The Korean Wave

The Korean Wave

The latest craze of food in town ever since Koreans shook things up with their K culture from drama serials to K-Pop. Find out the places that does them proper here!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Heard about Itaewon Jjajang; a new Korean establishment which had recently opened its doors at Peck Seah Street which focuses mainly on their Tangsuyuk, Jjajangmyeon and Jjampong offerings — following much of the style where items are bundled in a set just like Obba Jjajang, Hong Jjajang and Mukjja, Itaewon Jjang also serves up the same items and more in ala-carte form for those who are intending to share more dishes.

Not giving their Jjajangmyeon a miss, the Jjajangmyeon here is one that I quite liked — the chewy noodles come drenched in a thick and gloopy caramelised black bean sauce; liked how Itaewon Jjajang’s rendition comes significantly less sweet than then other variants, though some may find this “bland” in comparison while we felt that it was less heavy and thus less jelak to finish. While the Jjajang sauce comes laden with minced meat at some other joints, Itaewon Jjajang’s seem to only come with soft onions for a slight variance in texture. Still, the portions do come pretty generous here, and the Jjajangmyeon would be well-sized to feed two folks with a smaller appetite.

Thought Itaewon Jjajang does serve up pretty decent Korean fare overall; we actually found the Sundubu Stew to be pretty tasty with a tangy and lightly spicy stew laden with smooth and jiggly tofu, clams, shrimp, egg etc. which goes especially well with a bowl of rice on the side. Must say we left Itaewon Jjajang pretty satisfied — yet another alternative to Obba Jjajang and Hong Jjajang for Jjajangmyeon at Tanjong Pagar.

Had been eating at places that I would not have expected to eat at pretty recently — times where I am not the one picking where to eat; but it’s really all for the better considering I don’t need to make the decision and just go by other’s cravings, which certainly is a decent break for my mind.

The Vongole Ppong is one of the dishes I have had at Nipong Naepong when they had first opened their doors at JEM — one of the fusion Ppongs offered here that are less heavy on the palate considering how most of them carries creamy or cheese components. Described in the menu as an item that is “cooked with briny clams, white wine and fragrant garlic”, the item also features mussels — a nice, premium addition that helps to give it an additional edge from being just a vongole-inspired dish. Slurping on the chewy noodles, one could most certain taste the slight briny notes in the broth; while the white wine does give it a slight boozy and spicy kick amidst the garlicky flavours, it seems that much of the “spiciness” is pretty much powered by pepper that further enhances those notes — not something I am totally for but fair enough given how Nipong Naepong is more of an establishment for the mass market. Otherwise the seafood are actually relatively fresh and plump; nothing much to complain about even despite having to wait in line for a table during dinner hours on a weekend (well, pretty much every else in Somerset/Orchard on a weekend night). A decent eat for those looking for a convenient Korean-fusion spot in the heart of town.

Caught wind that the Ajumma’s at The Cathay is ending its operations on 12 December 2020; hadn’t actually been there ever since I started working in the area, and so it became a lunch plan considering how long ago my only visit to Ajumma’s was.

Did not really want to go for the usual rice and noodle dishes that I tend to opt for at other Korean establishments; and that was how I ended up getting the Kimchi Pork Belly Stew — a relatively adventurous option for me considering I rarely order stews at Korean establishments. The Kimchi Pork Belly Stew here came with elements such as Kimchi, Pork Belly Slices, Tofu, Enoki, Chili etc. swimming in a pork broth. While the pork broth is rather thin, I appreciated how the Kimchi provided a rather light, yet apt sourness to the entire stew — the element which very much powered the dish itself. The cabbage still carries a soft crunch for some variance of texture, while the tofu gives a very soft bite; the Enoki mushrooms giving a good bouncy bite. That being said, the Pork Belly cuts are a tad too thick and a little dry for my liking; would appreciate some nice Bulgogi-esque pork slices that are often served at Korean-Japanese stalls at food courts or coffee shops which would suffice — those are often more tender and juicy being on a hotplate than they seem, and much so when compared against the pork belly here.

I have heard of other dishes which people enjoy being here for; can totally see the reason why some folks would be sad knowing about their exit out of The Cathay given how its a pretty decent establishment to dine at for Korean food at a respectable quality. There is still one at Funan for those who are looking to fix their cravings at Ajumma’s, but north-western residents would be stoked to know of an outlet that is opening soon at Bukit Panjang Plaza — definitely a decent option to have in the heartlands!

