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 staples 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. Head to these Korean restaurants in Singapore for a bonafide experience:
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Text: The Straits Times & Balvinder Sandhu
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.
Hanwoori Korean Restaurant is at 76 Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore 555972, tel: 6283 6339. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/pg/hanwoorisg/.
Candy Namgung Ji Young is a former tutor who spent years cooking for Korean students studying in Singapore, then decided to open her own restaurant in 2012. Not surprisingly, the menu here is filled with home-style dishes and she makes them with a little help from her mum’s recipes. The no-frills look of the restaurant gives it a more authentic, ‘homely’ look, so it actually adds to its charm.
The specialties here are suyuk (steamed pork belly) and dakgalbi (pan-fried chicken), which isn’t served in many Korean restaurants here. Some of the dishes have been tweaked to suit Singaporean tastes but if you’ve ever dined at someone’s home in Korea, you’ll appreciate the food here. It gets busy very often so it’s best to make a reservation before you head here.
Bigmama Korean Restaurant is at 2 Kim Tian Road, Singapore 169244, tel: 6270 7704. For more information, visit www.bigmama.sg.
Authentic flavours take centrestage 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 100 g 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.
Seoul Restaurant is at #03-02 Regent Hotel, No.1 Cuscaden Road, Singapore 249715, tel: 6338 8548. For more information, visit www.seoul.com.sg.
If you like your food to come with a twist and do not care much for authenticity, you will like 8 Korean BBQ. The restaurant serves an interesting 8 Colours Set ($98) which comprises eight flavours – from wine and ginseng, to herbal and curry – of Berkshire pork for barbecuing. The set, which comes with a selection of side dishes such as kimchi and potato salad as well as a seafood bean paste stew, is enough for three to four people.
If you are in a smaller group, you can order the 4 Colours Set ($58) instead and choose four of the eight flavours. Go for the herbal marinade, which is made with aromatic basil, rosemary and other herbs used more for Western cooking, as well as the garlic flavour.
The restaurant also serves US Prime beef, Argentinian beef and Ohmi wagyu in a la carte orders from $58 to $110. For lunch, it offers chul pan, with a choice of sliced chicken ($15), pork belly ($16) or beef brisket ($18) stir fried on a hot grill with assorted vegetables and red pepper paste.
8 Korean BBQ has two outlets: The Central, 6 Eu Tong Sen Street, #02-79/90, tel: 6222 2159; and Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road, #04-20/21, tel: 9018 9212. For more information, visit 8koreanbbq.com.
You might feel a little crammed at the busy Seorae eatery at Plaza Singapura. And it doesn’t help that the small tables here are arranged very close to one another. But it is popular for good reason.
The eatery specialises in a cut of meat called galmaegisal in Korean, a premium cut of pork skirt that is gaining popularity in Seoul. There are a couple of marinades – Korean spices ($21.90), and garlic and soya sauce ($22.90). The latter has a stronger and more aromatic flavour.
Also order the pork belly, which is available in three styles as Three Musketeers ($31.90) – original, marinated with Seorae’s soya sauce, and marinated with spicy sauce. The spicy one is especially good eaten wrapped in a leaf of raw lettuce.
Seorae’s grill pan is encircled by metal pans that are variously filled with kimchi and mixtures of cheese and egg – different from what you’d find at most other Korean restaurants.
The heat from the stove cooks the mixes gradually until they form a cake with crispy edges. And heated kimchi tastes good.
Seorae is at Plaza Singapura, #02-01, 68 Orchard Road, tel 6238 8429. For more information, visit www.seorae.com.sg.
Three Meals A Day, a 40-seat Korean family restaurant in Chun Tin Road, is a stone’s throw from Beauty World MRT station. And yes, this restaurant bears the same name as a popular South Korean reality television cooking show.
You will notice native Koreans dining here, from office workers to families to Korean mums and their babies, which is always a good indication of authenticity. Prices are also very affordable, considering its clean air-conditioned premises. Noodles start at $8, while a jjigae or stew – which has the consistency of thick and hearty soup – starts at $10. Bibimbap starts at $12 a serving.
