Singapore has been busy embracing all-things Korean, from dramas to K-pop to fashion. Korean food is no exception. Diners' love of Korean fare spans Korean barbecue and spicy jjigae, to noodles and tteokbokki rice cake.
The Straits Times puts together nine places to head to for your Korean food fix, listed in no order of preference.
1. Wong Ah Yoke recommends
E!GHT KOREAN BBQ
If you like your food to come with a twist and do not care much for authenticity, you will like E!ght Korean BBQ, with outlets at The Central and Shaw Centre.
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.
WHERE: E!ght Korean BBQ - 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
MRT: Clarke Quay and Orchard
OPEN: The Central - 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 11pm, daily; Shaw Centre - 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 10.30pm (weekdays); 11.30am to 10.30pm (weekends and public holidays)
INFO: Go to 8koreanbbq.com or www.facebook.com/8koreanbbqshaw
2. Tan Hsueh Yun recommends
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.
WHERE: Seorae Singapore, Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road, 02-01, tel: 6238-8429
MRT: Dhoby Ghaut OPEN: 11.30am to 10pm (Sunday to Thursday), 11.30am to 11pm (Friday and Saturday)
INFO: Go to www.seorae.com.sg
3. Rebecca Lynne Tan recommends
THREE MEALS A DAY
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. I also like that 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.
WHERE: 12 Chun Tin Road, tel: 6463-2346
MRT: Beauty World
OPEN: noon to 3.30pm, 6 to 11pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday. Last order for dinner at 10pm
4. Eunice Quek recommends
Korean bibimbap bowls are a good way to tuck into meat, vegetables and carbs all at once.
At Paik's Bibim, the bibimbap does not come with an egg, nor is not served in a hot stone bowl. Instead, it has a variety of vegetables and a choice of meat (from $7.90) or seafood ($8.90).
The pork bibimbap comes with minced pork, bean sprouts, mushrooms and julienned radish, carrot and cucumber. Mix everything with the spicy gochujang and it makes a filling meal.
Noodle options ($7.90 each) are also available, such as warm noodles with soya sauce and spicy bibim noodles.
This South Korean fast-food concept is by Korean celebrity chef Baek Jong Won, who started the Korean barbecue chain Bornga in 2012.
WHERE: Paik's Bibim - seven outlets including Jem, 50 Jurong Gateway Road, B1-K2; VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk, 02-125; and CityLink Mall, 1 Raffles Link, B1-19
MRT: Jurong East
OPEN: 11.30am to 9.30pm daily
INFO: Go to www.paiksbibim.com
5. Wong Ah Yoke recommends
INSADONG KOREA TOWN
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.
WHERE: Insadong Korea Town, Resorts World Sentosa, 26 Sentosa Gateway, 01-30/33, tel: 6238-8221 (no reservations)
OPEN: 11am to 10pm, daily
INFO: Go to www.rwsentosa.com
6. Wong Ah Yoke recommends
Joo 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 Seafood Gochujang Risotto ($24) could do with a bigger dollop of the spicy paste, although the gooey rice, studded with shrimp, mussels, clams and squid, is tasty enough.
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.
WHERE: JOO BAR, 5 Tan Quee Lan Street,tel: 8138-1628
OPEN: 5.30pm to midnight daily
7. Wong Ah Yoke recommends
CRYSTAL JADE KOREAN GINSENG CHICKEN & BBQ
Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken & BBQ at Takashimaya Shopping Centre's Basement 2 has a range of noodle dishes that delight, including the Korean Handmade Noodle With Chicken In Superior Broth ($18) and Korean Handmade Noodle With Pork in Spicy Kimchi Soup ($18).
The star is the smooth and slightly springy noodles, freshly made every day with high-grade flour from South Korea.
The noodles also taste good in the Korean Imperial Hotpot With Assorted Vegetables ($39), which comes with a choice of beef, pork or chicken.
Each serving is enough for two to four persons.
