I know exactly why I was assigned this article; having called South Korea home for half a year in 2018, Korean cuisine has long embedded itself into my heart, and I still get that familiar pang of wistfulness every time soon dubu jjigae hits my palate.
More than just downright delicious, Korean fare always takes me back to happier, simpler times—when the only thing I had to worry about was which city to visit next. I’m sure many share the same adoration towards the cuisine as I do, for reasons that are unique and valid in ways of their own.
This is why I’m bringing you 10 authentic Korean restaurants run by Koreans so you don’t have to look too far the next time you find yourself longing for legitimate jjajangmyeon that hits the spot.
1. Jangsu Korean BBQ
Somewhat of a hidden gem, there hasn’t been much going around about this humble Korean-run establishment along Teck Chye Terrace. I’ll let you in on a little secret—until a Korean friend of mine recently recommended Jangsu Korean BBQ to me, I hadn’t heard of the place either.
It starts with an ahjumma’s greeting as I step into Jangsu—their first customer of the day, as it turns out. Jjampong (S$15) and Bibim Naengmyeon (S$13) are must-orders in my books whenever I visit Korean establishments, while a friend of mine swears by Jangsu’s barbecued meats.
We settle on the Soy Sauce Chicken (S$19) and Chilli Pork Belly (S$22), both to be cooked right at our tables atop a hot grill. If you’re intending to go all out for a full-bodied meal, BBQ sets of various tiers are available as well. Set A (S$68) comprises beef loin, beef sirloin, beef top blade, steamed egg and a choice of soup. For more affordable options, Set B and Set C go at S$57 each, both entitling you to beef sirloin, pork shoulder, pork belly, chicken, steamed egg and a choice of soup; with the only difference between the two lying in the chicken’s sauce—soy or spicy.
Jangsu also offers a 10% discount for all students.
2. Hansik Restaurant
Probably one of the easiest to get to on this list, Hansik Restaurant is located right smack in Heartland Mall, which sits on the cusp of Kovan MRT Station. Catering to north east diners from all over the region, be sure to arrive early to snag yourself a table before it gets crowded come dinnertime.
The Green Tea Pork Belly (S$23/200g) is an interesting find on the menu while the classics like Ginseng Chicken Soup (S$23) and Boneless Beef Rib (S$38/100g) hardly go wrong. Cut into tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken from your Ginseng Chicken Soup and finish the meal off with spoonfuls of a fragrant, herb-laden chicken broth.
If you’re looking for the familiar taste of Seoul on a summer afternoon, Hansik’s the place to be.
205 Hougang Street 21, Singapore 530205
+65 6288 2448
Wed to Mon: 11am – 3pm & 5pm – 9.30pm
Closed on Tue
3. Ju Shin Jung
This restaurant needs no introduction—Ju Shin Jung’s popularity speaks for itself in the form of long queues and ever growing reservation lists. It promises to satisfy even the hungriest of diners with free-flow meats.
For the full authentic Korean dining experience, opt for the traditional seating with floor cushions and a low table. Though if you’re 25 but practically 52, then your aching back might desperately cry for chairs with support, and I don’t blame you.
With the restaurant famous for its generous banchan (small side dishes) spread, guests of Ju Shin Jung will never go hungry nor be short of options. Their unlimited barbecue options are quite the show stopper too, with seven different menu items up for grabs—woo sam gyup (beef belly), bulgogi (seasoned sliced beef), sam gyup sal (pork belly), mok sal (pork collar), daeji (marinated pork), dak (marinated chicken), and saewoo (prawn).
Enjoy your feast paired with a simple bap (rice) or in the ssam (wrap) style, which is barbecued meat wrapped in a lettuce leaf alongside other ingredients like seaweed, kimchi, and bean sprouts.
4. Kim Dae Mun
Ah, a popular one with students and those on a budget. Kim Dae Mun was a household name amongst my peers back in my uni days, when we’d often hop on a bus down to the restaurant from SMU to catch a quick Korean lunch fix.
Located on the first floor of Concorde Shopping Mall, Kim Dae Mun is not only popular for its convenience. Its price list alone is enough to attract many from far and wide, each hoping to get a taste of Korean fare that won’t hurt the wallet.
Mains start from S$7.50, with the cheapest items on the menu being the soup dishes. The rest of the menu options don’t stray far from the price point, with Fried Saba Fish (S$8), Bibimbap (S$8), and Pan Fried Sliced Fish (S$9) trailing closely behind.
It won’t blow your mind, I’ll be the first to admit, but Kim Dae Mun is where you’ll go for that fast and affordable hint of Korean flavours for when you’re looking to satiate that craving on a budget. Think of it as authentic Korean food with the price tag of food court grub, and it makes everything better.
100 Orchard Road, Concorde Hotel Singapore, #01-03D, Singapore 238840
+65 6737 6857
Tue to Sun: 11am – 8.30pm
Closed on Mon
5. Hanwoori Korean Restaurant
A no-frills establishment, Hanwoori Korean Restaurant sits in a corner of Serangoon Gardens and is helmed by a Korean lady who has quite the character, as some endearingly recollect. Don’t expect to be called ‘ma’am’ and ushered around here—Hanwoori is where you grab a couple of beers and unwind with friends after a workweek that was five days too long.