Dishes to order include the kimchi jjigae with pork ($12) and the seafood sundubu jjigae ($10). Both emerge from the kitchen piping hot. The robust soup is just the right amount of spicy, sour and sweet. It is flavourful and yet has a clean finish on the palate. It isn’t too cloying either.
The seafood pancake with chives ($16) is another must. The pancake, which has plenty of filling, is not too chewy; the batter is light and the edges are crisp. Japchae ($15) or stir-fried glass noodles with beef has a beautiful sesame oil aroma and is very tasty.
If the weather is hot, beat the heat with a bowl of mul naengmyeon ($16) or noodles with beef and vegetables in an icy cold broth, or bibim naengmyeon ($16), cold noodles in a spicy sauce.
Three Meals A Day is at 12 Chun Tin Road, tel: 6463 2346. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/ThreeMealsaDaySG.
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. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/paiks.bibimsg/.
Insadong Korea Town, located near the Trick Eye Museum at Resorts World Sentosa, offers more than 200 types of dishes that range from traditional Korean and hybrid dishes to street food and desserts.
It is a self-service eatery where you pay for the food at self-ordering kiosks. You then pick up your food from various stalls in the 6,000 sq ft eatery that seats more than 300.
Try the Bossam or Korean Boiled Pork Wrap ($15 for small). Slices of pork belly are simmered in mild herbs till soft and eaten wrapped in cabbage with sliced garlic, green chilli and chilli paste. The pork also tastes good on its own with a dab of the paste and does not feel greasy at all.
Other good dishes include the Ginseng Chicken ($28), which comes with a small serving of evaporated milk to add to the soup if you wish.
Desserts include the trendy J-cone ($6), a J-shaped tube made from corn flour that is filled with ice cream. There is also the Churro With Soft Serve And Fruits ($9), an odd Korean twist to the Spanish snack that is rather addictive.
Insadong Korea Town is at Resorts World Sentosa, 26 Sentosa Gateway, #01-30/33, tel: 6238 8221 (no reservations). For more information, visit www.rwsentosa.com.
Joo Bar is one of a handful of modern Korean bar-restaurants here. While ostensibly a makgeolli bar – makgeolli is a popular alcoholic beverage in Korea made from fermented grain – it also offers a full menu of food that is a mix of Korean and Western cooking.
Try the Warm Kimchi With Tofu And Spam ($16). It consists of a spicy stir-fry of kimchi, onion, scallion and pork belly served with slices of firm tofu and luncheon meat. You sandwich the kimchi between a slice each of tofu and Spam. Eaten together, the bland tofu smoothens out the strong flavours of the fermented cabbage without robbing it of its character. The Spam, on the other hand, adds a savoury goodness that enriches the flavours.
The most Korean dish here is the Joo Bossam ($28). It stays very close to the traditional recipe, where slices of boiled pork belly are served with a variety of condiments, such as kimchi, pickled radish and spicy sauces, and eaten together wrapped in a Napa cabbage leaf.
It is delicious, especially the Hungarian Mangalitsa pork, which has so much more flavour than the meat usually sold here. It is rather fat, so the kimchi and cabbage provide a strong dose of acidity to cut the heaviness.
Pork lovers can also try the Grilled Mangalitsa Belly ($25), where slices of the marinated grilled meat are served with a spicy chive salad.
Joo Bar is at 5 Tan Quee Lan Street, tel: 8138 1628 . For more information, visit www.joo-bar.com.
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.
Bornga has two outlets: #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. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/Borngasg/.
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.
Guksu is at 3 Temasek Boulevard #02-385 Suntec City Convention Mall, Singapore 038983, tel: 6334 7950. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/guksu1945/.
The restaurant, which opened in Amoy Street in January 2018, offers the same style of contemporary Asian cooking as Meta, the one-Michelin-starred restaurant in Keong Saik Road. But it has an a la carte menu.
Kimme offers small and big plates for sharing and some of the dishes are similar to those at Meta. But for the same number of courses, prices work out to be slightly cheaper here, and you can control how many and what dishes you want to eat.
You would find a strong Korean stamp on many of the dishes, which is not surprising since the chef, Sun Kim, is South Korean. But there are also hints of Singapore influences – no doubt gleaned from his time spent here. Before starting Meta two years ago, he cooked in Waku Ghin at the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.
