Big Mama Korean Restaurant: Singapore Food Review

Last Updated: July 18, 2014

Written by Seth Lui

“Home-cooked Korean dishes”

Bigmama korean restaurant interior

I’d heard a lot of raving reviews about the authentic Korean dishes at Big Mama Korean Restaurant and how affordable it was. So here we are on another Korean food adventure.

Tip for readers: reserve seats ahead. This place gets packed with walk-ins fast and if you don’t book, you probably won’t get to eat unless you came at 6.30pm.

Big Mama Korean restaurant looks really simple, and is supposed to be a no-frills home-cooked restaurant. Close to no fixtures and just painted walls with blown up professionally taken photos of their dishes hanging. The restaurateur Ji-young Nam Gung aka Big Mama, used to be a tutor and cooked Korean dishes for students studying in Singapore. Eventually she realized she could cook for a whole lot more people than just her Korean students. Big Mama also doesn’t use MSG and really cooks like your mother. Thus Big Mama was born, a little off road near Tiong Bahru.

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Entering the restaurant, you know there is a degree of authenticity when you hear Korean diners speaking. We sat at our reserved tables and smiled smugly at the people on the 1 hour waiting list. I think restaurants should still do table reservations even if they have really good walk-ins, as it’s a form of service and breeds loyalty. Also impatient people will get to try it. If I had to wait, I might not have even come to this restaurant.

Looking at the menu, my date got really excited because she used to study in Korea, tasting many Korean dishes but not being able to find them in Singapore after her return. Most restaurants only carry the popular stuff like the Korean BBQ, Bibimbap (mixed rice) or Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup). Big Mama however, had a good selection of local popular dishes and we had a hard time deciding. My stomach sucker punched my brain and we ordered 1) Suyuk boiled pork belly 2) Mandoo Ramyeon (dumpling ramen) 3) Gamjatang (Potato/pork rib soup).

bigmama korean appetizers

 

The standard appetizers (Banchan) appeared first, consisting of fried anchovies, spinach, kimchi, mung bean jelly (if I’m not wrong), noodles and creamy lotus roots. Well I personally think Korean appetizers don’t really differ that much from one restaurant to another, so my comments are pretty minimal here.

Bigmama mandoo ramyeon

The Mandoo Ramyeon ($10) was possibly the best Korean Ramyeon I’ve had in Singapore. I really loved how they did the semi-boiled egg in the soup that wasn’t dispersed all over, nor was it all coagulated into one ball. The kimchi flavour was also very hearty and the dumplings were HUGE. There were only 2 and the meat inside was seasoned well which went very nicely with the noodles.

bigmama korean suyuk boiled pork

I ordered the Suyuk Boiled Pork Belly ($25/$40) because firstly it was meat, and secondly it was one of the recommended dishes here. According to the menu, they boil it with a secret method that leaves it juicy yet renders a lot of fat away for a healthier choice. Sounds like a paradox to me, because why order pork belly if you’re just going to boil away the fat? It’s like going to McDonalds and ordering a salad. Don’t lie to yourself. Anyway ahem, back to the dish. The waiter asked if it was my first time eating this dish, and demonstrated 3 ways to eat it: pork with cucumber, pork with radish and beansprout or pork with sauce. Anyway, don’t feel pressured to eat it the way they want you to, as food is an ever-changing expression of creativity (whoa deep). I felt the meat portion was quite small though, and tasted a little dry to me. The belly fats really were boiled off, and that disappointed me 🙁

bigmama korean gamjatang

 

This dish is called Gamjatang, or Pork ribs/potato soup ($30). A little trivia: Gamja is the same Korean pronunciation for both pork ribs and potato, so no one has really decided what it’s going to be named after, since the stew contains both ingredients. This is an off-menu item, and it’s either a new addition or seasonal. The soup tasted average to me, soya saucy with hints of pork ribs stewed inside. I felt the pork ribs weren’t boiled long enough though as it lacked flavour from the bones. The 2 huge potatoes from the soup were horrendous. It was dry and starchy, flaking apart when I bit into it. I’m guessing they didn’t use the right potatoes for soup, as certain varieties are starchier (like the Russet) and are more suited for mashed potatoes instead of soups. Either that or the potatoes were pre-boiled, then left out to dry and only reboiled upon order. Anyway, the potatoes need a lot of work if it were a potato soup. The vegetables inside were good though, soggy and lifeless the way I like it (no, that wasn’t sarcasm, it’s really soft and nice). My date felt this dish wasn’t as good or authentic as the ones she had in Korea.

You should also try the Dakgalbi Spicy grilled chicken ($15/pax), which is another recommended dish I’ve heard good things about. If you can’t finish the chicken, they will add rice and fry it for you to takeaway ($3). Coolios.

Big Mama doesn’t have the polished skills of a professional restaurant, which really does resemble home cooking a lot. However the problem is I don’t really have a affinity to Korean home-cooking since I’m Singaporean, so I couldn’t really appreciate the homeliness of the dishes. Also, Big Mama might have tuned a few dishes to suit Singaporean preferences as the taste profile differed from the ones in Korea. It’s a smart business move in a way, but then it starts drifting away from being authentic which conflicts the entire style.

In terms of affordability, I don’t think it’s as cheap as some other reviewers put it out to be. The simple menu is also roughly $10-$12 for single portion of mix rice or noodles, which is in the normal restaurant range compared to food court Korean food which is about $7-$8. I actually recommend Superstar K (check out the review) Korean BBQ instead, which is around the same price range but the quality is much superior.

Oh yea, I had a Makgeolli alcoholic beverage ($18) also, which is why my spending damage is a bit higher as well. Korean meals aren’t Korean without alcohol.

Damage: $35-$45/pax

Big Mama Korean Restaurant: 2 Kim Tian Road, Singapore 169244 | Website

*Recommend Reservations

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