you have to do here is enjoy your food after it’s been expertly prepared at your table.
At 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, #02-79/90 The Central, Singapore 059817, tel: 8692 1188, and Shaw Centre #04-20/21, 1 Scotts Rd Singapore 228208, tel: 9018 9212. Visit www.8koreanbbq.com
Authentic flavours take centre stage here, with modern Korean cuisine that reflects authentic Korean culture, while embracing local tastes too. Go for the BBQ lunch or dinner buffet – you can choose the normal or premium buffet, or one without beef. And make sure you wipe your plates clean as a $50 fine will be charged if there is more than 100g of leftover food (yay to zero waste!). You could also choose the items you want from the a la carte menu, if you just fancy having a few specific dishes. And, if you’re looking for a private or corporate dining experience, the traditional Hanjeongsik Course set menus will give you an experience that was enjoyed in the royal palaces and aristocrats’ homes. It’s fine dining done in traditional Korean style and sure feels like a meal fit for royalty.
At #03-02 Regent Hotel, No.1 Cuscaden Road, Singapore 249715, tel: 6338 8548. Visit www.seoul.com.sg
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Hanwoori Korean Restaurant
Anyone who has lived in the Serangoon Garden area will know that there’s tons of good food to be had here and you can find a plethora of cuisines too. Hanwoori is one such exciting eatery here, and it’s a low-key establishment that’s mostly known to those who frequent the area, or if you’re a big fan of Korean food. There are BBQ meat dishes and bibimbap but a must-try is the Kimchi Hotpot. Lunchtime is a good time to dine here as they serve a number of $10 nett options then, and these items are rotated often too. But probably the most exciting attraction here is the ladyboss, who is quite a character, to say the least. Pop in and experience her friendly chatter and you’ll definitely be back for more.
At 76 Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore 555972, tel: 8181 7225. Visit www.facebook.com/pg/hanwoorisg/posts/?ref=page_internal
SBCD Korean Tofu House
Tofu fans should head here as there’s a variety of dishes to choose from. The signature dish here is the Soontofu Soup (‘soon’ means soft) and it’s made from white soybeans imported from South Korea, then boiled, curdled and pressed for just the right taste and texture. Every soontofu dish is handmade fresh daily in the restaurant’s kitchen and the 10-ingredient soup broth is made from a secret recipe. After boiling, the broth is left to set for a couple of days so the flavour is brought out naturally, instead of having to add any artificial flavouring. Choose your spice level – mild, medium, spicy and crazy hot – then pick the soontofu that takes your fancy, including oyster, kimchi biji, seafood, original beef and original pork. There are other dishes to try here too, such as Grilled Chicken (spicy or teriyaki sauce), LA Galbi (BBQ short ribs) and Cockles Bibimbap (rice with spicy cockles and seaweed). The restaurant also serves Korean puffer fish, and claims to be the first Korean restaurant in Singapore to do so.
7 Wallich Street, #B1-01/02 Tanjong Pagar Centre, Singapore 077884, tel: 6386 6441, and 9 Raffles Boulevard, #01-114 Millenia Walk, Singapore 039586, tel: 6873 6441. Visit https://sbcd.com.sg
The seafood tower craze from Korea hit Singapore in the form of this restaurant. How does this concept work? The tiers are stacked one on top of another and a variety of seafood are cooked in steamers, layer by layer, from top to bottom, so you can eat off the tower one tier at a time. Order the number of towers you’d like to enjoy according to how many people you’re dining with (or how hungry you all are). The sauce bar has two dozen condiments and ingredients and there are suggestions as to how to pair each food so you won’t be lost even if it’s your first time here. The broth sits in a pot at the bottom of the tower and, with the juices from the seafood dripping down right to the bottom, you’ll end up with a soup base full of flavours. Order a premium soup base such as Korean Ginseng Chicken, Korean Kimchi or Korean Tomato. When you’re done with all the seafood on the towers, turn your meal into a hot pot feast by ordering other items to cook in this soup base. There are other types of food to order here too, such as Garlic Pork Belly, Fried Seafood Tofu, and Captain K’s Sweet Potato Fries.
At 112 Middle Road, #01-00 Midland House, Singapore 188970, tel: 6255 5744. Visit www.captainksg.com
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Also owned by Korean celebrity chef Jong Won Paik, this popular chain from South Korea has a couple of outlets in Singapore too. The restaurant’s specialty, Woo Sam Gyup, is a must-try. It’s Chef Paik’s recipe of thinly-sliced beef, seasoned with a top-secret marinade. Eat the juicy meat by itself once it’s cooked or dip it in the accompanying spicy sauce, or why not roll it up with some vegetables too? If you prefer to stay cool and not have a grill with sizzling meat in front of you, try the Born-Ga Naeng Mun – buckwheat noodles served in an icy-cold broth, with vegetables, pear and beef slices, and topped with a hard-boiled egg. Cold noodles might not be something we’re used to but this just might surprise your taste buds – in a good way.
#01-641 Suntec City Mall, 3 Temasek Boulevard, Singapore 038983, tel: 6836 3291, and #02-123 VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk, Singapore 098585, tel: 6376 8268. Visit www.facebook.com/Borngasg/