The Korean-centric dishes are must-tries. Among them is the Korean Style Wagyu Tartare ($23) – the minced raw beef is dressed like yukhoe, a Korean-style tartare, with a mix of sauces, spices and sesame that provides an immediate punch on the palate. With a raw quail egg stirred in and eaten on a piece of crispy sago chip, it makes for an excellent appetiser.
There is also Kampachi Sashimi ($22) that comes with ginger and gochujang sauce – a red chilli paste used in many Korean dishes – and it is another wow on the palate. The sauce is robust, but not fiery. So although the thickly-sliced raw kampachi is enveloped in it, the flavour of the fish still comes through.
Of the big plates, the most unmistakably Korean dish is Bossam ($35). That is also the name of the traditional dish of boiled slices of pork belly eaten wrapped in cabbage or lettuce leaves with condiments such as raw garlic, green chilli and kimchi. Here, the dish comes with just two items – ssamjang sauce and white kimchi – which you place with the pork belly on an endive leaf.
For some local flavour, try the Spanish Prawn ($30), which comes with housemade XO sauce that is not very hot, but is tasty with the flavour of dried scallops. There are also mussels in the dish, fried till dry to get a chewy texture and a more intense flavour, as well as pieces of artichoke.
For dessert, try the Banana Cream Puff ($10 for two). The puffs are soft and filled with a light cream. Pop one in the mouth and feel the pleasure!
Kimme is at 47 Amoy Street, tel: 6514 1588. For more information, visit kimmerestaurant.com/.
K- Tower opened in Amoy Street in December 2016 with the promise of better quality in the form of live seafood.
A seafood tower now comes in tiers of three to nine steamers. Each steamer holds different items and at the bottom is a pot of broth. With the broth kept on a simmer, the steam wafting up ensures the food stays warm, while the juices from the seafood drip down into the pot. At the end of the meal, you can order more ingredients to add to the soup, turning it into a steamboat.
K-Tower offers four types of broth: Seafood, which is complimentary, kimchi (add $10), army stew (add $10) and ginseng chicken (add $20).
Couples can start with a three-tier tower ($58), containing the soup base, prawn, scallop, oyster and shellfish (clams and mussels). And those in groups of three to five can get the $128, five-tier set, while bigger groups can go for the $198 one with seven tiers. Vegetables such as broccoli, corn and sweet potato are included in all the sets.
The tallest is nine tiers ($298) and it comes with lobster, mud crab, oyster, fish, sea cucumber, prawn, scallop, squid and shellfish. For an additional $90, you get abalone as well. This can feed seven or eight people, or more if you pad it up with a la carte orders.
Quality is ensured because the restaurant uses live seafood such as prawns, lobster, crab, abalone and shellfish, which are kept in tanks at the back. That makes a big difference – most evident in the prawns, which are much sweeter than the chilled variety.
The worst thing you can do with steamed seafood is to overcook it and that hardly happens here. Live abalone can easily turn rubbery if the cooking is not timed correctly, but here it is springy and easy to bite through. And the fish is tender and moist, cooked just right.
To accompany your seafood, there are four sauces available: a soya sauce-vinegar blend, Korean wasabi, sambal and gochujang. The vinegary blend works best, while those who like their food with a bit of spice will enjoy the sambal.
For diners who are not interested in the tower, there are dishes such as Bulgogi Chicken, Pork or Beef ($11.90) and Army Stew ($26.90 for two persons), which are popular with the lunch crowd. Side orders of Fried Chicken Wings ($7.90) and Fried Oysters ($7.90) are also available. The Seafood Pancake ($14.90) is especially good. Fried to an even golden colour, it boasts crisp edges and is not oily.
K-Tower is at 74 Amoy Street, tel: 6221 9928. For more information, visit www.chope.co/singapore-restaurants/restaurant/K-Tower.
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. For more information, visit www.captainksg.com.
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.
SBCD Korean Tofu House is at 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. For more information, visit https://sbcd.com.sg.
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This post was first published on May 10, 2018, and updated on August 13, 2019.