Another dish that is guaranteed to satisfy is the Stewed Top Grade Beef Short Rib ($29). The ribs are marinated with pureed apple and pear, and then stewed with soya sauce and garlic with carrots and turnip. The sweet and savoury sauce is perfect for the tender beef.
WHERE: Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken & BBQ, Takashimaya Shopping Centre 391 Orchard Road, B2-36A, tel: 6733-3229
OPEN: 11am to 10pm, daily
INFO: Go to www.crystaljade.com/koreanbbq/
8. Wong Ah Yoke recommends
Well-known South Korean chain Bornga, which was started by Jong Won Paik, a celebrity chef from Seoul, now has three outlets in Singapore.
The ribs here are good and the marinade very tasty, but the dish to order is the restaurant's speciality, woo samgyup ($22).
The streaks of fat are what make this so delicious. They shrivel up on the sizzling barbecue grill, releasing the oils to flavour the meat. You can eat the cooked meat as it is or roll it up with some thin strips of leek and dip it in an accompanying thick, spicy sauce.
Another meat to order for the grill is the ggot sal ($38), a thicker cut of unmarinated beef. This is evenly marbled and goes well with a dip of sesame oil flavoured with salt and pepper.
The chadol duenjang jigae ($16) is a good filler, too. The stew of sliced beef, vegetables and beancurd flavoured with soybean paste, is very satisfying. You spoon it over an accompanying bowl of rice and greens and mix everything up to create a sort of bibimbap. For some spice, add a dash of red pepper paste as well.
Another satisfying dish is kimchi jigae ($15), a stew made with the popular Korean preserved cabbage, beancurd and a piece of meaty pork rib. It is spicy, sour and salty and perfect for rainy weather.
On a hot day, however, order the bom-ga naeng mun ($15). The buckwheat noodles are served in an icy broth with shredded vegetables and pear, as well as a hard-boiled egg.
It may sound strange but tastes refreshingly good once you wrap your mind around the idea of cold noodles.
You might want to skip the jap chae ($23), a stir-fried dish of pork and glass noodles, which lacks the aroma of sesame oil, and the haemul pajeon ($22), a pancake made with scallions and seafood, which is disappointingly bland other than the seafood bits.
Expect to spend about $30 a person.
WHERE: Bornga - three outlets: The Star Vista, 1 Vista Exchange Green, 02-24, tel: 6694-4696; VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk, 02-123/124,tel: 6376-8268; Suntec City Mall, 3 Temasek Boulevard, 01-641/642, tel: 6836 3291
MRT: Buona Vista, HarbourFront and Esplanade
OPEN: 11.30am to 10pm, daily. The restaurants close for a break between 4 and 5pm.
9. Tan Hsueh Yun recommends
Ramen shops are everywhere in Singapore, but restaurants that sell just Korean noodles are harder to find. Then, along came Guksu, a 96-seat restaurant at Suntec City which focuses on Korean noodles with small eats on the side.
First, pick from three types of noodles, made daily at the restaurant using head chef Kahng HeunSung's grandmother's recipes. So Meon is the thinnest, while Kal Guksu are flat, wide noodles. Somewhere in between is Jung Meon.
Then, pick a broth: anchovy, prawn, clam or beef.
The Doenjang Beef Guksu ($13.90), cloudy with bean paste, is rib-sticking and the broth so flavourful that you'll want to drink every drop. The sprinkling of slightly bitter, powdered mulberry deepens the flavour of the soup.
Digging into the bowl, you will find sliced wagyu beef, boiled egg and vegetables.
The Kal Guksu is thin and springy. Make haste. Left sitting in the hot broth, it turns soggy quickly.
For $4 more, you get a side dish and tea.
WHERE: Guksu, 02-385 Suntec City Convention Centre, 3 Temasek Boulevard, tel: 6334-7950
OPEN: 11am to 10pm, daily
INFO: Go to www.facebook.com/guksu1945