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Best Korean restaurants in Singapore
A former Seoul resident checks out the most authentic Korean eateries in Singapore
If you’ve ever been to the land of the morning calm, you’ll know there’s more to Korean cuisine than just kimchi.
While the fermented vegetable dish is a staple -- there are variations -- Korean cuisine as a whole is made up of a plethora of dishes that stem from the the country's agricultural and nomadic roots.
Grains, marinated meats and vegetables feature heavily and seasonings such as red pepper, green onion, soysauce, bean paste, garlic and sesame are used as flavor enhancers.
To sample this complex cuisine, here are the best five Korean restaurants in Singapore.
Best for banchan: Ju Shin Jung Korean BBQ Restaurant
The deal? This place serves as-authentic-as-it-gets Korean BBQ (S$29, served daily, except for dinner, available only from Monday to Thursday) with a great value lunch set for S$10 where daily specials include a grilled mackerel or stone bowl bibimbap, heart-shaped watermelon slices and all the tea you can drink.
"I love it here, my parents know the manager from Korea and he really makes sure the dishes are authentic," says regular Yu Keong.
Why we love it: Not only does the restaurant keep the kimchi flowing, it also serves eight complimentary side dishes (or "banchan"). Made fresh every day and authentic in taste, the spinach in sesame oil and chewy mini pancakes are personal favorites.
#01-18/19 Yess Centre, 27 West Coast Highway , tel +65 6464 0872; #02-01 1018 East Coast Parkway, tel +65 6447 9279
The best for KFC (Korean Fried Chicken): 4 Fingers Bonchon Crispy Chicken
The deal? KFC, anyone? Instead of the finger licking good variety, this version points to Korean Fried Chicken.
At this tiny, casual restaurant in ION --a replica of the hofs or pubs in Korea -- soy garlic sauce wings, drumlets and burger patties are the order of the day. Don't go expecting comfort, the seats are a little small and somewhat awkward to perch on, but the delicious wings make up for the discomfort.
"The crispy chicken reminds me of home," says regular Joo Yoon. "Whenever my friends and I get homesick, we head straight here."
Why we love it: The sweet, crispy yet succulent, soy, garlic chicken wings paired with zingy kimchi coleslaw, served with crunchy fries and a soft drink for S$9.90.
#B4-06A ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, tel 1800 4274779; www.bonchon.com
Best Korean hotpot: Sarang
The deal? Hidden away on the 7th floor of Orchard Central, this K-Pop inspired, casual restaurant offers a range of a la carte Korean dishes.
However, their speciality here is the mini BBQs, bubbling pots of spicy stew packed with discs of sausage, galbi (pork), kimchi and tofu.
Two other goodies: the delicately balanced ginseng chicken soup and the sweet, freshly-made doughnuts for dessert, similar to the ones sold at street stalls dotted around Seoul.
"This a great place for a mid week catch-up with friends," says Hyung Bae, a Sarang regular. "The atmosphere is casual and chatty and the food is cheap and delicious."
Why we love it: Sarang's aptly named army stew (or uudae jjigae) is full of flavor and ideal for meat lovers. Pair your meal with some traditional Korean berry wine (or Bokbunja) served in petite soju glasses.
Level 7 Orchard Central, tel +65 6773 1322; www.sarang.com.sg
Best for ginseng chicken soup: Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken
The deal? Walk around Insadong, the historical part of Seoul, and you will find scads of old-school ginseng soup restaurants.
While this Crystal Jade eatery resembles anything but a Seoul street stall, the herbal chicken soup is delicious. Consisting of a chicken stuffed with glutinous rice, ginseng and garlic and served in a piping hot broth, the broth is super tasty, with just the slightest medicinal taste.
Why we love it: It's hard to find ginseng chicken soup in Singapore, so it's great to have an eatery dedicated to it. The restaurant also serves many other authentic Korean dishes to ensure a well-rounded meal. And here's a tip, pair the soup with some fragrant baekseju (ginseng wine).
#04-20, Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard Road, +65 6733 3229
Best for Korean BBQ: Chang Korean Charcoal BBQ restaurant
The deal? While Chang offers up a fine a la carte Korean menu, here, the main deal here is the Korean barbecue.
Forget about getting dressed up as you'll only be hot and sweaty by the end of the meal. Choose your meat or seafood –- or both –- then get barbecuing with extra slices of garlic and onion.
Once the meat is cooked, wrap it in some greens, give it a generous dollop of chili sauce, or kimchi and stuff it in your mouth.
Why we love it: The whole ritual of the meal has a certain messy edge to it and brings back memories of equally messy evenings spent in Seoul with Korean friends.
18C Dempsey Road, Tanglin Village, +65 6473 9005; #04-04 Iluma@Bugis, 201 Victoria Street; +65 6509 8900