Her sister, Effy will also be joining us that evening and I let them decide on the place to eat since they're hungry. Considering that they're both such Hallyu and K-pop fans, it was no surprise that they suggest a Korean restaurant.
Effy actually just came back from a company trip to South Korea recently. Lucky gal!
I got pretty excited, for it's been ages that I last had decent halal Korean food ever since Zingdo closed down. Even Fresh Bulgogi at Changi Airport.
Went to the Seoul Garden HotPot at Harbourfront Centre. Unlike their buffet restaurants, this branch serves ala-carte menu. Another similar branch is at Cathay Cineleisure Orchard.
From the looks of it, these 'namul' (seasoned vegetables) might be considered what they called 'banchan'- those small dishes of food served along with cooked rice in Korean cuisine. Something like side dishes.
Inside the menu
It was mind-boggling. I leave it to them to choose since they seem to come here pretty often. I just ask for no rice. Still feeling full from lunch.
As seen above, 'Myon' refers to noodles. Akin to the Japanese ramen but served is spicier broth. 'Bap' refers to rice. Most popular is the 'bibimbap'- rice served with an assortment of vegetables with other items and topped with egg.
2 pots of bubbling soup and a 'kimchijeon'- kimchi (traditional fermented vegetables with seasoning, usually sour/salty) pancake.
Haemul Pajeon - $6.90
Okay, my bad. I initially thought it to be the popular kimchi pancake but it turn out to be the 'Haemul Pajeon' - Korean seafood pancake, instead.
Almost similar to the Javanese 'lempeng', save that they use scallions here. And their dipping sauce (in the background) has this sourish, salty taste. It's made of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, chilli flakes and sugar.
The pancake is fluffy, light and filled with quite an amount of chopped seafood inside. YuM!
'Mandu' hotpot - $9.90
'Mandu' refers to the dumplings floating inside. Stuffed generously with chicken meat (not sure if there are prawns too), these dumplings go so well with the kimchi soup it came in.
Also inside the soup are 'dangmyeon' (sweet potato noodles/vermicelli), vegetables, assorted mushrooms and chunks of kimchi. It taste sooo good that I can't help slurping it up!
There were some promotional items being highlighted in little stands on the table. And there was a picture of this Braised Beef soup.
My cousins were excited to see it so I asked why. "They used to have this in the menu then they stopped serving it. Now it's back!"
…Of course we've got to order it!
The soup tasted really savoury and 'meaty'. Unlike the 'mandu' hotpot, the soup here tasted somewhat sweetish. Maybe the beef is marinated with 'bulgogi' sauce, which is slightly sweet, anyway.
Between the 2 hotpots, I much prefer the soup from the 'mandu' one. Much more tantalising to my taste buds.
The beef looked like it came from the ribs section. This part is usually meatier, with nice, sinewy tendons. Very suitable for stews, provided it's cooked well (for a long time).
The pieces of meat here seemed to have absorbed nicely the flavours from the broth. Seems to go well with rice, apparently. And also inside the pot are some 'dangmyeon', chunks of carrots and this mysterious green vegetable, which seem to complement the dish nicely. I wonder if it was 'dropwort', also known as Korean parsley.
I dipped the meat into the free-flow of 'gochujang' provided in jars on every tables. Awesome!
'Japchae' - $6.90
'Dangmyeon' stir-fried in sesame oil, with julienned veggies, chicken & mushroom. Seems so simple yet I find that I keep picking at the strands of vermicelli. It's just so delicious!
The whole meal came to less than $45. Still in the affordable range. Not bad actually.
In case you're wondering, this is the same folks behind the now-defunct Zingdo & Fresh Bulgogi. The food is generally the same but the variety wasn't as extensive. I guess we're not left with much choice since there are not much halal Korean food options here.
Well… better than nothing!