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

Checked out the new Salmon Kitchen along Tanjong Pagar Road; the Korean-run seafood establishment had recently opened their doors, taking over the former premises of the now-defunct Hongjjajang — the interior of the restaurant now features a largely white colour theme, which opposes the louder aesthetic of the former establishment. While Salmon King does serve up ala-carte dishes on their menu, the highlight here would be their 1 meter / 85cm / 66cm sets featuring a variety of dishes that are great for sharing, or their “unlimited” ala-carte buffet offerings that is available from $29.90++ per pax and up (depending on the dishes offered) where diners can enjoy a free-flow of a variety of Korean dishes for a dine-in time limit of 90mins.

Since it was our very first visit being made to Salmon Kitchen, it was needless to say how we ended up opting for the 1 meter unlimited buffet at $39.90++ per pax; essentially the full works served on a 1 meter long platter that featured the following items according to the menu:

Yukhoe (Beef Tartare) + Salmon + Tuna + Tokboki + Saeujung (Soy Sauce Marinated Shrimp), Yangnyeomgejang (Spicy Marinated Crab) + Sushi + Taco Wasabi + Muneosukhoe (Parboiled Octopus), Riceball + Kimchi Pancake + Jogetang (Clam Soup)

To put it in summary, we did find ourselves enjoying the cooked food items more than the raw dishes for the most part; the carbs such as the Tokoboki and the Riceballs were mainly the highlights here which we couldn’t get enough of. Other items such as the Muneosukhoe and Yukhoe were also commendable; liked how the former wasn’t particularly rubbery and well-flavoured with the marinade, while the latter was especially enjoyable with the honey mustard sauce served on the side. The sushi were generally decent; whilst we enjoyed how the rice did come slightly sweetened, the rice wasn’t as tightly packed as expected and there were a couple of pieces that were hard to lift off considering how the rice already loosened as we attempt to pick them up using the chopsticks. Other items such as the salmon sashimi were reasonably fresh; enough to entice the typical sashimi lover.

Tanjong Pagar is that neighbourhood that is filled with Korean-run establishments; Salmon Kitchen attempts to provide for a buffet experience that deviates from the usual Korean BBQ buffet which is abundant in the area — the concept of serving up Korean seafood in a 1 meter serving platter for a buffet is definitely something that is likely to appeal to the more adventurous eater, not to mention how it does seemingly deliver on a Mukbang-esque experience. While we didn’t have an unpleasant experience here, there are definitely teething issues with the service — seemingly understaffed and could also do with more training; food does take quite some time to arrive in general, though they seem to be aware and do not seem to strictly impose the 90mins dine-in time limit during our visit as a result. Could also perhaps look into reducing the portion size of their initial serving for smaller groups as well — while I do appreciate the fact on how they would want to seem generous, the nature of the food served (raw items) does seem like a concerning factor when diners leave them exposed for an extended period of time at the table whilst consuming the spread. Otherwise, a fairly decent option to dine at for something different that other Korean establishments have yet to offer; hoping that they could continue working on their service and also furthering the freshness of the food served for an elevated experience in time to come.

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The Food Loft coffeeshop at Blk 721 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 located after Jubilee and opposite the MRT tracks leading towards Ang Mo Kio MRT Station seems to be a hotspot for interesting coffeeshop stalls of the late — the coffeeshop is home to stalls such as El Carbon and Donburi No Tatsujin, and has seen recent additions such as Meng Meng Roasted Duck (hailing from Johor Bahru, and famed for their charcoal roasted duck) and Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu recently. The latter is an “express” concept of SBCD Korean Tofu House, which has outlets at Tanjong Pagar Centre, Millenia Walk and Alexandra Retail Centre (ARC) — also probably one of the first establishments with an emphasis on the Korean Sundubu (Korean Soft Tofu Stew) in a coffeeshop setting. At Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu, expect a smaller variety of Sundubu dishes available — all items here are also served in sets which includes kimchi, seaweed and rice; pretty much a fuss-free and more affordable concept with prices ranging from $6 to $8.