The Haemul Tang (S$18), or seafood soup, has been lauded as the dish to try here. Keran jjim (S$13), which is steamed egg, will always be one of my favourite sides at any Korean establishment simply because of how classic and unfailingly tasty it is, no matter where you are.
Like Tanjong Pagar, Tiong Bahru is another ‘hood you can definitely count on for some good ol’ Korean fare, or just a variety of cuisines in general. And that’s exactly where Bigmama—home to Singapore’s only suyuk place—is located.
Suyuk (S$25), literally translating to ‘water meat’, refers to meat slices that have been boiled and processed, and is meant to be enjoyed with soya sauce, vinegar, cucumbers, celery, and spicy soybean sprouts, if one so pleases.
The establishment’s backstory comes as a rather heartwarming tale, with the restaurant set up by former caretaker and tutor Candy Namgung Ji Young who used to cook for her Korean students while they were studying in Singapore.
Swing by for a taste of the elusive suyuk, and don’t forget to say hi to Ji Young if you happen to cross paths.
7. Kim’s Family Food
Long considered one of the OGs of communal-style Korean BBQ joints, Kim’s Family Food is known to serve up authentic Korean cuisine along Beauty World.
Order with caution because their serving portions are notoriously big, but that’s music to your ears if you’re an unabashed, meat-chomping diner. In that case, knock yourself out.
Many regulars who frequent the place constantly rave about the extensive banchan options—12 different dishes, at that.
Savour budae jjigae (army stew) (S$36 for 2 to 3 pax) and slurp on japchae (sweet potato glass noodles) (S$15) at this homely Korean establishment that feels like you’re dining straight out of a hanok.
17 Lorong Kilat, Singapore 598139
+65 6465 0535
Tue to Sun: 12pm – 2.30pm & 5pm – 10pm
Closed on Mon
8. Guiga Korean BBQ Restaurant
Garnering only raving reviews from many who have visited, Guiga Korean BBQ is where you’re looking for if variety is what you seek. Belonging to the slew of Korean restaurants around Tanjong Pagar Road, Guiga stands out from the rest through the best cuts of meats grilled to perfection.
Relish Barbecue Beef (S$30) grilled on the spot by service staff for the ideal temperature and doneness, or simply do it yourself if you’re confident enough. The key to any great grilled meat lies in the marinade—and the well-seasoned slices at Guiga will more than please.
Just like any other Korean BBQ experience, however, be prepared to walk out smelling like pork bellies and beef slices; but then again, how else would you know you’ve had an absolutely lip-smacking meal?
134 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088538
+65 6221 3001
Mon to Thu: 11am – 3pm & 5pm – 11pm
Fri: 11am – 3pm & 5pm – 1am
Sat: 11am – 1am
Sun: 11am – 12am
9. Pa Bul Lo Korean BBQ
Serangoon Gardens has been a hot spot for many new eatery concepts and cuisines as of late, and Korean BBQ restaurants have not fallen short. Apart from Hanwoori, the popular Pa Bul Lo Korean BBQ also sees snaking queues of hungry hopefuls; eager to get their hands on comfort Korean fare.
Perhaps my favourite part about Pa Bul Lo is their special lunch menu available only on weekdays, where one can get selected mains for just S$12—a rare but welcome sight especially since Korean cuisine can sometimes be so unnecessarily pricey in Singapore.
Hoping to break my boring habit of ordering jjampong wherever I go, I decide on the Spicy Clams Kal-guksu (S$12), which I like to describe as a spicy Korean ban mian. The dish entails handmade, knife-cut wheat flour noodles in broth alongside other ingredients, much like the aforementioned local dish that many know and love. The Kal-guksu’s broth boasts a deep, briny flavour that is a delightful burst of umami—making the dish extremely tasty and easy to love.
The Jjajangmyeon (S$15) would have fared better with a tad more meat bits as opposed to just onions for toppings, while the Soondubu Jjigae (S$12 during lunch, S$13 UP) is close to faultless. The hearty, flavourful broth is nothing but sweet relief on a cold, rainy January morning.
10. Woorinara Korean Restaurant
Just a neighbourly wave away from Kim’s Family Food, Woorinara Korean Restaurant is famed in the area for their crunchy, succulent Korean fried chicken. Their Soy Garlic Chicken (S$17) and Cheese Fried Chicken (S$18) are must-tries if this is your first time venturing there. To complement the side, we strongly recommend a sharing of Cheese Seafood And Kimchi Pancake (S$23) or Spicy Sausage And Ham Stew (Army Stew) (S$28) to truly immerse yourself in an authentic Korean meal.
There’s also a lean BBQ section to choose from, such as Beef & Pork Set Menu (S$55), with additional Marinated Grilled Beef Ribs (S$40), if you please. Whatever your fancy, you won’t tire of Woorinara’s fare, even if you tried.