The Korean wave seems to be ceaseless; K-pop is as popular as ever, bingsus are still a hit, and now, we have Korean pizzas reaching our shores.
Pizza Maru is Korea’s largest pizza chain, with 530 franchises sprouting around the country in five years. That is a remarkable feat, considering the name ‘Pizza Hut’ is more a household name, on a global scale.
So, how do the Koreans make an Italian export their own? By completely re-inventing the very foundation of pizza itself: the dough, of course.
They have patented their dough, which is made with green tea and 12 kinds of cereals. It is then matured and fermented at a low temperature for over 24 hours. The result is a fluffy base that supports a chock load of toppings (and trust me, it is a lot!).
Coming in parched, our attention was immediately drawn to these two particularly unique drinks, Sweet Potato Latte ($6.90) and Korean Red Dates Tea ($3.90).
I thought a drink made from a starch would turn out really rich and thick, but surprisingly, it had all the flavour minus the weight.
The latter was refreshing and subtly sweet, making it a great alternative for those who have an affinity for sweet drinks but are trying to cut down on sugar.
For starters, we had the Spam Tower ($12.80), a deconstructed approach to the usual rice bowls. On a bed of rice lay multiple layers of chicken spam, fried kimchi, bell peppers, onions, cabbage, mushrooms, egg, seaweed, potato crisp, Sriracha sauce and parmesan cheese.
We loved the textural variations, as well as the spicy edge interlaced between the medley of ingredients.
When our first pizza arrived, it confused us. The Real BBQ Chicago ($26.80) comes with double mozzarella cheese, string cheese, cream cheese mousse, chicken chunk, roasted onion, mushroom, tomatoes, potatoes, honey, almond flakes, icing sugar and BBQ sauce.
We thought the icing sugar would totally throw the flavour profile off, but in fact, it only had a mild effect on the overall taste. Does it work, though? In our honest opinion, it’s really a personal preference.
Though we didn’t like the prominent taste of sugar on pizza, we did liked how generous they were with the toppings; covering every inch of the pie.
Taking a break from pizzas, we were served three different types of fried chicken. If there’s one thing that the Koreans can do right, it’s fried chicken!
This Honey Butter Coat ($16.80 for six pieces, $29.80 for 12 pieces) was a tad too sweet for our liking (boy, the Koreans do love things sweet!), but the crunchy batter more than made up for it. The flesh was succulent and tender and was served piping hot.
The next one we had was the Onion Tartar ($16.80 for six pieces, $29.80 for 12 pieces), which was an aromatic version of the traditional tartar sauce. The onions had a good bite to them, and the chicken was consistently mouth-watering.
For the last fried chicken, we had the Supa Hot Dak Gangjeong ($16.80 for six pieces, $29.80 for 12 pieces), with a choice of spiciness level of one or two. We went for the milder of the two, just in case we couldn’t take the heat.
For those afraid to go any spicier, we say go for it; the one we had was barely any spicier than green chilli. Flavour-wise, it was robust and carried a lot of depth, making it a pity that the sauce was only drizzled and not slathered all over.
Time for the second pizza, which was the Mango Ocean ($19.80 for regular 9″, $23.80 for large 12″), with shrimp, scallop, squid, onions, mushrooms, mangoes, black olives, broccoli, pilaf sauce, spicy buldak sauce and mozzarella cheese.
It uses a green tea dough with sweet potato stuffed into the crust, so you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck. You might hesitate to order this given how filling it is, but it is our pick out of the two, for the sweet potato balances out the spicy sauce.
Pizza apparently doesn’t deter us from making room for dessert, as we indulged in Poppilicious ($10.90), a mini bingsu serving with sea salt caramel ice cream and popcorn drizzled with caramel syrup, atop a bed of shaved ice.
As mentioned earlier, the Koreans do love all things sweet, but this dessert got us continuously savouring every last bit! The salty and sweet complemented each other very well, and the crunchy popcorn provided a nice touch to any otherwise milky dish.
Being a new addition to Yishun, Pizza Maru will set to change the way we see Korean cuisine. The bonus is that it’s also pork- and lard-free (and in the midst of working of attaining a halal certification), so it will undoubtedly see a healthy line of hungry diners eager to get their hands on a slice. You won’t want to miss a pizza the action, trust us.
Expected damage: $15 – $35 per pax