Check out these straight-from-South Korea eateries in Singapore – for a taste of the K-life.
Kimchi Carnitas Fries.
VATOS URBAN TACOS.
36 Beach Road, tel: 6385-6010. Open Mon-Thu, noon to 11pm; Fri and Sat, noon to midnight.
The flagship restaurant at Itaewon in Seoul attracts die-hard fans who queue for as long as three hours; Singapore is its first global outpost.
Dive right in with a pitcher of Passionfruit Makgeolitas ($25), frozen margaritas spiked with the Korean rice liquor, and Kimchi Carnitas Fries ($16) – French fries walloped with pulled pork, sauteed kimchi, melted cheese, sour cream and a slow-burning housemade hot sauce.
Galbi Short Rib Tacos.
Continue the Ko-Mex flavour party with the Galbi Short Rib Tacos (from $12 for two), where the stuffing is heavily K-influenced with tender strips of grilled beef ribs, soya sauce-laced cabbage slaw, and a spicy bean pasteinfused ssamjang aioli. The restaurant makes its traditional soft-shell tacos fresh every day, using ingredients imported from Mexico.
We also liked the Kimchi Pork Quesadillas ($18) which throw together spicy kimchi and grilled pork belly in a searing-hot arbol chilli sauce. The sole dessert, Nutella Nachos ($10) had us completely sold: Deep-fried triangles of crispy tortilla topped with Nutella sauce, cinnamon and vanilla ice cream.
A good part of the menu is also headlined by Mexican classics like Roasted Corn Salsa ($8), Baja Fish Tacos (from $10 for two) and Carne Asada Quesadillas ($18).
Beef Rib Stew.
#B3-02 313@somerset, tel: 6509-5808. Open Sun-Thu, 11am-10pm; Fri and Sat, 11am-11pm.
Masizzim – Korean for delicious (masi) and stews (jjim) – bucks the trend of all-in-one Korean restaurants. Taking centre stage are the signature stews: Beef Rib Stew ($18/$32), Pork Rib Stew ($16/$29), and Spicy Chicken Stew ($16/$29). Served in cast-iron pots set over a flame, the rib-sticking flavours hit home.
The meats are marinated overnight, and slow-cooked for a good six hours to fall-off-the-bone tenderness. For the beef and pork stews, you can opt for a non-spicy base, or choose from four levels of heat fuelled by gochujang red pepper paste.
While the lower-priced size is stated as an individual portion, the generous 160g of meat in each bubbling pot will feed two reasonably hungry people easily. Each serving also comes with your choice of Korean glass noodles or udon – we went the distance and added the Rice Cakes ($2) for good measure.
Save space for the superb Rice Balls ($8) too. Part of the fun is in mixing up the ingredients yourself and rolling them into balls (not to worry, gloves are provided). You get three types of grains – white rice, Korean black rice and barley – fried kimchi, seaweed crumbs, and fried anchovies or tuna mayonnaise.
101 #04-01 Bugis+, 201 Victoria Street. Open daily, 10am-10pm.
For a bite of the next big Korean trend in town, get your fix straight from the very shop that kick-started South Korea’s furore over churros – Churro 101.
Here, the crispy Spanish treats are given a contemporary makeover with filling-stuffed crullers: Chocolate Filled Churro ($4.50), Milk Custard Churro ($4.50), and Cream Cheese Churro ($4.70). The dough and fillings are made from scratch daily with ingredients flown in from South Korea, and the churros are all fried upon order.
The queues may be snaking but every addictive bite hits the spot. If we had to pick a favourite, it’d be the Cream Cheese Churro for its tangy-sweet-savoury combo.
Dark chocolate-dipped churros are another major section on the menu. Keep it simple with the Dark Chocolate Churros ($5.40), or go for crunch with strawberry crunches ($5.90) or almond flakes ($5.90) over the glistening chocolate coat. But if it’s a traditional taste you seek, they’ve got it covered with the Plain Churro ($3.30), Cinnamon Churro ($3.50) and Sugar Churro ($3.50). SH