Opting for the Dumpling Soon Tofu Set, it is noted that each order is made a la minute — there aren’t any buzzers or queue numbers distributed here, and patrons will have to wait at the counter for their order to be cooked and collected. The process didn’t take very long — around 5 minutes though I was the only customer in line. Served in an earthenware just like how it would be in the restaurant, the only difference here is how the seaweed comes served in the pack directly in the original packaging. Whilst I ain’t much of a Sundubu fan and have yet to make my visit to SBCD Korean Tofu House (so take my post with a pinch of salt; I wouldn’t know how the one from SBCD Korean Tofu House would taste like whilst writing about this), I could see how some folks would love this. Yes, no doubt the soup-base itself was on the lighter side; that being said, the flavours do seem to build up slowly here and one could taste that slight hint of savoury and mild hint of spiciness in the soup that made it particularly comforting especially on a rainy day — best had when drenched onto the pearly short-grain rice served in the bowl on the side. Inside the soup comes bits of onions, an egg with a liquid yolk, tofu and two dumplings; could tell they were fairly generous with the items served in the soup — the egg yolk helping to further enhance the flavours of the soup when mixed in, while the cooked egg whites gave a slightly different texture against the smooth, silken tofu. Not sure if the dumplings are made by SBCD Korean Tofu House or if commercial ones are used here; whilst stuffed with quite a decent portion of meat, the fillings are slightly more peppery and provided an added spicy note on top of that of the soup’s — still pretty manageable though. The Kimchi was decent, though my preference would be for it to be served chilled rather than at room temperature for an extra refreshing respite over the hot soup by the side.

Sundubu is quite a niche item to be served, but I guess it’s affiliation with SBCD Korean Tofu House somewhat guarantees the quality of the Sundubu that is being served here — a more affordable, fuss-free rendition that would hopefully bring the dish towards the masses. No doubt the Sundubu here is priced slightly higher than the average hawker fare that one would expect from a coffeeshop, but in an era of change where budding hawkerpreneurs are bringing a more premium experience against the traditional stalls that we are familiar and grew up with, perhaps the Sundubu here doesn’t seem that much inaccessible as compared to the trendy fried rice and chee cheong fun options that we are seeing these days. I am probably not the right person to comment on how authentic or how well-executed the Sundubu is here, but it is definitely exciting to see how coffeeshops are also in the midst of a phase of gentrification; a stall that Sundubu lovers probably should check out.

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A fairly recent addition to the campus of the Singapore Management University, O’dok Dabang is a new Korean F&B establishment which is situated just right beside Bricklane, taking over the former premises of the now-defunct Boyle’s Coffee x Love Bites. O’dok Dabang operates as a cafe serving up cakes and bread alongside specialty coffee all-day, but also do offer Korean Fried Chicken and Korean Ramen after 5pm — they are also one of the establishments that are opened till late in the vicinity, and is open up to 12:30am.

Making our trip there during dinner service, we just couldn’t give the Korean Fried Chicken a miss. Patrons are able to go for four different flavours of Korean Fried Chicken here (there isn’t an option to mix flavours, though an extra sauce can be ordered at $1.00 extra) — think flavours such as Soy Garlic, Sweet Spicy, Snowy Cheese and Honey Butter. There is a choice to opt for a set, which adds French Fries and Coke or Sprite at an additional $4 (Radish was a side order at $1.00, which was refillable). We opted for the set, going for the Soy Garlic and adding the Sweet Spicy sauce on the side. Thought the French Fries were decent though nothing much to shout about — the criss-cut fries were the soft and fluffy sort; doesn’t seem to be seasoned in much salt so they were a little plain but these do make for a good vehicle for the sweet spicy sauce which we went for on the side given how the sauce was manageably spicy for those with a lower tolerance for spiciness, whilst being aptly sweet also. There are a fair proportion of different chicken parts provided for the Half Chicken; noted that the batter isn’t particularly thick here so it does differ from those that are usually served at fast food joints specialising in Korean Fried Chicken, but it is still relatively crispy without being drenched in too much sauce — the Soy Garlic being aptly savoury whilst carrying a thick and dense consistency. What we really liked here was how the fried chicken wasn’t particularly greasy, and we were pretty surprised by how juicy and tender the flesh was.

For those looking for something that is more suited for an individually-sized meal here, O’dok Dabang does serve up Wings (3pcs), Drumsticks (2pcs) and Tenders (4pcs) that may suit those who are into sharing a smaller portion or dining here alone. Singapore Management University’s diversity of dining options is something that quite amazes me whenever I am here, and O’dok Dabang does bring this notion further by offering a slice of Korean into the campus — a spot that not only appeals to students in the area, but likely also those who are looking for a chill spot in town and office workers around this area alike, given how they seem to target both the students and the masses with their offerings here.

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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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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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