Korean eateries are a-plenty in Singapore, but there’s only one in town (literally) that serves as a jjamppong speciality restaurant—a first and only for our sunny island. Nipong Naepong, located at the basement of [email protected] and at JEM, recently just expanded their menu in October 2019 with new beef, pork, and chicken options from their latest Jjangmyeon (black bean noodles), Mala Ppong (dry and soup versions) and Iron-Plate Rice series.
The single aspect of the restaurant that stood out for me was the unfavourable lighting for our beloved #foodporn shots, but there were plenty of neon-lit walls for us to play around with for the ‘gram.
The vibe is casual and has an industrial feel, with its bare cement walls and K-pop numbers enthusiastically blaring from the speakers.
To quench your thirst, may I suggest a pitcher of their Melon Yoghurt Ade (S$13.90 for a litre)? It’s creamy, cooling and fun, complete with a honeydew popsicle. The elixir of yoghurt, honeydew and ice was an invigorating one, great for beating the heat from the spicy dishes that awaited me.
Exclusive to Singapore’s Nipong Naepong, their Iron-Plate Rice series is inspired by ‘hansang‘ (a table with a full meal), meant to provide diners with a wholesome and fulfilling meal. The Seoul Bulgogi Iron-Plate Rice (S$14.90) is a portion of steamed rice, surrounded by a moat of soft-set egg omelette and ebiko—for that satisfying touch of saltiness—with a pile of bulgogi beef slices and leek.
Best enjoyed with accompanying kimchi and ssamjang (spicy fermented soybean paste), you can either enjoy the rice mixed all together, or as a wrap, with all the ingredients snuggled up in a lettuce leaf.
The bulgogi beef leaned towards the sweeter side, all thanks to the caramelised onions. When paired with the egg omelette and tobiko, therein lies the ideal balance of sweet and savoury.
Another in the Iron Plate Rice series is the Jeju Spicy Pork Iron-Plate Rice (S$14.90). The succulent and fatty pork belly was admittedly a tad fiery, although the gratifying juiciness more than made up for the heat that danced upon my tongue.
Brace yourself for the hilly Hallasan Volcano Iron-Plate Rice (S$14.90) as a pitcher of spicy minced pork sauce is served with a mini mountain of radish and seaweed rice that carries lashings of mayonnaise and ebiko.
For the full effect, spread the minced meat sauce out so it encircles the tower of rice, and be ready for a mouthful of fire that easily beats the spiciness of previous spicy pork dish.
What I loved most was the texture in every single spoonful. The minced-meat-and-rice combo was an instant winner, and I could easily see myself readily ordering this again when I return.
Everything is better with cheese, so you’ll want to order the Chuncheon Dakgalbi Iron-Plate Rice (S$14.90). I’m sure our mothers, at some point in our childhoods, have warned us not to play with our food, but here, you’re encouraged to scoop a hefty helping of the melted cheese and wrap it around a chunk of spicy chicken, before enjoying it with the seaweed, pickled radish, and ebiko rice.
Be sure to get your foodie shots done quickly, as the cheese is best consumed when it’s just served and still hot. The combination of spicy chicken and cheese was heady, with the union of creamy and spicy being a very pleasing one. The rice ball lent a nice touch of umami from the seaweed and ebiko, while the pickled radish sliced through the fattiness.
Alternatively, you could change things up and enjoy the cheese and spicy chicken wrapped in the accompanying tortilla—either way is just as delicious as the other!
Not a fan of rice? There’s oodles of noodles for you here, starting with the Jjangmyeon (S$13.90). Minced pork is slathered in black bean sauce, and complemented with diced onions, quail eggs, sesame seeds, and strips of cucumber.
To the eyes, it may look like a thick, cloying mess, but the reality was quite the opposite. It felt surprisingly light, and the earthy notes of black bean really wafted to the nose with every bite of noodles. I would have liked to be able to taste more of the minced pork, but the sauce did a great job of bringing rich flavours to the table.
Fans of mala will rejoice as you’re given the option of having Mala Ppong (Wet/Dry, Pork/Beef) (S$17.90 for soup, S$15.90 for dry) even while dining at a casual Korean restaurant! Don’t take their spiciness for granted; they don’t joke around when it comes to turning up the heat.
The dry Mala Ppong was slippery and moist; a very satisfactory plate of spicy noodles and the aroma could be detected a few tables away. It’s brimming with your choice of either beef or pork belly slices, shimeji mushrooms, and cabbage.
The QQ texture of the jjolmyeon (wheat noodles) ensured that the dish didn’t turn soggy quickly, and it surely was an excellent vehicle for the flaming spiciness of Nipong Naepong’s very own mala paste. The spiciness took some time to grab a hold of my tastebuds, but once it had a solid grip, there was no letting go.
I struggled to swallow several chopsticks-ful of noodles, all while my face was beginning to radiate with intense warmth. It felt like pins were pricking my tongue, and the back of my throat was scorched. I had to remind myself to promptly move on to the soup version before the intensity of the mala got the better of me.
The soup Mala Ppong looked even more intimidating, as I went in for a spoonful of soup. This version has sliced beef or pork belly, quail eggs, tofu, and shimeji mushrooms. There was a hint of sourness that made the spiciness quite delightful, but soon enough, the heat of the mala hit me once again.
As someone who does enjoy the occasional spicy meal every now and then, it’s fair to say that both versions are adequately numbing. I don’t have sufficient tolerance for spicy food, hence, after a few bites, I threw the towel in.
My face was glistening and I could feel my ears ringing slightly. The dish is only served in one level of spice, so be warned that things will get pretty hot, pretty quickly!
Although I’m not a frequent consumer of Korean cuisine, I must say, Nipong Naepong surpassed my expectations. Contrary to what you may read, I especially loved the two versions of Mala Ppong, in spite of how I was defeated by its unforgiving spiciness. Even the Jjajangmyeon was incredibly tasty, and I would’ve polished off the entire bowl in the absence of the other dishes.
A central location and tantalising Korean dishes—it’s sure to be an easy win for your next meal!
Expected Damage: S$15 – S$25 per pax
*This post was brought to you in partnership with Nipong Naepong.
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 5 / 5
313 Orchard Road, [email protected], #B3-03, Singapore 238895