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From King Army Stew — a new F&B establishment which had opened its doors fairly recently, taking over the former premises now-defunct Roots by Raw Elements at Fortune Centre. Serving up mainly Korean stews, they also do have Korean pancakes on the menu, with a variety of beverages ranging from soft drinks to Korean canned drinks and alcoholic options to choose from.

The Korean Army Stew comes in two sizes; Medium and Large with the former being the one which we have opted for and is good to share between two to three pax. It comes with all the ingredients served in a pot to be cooked over a portable stove after the server has poured in the broth at the table; the stew is ready to eat once the stew starts to boil, and when the noodles have softened. Hadn’t have too many Korean Army Stews to make form a very accurate opinion; that being said, the stew here felt a little bit lighter and on the sweeter side — have always preferred my Korean Army Stew to be on the thicker side with a slightly spicier note that tingles the taste buds. That being said, the Korean Army Stew here does comes with a good variety of condiments such as tofu, luncheon meat, hotdog, Kimchi, bacon, Enoki mushroom, baked beans and rice cake — accompanied with Korean instant noodles topped with sliced cheese which is pretty much as wholesome as it gets for such an item. Patrons can have the Korean Army Stew as it is, or order bowls of rice to enjoy the stew with — fairly decent I would say.

Found it to be a rather attractive deal considering how there was an ongoing opening promotion where the Korean Army Stew (Medium) is offered at 50% off (i.e. $12.95) until 28 November 2020 — wouldn’t have known about the shop if not for them having staff disturbing flyers at the entrance of Fortune Centre considering how the shop is hidden at Level 3, which led us to discover this newly-opened eatery there during lunch.

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Had noticed the fried chicken from Ahtti making its rounds across social media — pretty surprised how the space was actually rather empty on a weekday night, possibly due to its pretty remote location in Jurong East at Vision Exchange; a mixed-use development near Jurong East MRT Station which is more of an office building and located slightly away from the cluster of malls in the area.

Glad to say that the fried chicken here is pretty much worth the hype — the Honey Butter Fried Chicken is one that was pretty memorable and quite worth making the trip at least for me. Coming in servings of either half (8pcs) or whole (16pcs) with a choice of boneless, whole bird or wings and drumettes, we went for the wings and drumettes in the whole portion size. Liked how the fried chicken are pretty well-sized here; a pretty manageable portion size to be shared between two — the batter also being satisfyingly crisp without being overly thick, which some places tend to serve the variation of Korean Fried Chicken in to boost the crispiness of the batter. The Honey Butter variant comes sprinkled in a honey butter seasoning that gives the fried chicken extra aesthetic appeal; a “snowy” look whilst carrying a good balance of sweet-savoury notes without feeling doused in too much MSG — at least there wasn’t an apparent thirsty feeling lingering, making this fairly easy to finish. A pretty good rendition of Korean Fried Chicken that is worth making the trip!

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Made a visit to Mukjja; a relatively new F&B establishment at Novena Regency serving up Korean-Chinese fare; they also do have several Sweet & Sour Pork Sets such as the Set A which we have opted for — all of the sets are being catered for two to three pax.

Despite being the most affordable set at S$40 before service charge, the portion sizes for this set is surprisingly filling — mostly attributed to the Sweet & Sour Pork that came in a pretty generous serving despite being the “small” portion they offer on their regular menu. That being said, we felt that both noodles were actually pretty decent — the Noodle with Black Bean Sauce (i.e. Jjajangmyeon) comes with ample caramelised black bean sauce; carried a mellow sweetness amidst the savoury notes, with bits of minced meat for a good chew, all tossed with the slurpy noodles that carried a bite and is a variant that would work well for those who prefer their Jjajangmyeon a little less sweet overall. The Spicy Seafood Noodle (i.e. Jjampong) also delivered in terms of execution; the same noodles served in a spicy soup that provided sufficient kick for those with a moderate tolerance to spiciness; all that while coming with a mix of vegetables for a good crunch — only qualm was the limited variety of seafood served here which seems to be mainly squid(?). A pretty decent option worth considering for Korean food at Novena.

Have been seeing this make the rounds on social media so decided to head down to this pretty new establishment at Tanjong Pagar to give it a try

The Jjajangmyeon is a pretty faultless item here; that caramelised black bean sauce comes with a mellow sweetness that is further enhanced by that of the onions; all of it lacing the chewy noodles that it is being drenched on. Giving the entire bowl a good mix, each mouthful comes with a good chew from the noodles, a bit of a crunch of the onions and cucumbers, and a soft bite coming from the potatoes — a pretty good addition to the dish.

