Everyone who knows me knows how much I love Korean food. At 13 weeks pregnant, despite having spicy food prohibited from my list of can-eats, even my beloved husband was unable to stand between me and my tteokbokki buffet. Yes, that’s how resilient I am.
That’s probably why, when an opportunity to review Arirang Restaurant came in, I accepted without any hesitation. “You sure you won’t feel nauseous?”, asked a concerned colleague. Well, the sight and smell of burgers and fries might cause some queasiness, but Korean food—definitely not.
Newly-rebranded from Hana K Food at I12 Katong, Arirang Restaurant is one of the three Korean restaurants owned by the Han family—a true blue Korean family if that’s what you are wondering. Located just beside Bedok Interchange Hawker Centre in Bedok Point, it is a bare-bone establishment which, at one glance, is utterly delightful for being so.
The restaurant finds itself situated in a cosy corner at the first level of the mall. Walk along the row of Cheongsachorong (traditional red and blue silk lanterns), and you will be led into a spacious yet homely dining area perfect for a hale and hearty Korean meal with friends and loved ones.
What I tried
Unlike the family’s first two restaurants—Zzang Korean Food at Bukit Timah Plaza and Hana K Food at Novena Square 1—Arirang Restaurant offers a more concise menu of snack and stews. They even have a whole list of set lunches and dinners, specially curated for those who are pressed for time or simply can’t decide on what to eat.
The beauty of Korean cuisine lies in their banchan—little plates of refillable side dishes that never fail to whet my appetite. To me, these appetisers often create first impressions of a Korean restaurant with either a yay or a nay.
At Arirang Restaurant, it sure was a HELL YAY with its array of variety and taste. Never belittle those Apples With Mayonnaise and Blanched Spinach as they will ultimately be your saviour for your pending battle with all that spiciness that has yet to come.
Here, spicy and non-spicy Dak Gang Jeong (S$12.50) (Korean fried chicken) comes in round, boneless pieces; the kind that is so easy to consume, you will be mindlessly popping them into your mouth.
Drenched in fiery gochujang glaze, the spicy Dak Gang Jeong might be lacking in its crunch but made up for it in its balance of sweet-piquant flavours from the fervent sauce it was enrobed in. On the other hand, coated lovingly with honey-soy, the non-spicy version will surely resonate well with kids and adults who deign to grow up with its candy-like sweetness.
Taking centre stage was the Budae Jjigae (S$30), the idea stew of sort you crave desperately for on a cold rainy day. Brimming with ingredients almost overflowing at its edge, this pot of army stew was a heap of good things that require excavation in search of a deeper textural joy.
Now here’s a pro-tip when it comes to dealing with Budae Jjigae. Being impatient Singaporeans, we often scramble for that first sip of broth right after our stew comes to a boil. No, stop doing that.
At this point of time, your Budae Jjigae would still be lacking that bold, punchy depth which you might be expecting. Instead, let it bubble and thicken for a good 10 to 15 minutes more. By then, starch from the ramen and rice cakes will ultimately break down into the soup, and that’s the golden time to devour the stew.
The Vegetarian Bibimbap (S$12.50) called for my attention with subtle sizzles. All thanks to the enduring heat-transferring power of the stone cauldron, the bibimbap exuded a fragrant toasty aroma from the rice scorching at the bottom.
There might not be any beef, pork or chicken, but the Vegetarian Bibimbap at Arirang Restaurant was undeniably one of the most satisfying comfort food I’ve ever eaten. Every spoonful was a hearty bite of fluffy white rice, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini and fried egg mixed with savoury Korean chilli paste.
Although I am a carnivore at heart, this was the dish that left me desiring for more; the one that I find myself thinking of even days after.
Arirang Restuarant’s Kimchi Soup (S$12.50) was a pot of orange and red that spoke to the intense, needy part of my pregnant appetite with its hot and sourish intensity. Dig into the pit of fieriness, and you will find generous blocks of silky tofu and chunks of pork that neutralises the spiciness in its endlessly sustaining depths.
Be extra careful when savouring your Kimchi Soup as its menacing shade of rust might leave a commemorative stain on your white shirt or dress. But trust me, you will surely not regret sacrificing your laundry to a broth as powerful and soothing as this.
The Jajjangmyeon (S$15) was a welcome respite amidst all the heat and acidity. Often my greatest fear when it comes to dealing with these black bean noodles are the splatters they make when the noodles clump together under the air-conditioned environment.
Thank God, Arirang Restaurant’s Jajjangmyeon remained relatively mixable and co-operative even after its endless photoshoots. Complementing the umami-laden black bean sauce was the natural sweetness from the yellow onions and the freshness of the sliced cucumbers.
I felt a little crestfallen after realising that there was no protein in my Jajjangmyeon. Thus, I highly recommend adding on either the Pork or Beef (+S$2) as it will surely elevate the brilliance of this dish.
If spice is not your vice, the Ginseng Chicken Soup (S$15) will treat you nice (pardon my bad pun). At Arirang Restaurant, I was treated to half a chicken filled with a stream of doughy-soft glutinous rice, two roots of ginseng, sliced mushrooms and a handful of red dates bobbing on the surface of the milky broth.
Filled with rich herbaceous notes, this is the kind of soup that will warm your bones and energise you in an instant. Every inch of the pliant chicken meat was fork-tender and juicy. Don’t forget to dip them into the pepper salt by the side as the tinge of saltiness will perk up the slightly blend meat, making it more palatable.
I’ve had my fair share of Korean food in Singapore and frankly speaking, only a handful managed to keep me continually revisiting for its authenticity. Today, I’m proud to say that Arirang Restaurant is one of them.
There are certainly a handful of renowned Korean restaurants offering fancier menu items. But it is the unpretentious home-cooked goodness and touch of humanity at Arirang Restaurant that attracts me the most, and I doubt that there are as many restaurants that are as beguiling as this one.
Expected Damage: S$12.50 – S$20 per pax
*This post is brought to you in partnership with Arirang Restaurant.
Our Rating: 4 / 5
799 New Upper Changi Road, Bedok Point, #01-05 , Singapore 467351
799 New Upper Changi Road, Bedok Point, #01-05 , Singapore 467351