While the portions do look somewhat manageable, it still veers towards a little carb-heavy, though less so compared to other Korean establishments that serves the same dish. Liked how each order comes with Kimchi and pickles; a smaller selection of banchan as one would have expected from a Korean establishment, but both being pretty complimentary to the noodles by giving a sour-ish tang and a slight zing that provides a good break from the noodles. A place that is worth considering to dine-in in the area.

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From Hong Jjajang, a new Korean restaurant that took over a bridal studio along Tanjong Pagar Road that serves communal Korean dishes with a focus on Jjajangmyeon.

Going for one of the combination bowls, the Tangjjamyeon comes with sweet and sour pork alongside Jjajangmyeon — something I would recommend one to go for if they are heading there in a small group of two to three and want to try a variety of items without overstuffing themselves with the communal dishes. It is noted that the Jjajangmyeon here comes with a more savoury note amidst the sweetness of the caramalised black bean sauce than Obba Jjajang’s version (also situated along the same road); it also comes evidently meaty from the minced meat included with the onions within the sauce. The Tangsuyuk comes very bland on its own, though reasonably crisp on the exterior — dip it into the sweet and sour sauce provided on the side and the flavours come alive with the thick and gooey sauce that comes with cocktail fruits which enhances the sweetness further. Overall, worth a try!

One of the more distinct fusion Jjampong available at Nipong Naepong. A combination of the classic Italian Vongole with the Korean Jjampong, it is interesting to see how this was served as a wet item instead of the dry noodles that Vongole would have been. One could certainly detect the notes of white wine going on in the Vongole Ppong; the spiciness of the chili creeps up on the throat as one takes in more sips of the broth, while also hints of a light hint of garlicky flavour. Noodles were chewy and carried a good bite, while the Vongole Ppong came with seafood such as the usual mussels that comes with Jjampong and clams that come with Vongole; both of which being of a decent grade. A pretty well-made fusion dish, with elements distinctively Korean and Italian being pretty identifiable here.

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From Nipong Naepong, a brand brought in from Korea from the folks behind Chir Chir/Massizim/Kogane Yama that serves up fusion Jjampong (Korean seafood noodles) and pizzas at JEM.

The Ro Ppong-Roje is one of the items that is listed as a top-seller in their menu. Served in a tomato cream sauce topped with mozzarella, the Ro Ppong-Roje is a crowd pleaser with its tangy yet creamy flavour that cuts through that cheesiness from the oozy, stretchy melted mozzarella (you know, the consistency that everyone loves) pretty well. Noodles were chewy and gives a good bite, while the mussels included could admittedly be a little fresher — noticed how our portion came with mussels with brittle shells as well as mussels that weren’t opened up. Still, it’s a dish that’s hard not to like considering the elements involved.

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Picked MARU as a spot for our yearly Chinese New Year gathering with a couple of friends — pretty satisfied with the spread here. No doubt this isn’t the free-flow style buffet that one can help themselves to the counter, but the ala-carte buffet here certainly still feeds us pretty well. For $21 (before service charge), they were pretty generous with the banchan while also comes with soup on the side, Kimchi Pancakes and Gimbap altogether. The meats were also pretty decent without being excessively heavy on flavour — didn’t find ourselves getting too jelak over the meats nor dousing water constantly throughout the meal. Was also pretty impressed that the servers were also getting round the tables helping out with the cooking of the meats (which included different cuts of chicken, pork and beef marinated in various styles); a good deal considering the price. No doubt it lacks the fun that other places have considering the variety is pretty limited (no seafood nor much vegetables to go with on the grill) and for the fact that it isn’t a self-service buffet concept, but the quality and service did certainly made up for it at the price. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable Chinese New Year gathering spots that we have had over the past few years.

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From Man's Kitchen & Waker Chicken; a coffeeshop stall at Blk 125 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh within Johnson Foodcourt that serves up Korean fare.

It wasn't the original plan for lunch, but we headed here instead for the spot we intended to dine at didn't open and the fried chicken menu from Waker Chicken is only available for dinner. Not sure if I had tried a bad one but I don't seem to get why people like Sundubu with this one — it's almost like a kimchi soup base that's terribly bland and watered down filled with smooth and silken tofu, minced pork and an extremely messy looking, totally cooked egg; the elements just seemed like they are running their own show against one another; almost not related to one another. I am just guessing Sundubu just ain't my thing.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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