The Seoul of Bangkok
Born and raised in South Korea, executive chef Dan Bark now resides in Bangkok. He shares his favourite hotspots for Korean food in his adopted city.
Ihave been away from South Korea, the country I was born and raised in, for so many years, but I still long for the food, people and culture. Fortunately, I’ve discovered authentic Korean restaurants, a mini Koreantown and a place to indulge in my all-time favourite K-hobby — noreabang (karaoke) — right here in Bangkok.
FOOD FOR THE SOUL
Wellness devotees, you don’t need to give up carbs to stay healthy. Bibimbap, which is a Korean rice dish of meats and vegetables served in a heated bowl, should be your go-to. So whenever you’re in the Siam area, treat your taste buds at The Bibimbab as it offers this dish with different types of proteins. Get the Bulgogi Bibimbab if you love marinated beef or pork. Vegetarians can opt for the Dubutuikim Bibimbab served with tofu.
The Tongkeungui in Siam Square Soi 1 is all about grilling and steakhousequality, marbled meat. A true beef buff orders the Beef Set; three types of beef – marinated rib finger, brisket point and short plate – are served elegantly on a stand, afternoon tea style. Other equally delicious dishes at the three-storey BBQ haunt are the Korean Pizza and the Volcano Fried Rice, a Korean-style kimchi fried rice served with a shower of cheese.
One of my regular comfort foods is tteok-bokki, a bowl of plump rice cakes coated and cooked in thick fiery gochujang.
In South Korea, it’s cooked in a hot pot-like pan with assorted ingredients like gochujang paste (Korean chilli paste), vegetables, meats, egg, rice and rice cake (anything your heart desires, really). At Redsun Tokpokki, the establishment offers a variety of hot pot ingredients so you can create the bowl that will truly hit the spot.
If you have ever heard of Sulbing (they are a hit with Thai youths), you’ll know this international chain of Korean desserts gets really creative with their bingsu. Take a look at this Durian Sulbing and you’ll immediately understand why. The store makes tasty and Instagram-worthy snow-like desserts. One signature is the Real Tong Tong Melon, a whole melon stuffed with shaved ice, Japanese moji and red bean paste. Try the Red Velvet Strawberry Sulbing; the bingsu is covered with big chunks of red velvet cake and cloaked with a cloud of whipped cream and garnished with fresh strawberries. You can easily find any Sulbing outlet across Bangkok, for example, in Ari and Korean Town.
Korea Town Plaza is a surprising site in downtown Bangkok. Located between Asok and Nana on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 12, this three-storey arcade is full of Korean restaurants, shops and a couple of small bars covered in Korean hangol signs and South Korean flags. Everything here is very authentic. It feels like you have journeyed to the far-eastern peninsula, despite the traffic jams of Sukhumvit just a few metres away. The arcade was built over 20 years ago and now looks a little rough around the edges, especially when compared to the newer glass and steel constructions nearby such as Terminal 21 and Times Square Building. There is also a Korean supermarket and convenience store and a few other speciality shops
Targeted at Korean expats in Bangkok, Koryo Mart offers an authentic Korean shopping experience at reasonable prices, while Aainly provides groceries and other food products. The hot sale section at Aainly has great deals on kimchi, snacks and strawberry milk and is worth a visit.
PAMPER YOUR MIND, BODY AND SOUL
Korean spas are a lovely and affordable way to pamper yourself, and Koreatown has a whole slew of options. Natura Spa offers an all-day pass for THB15, which allows access to the saunas, steam rooms, hot tubs and a cold pool, with extra services like body scrubs. Wi Spa is open 24 hours and has a kid’s area as well as a mud spa. Korean spas generally house Korean cafés within, and many of those serve really great food, making the spa perfect for all-day immersion.
The best way to unwind after a long day is belt it all out. My goto spot is Bar Savoy. A karaoke dive bar to end all karaoke dive bars, Bar Savoy is cropping up all over town. The setup is basic: raucous bar downstairs, karaoke rooms upstairs—where you can get an affordable, three-hour all-you-can-drink and all-you-can-sing deal. I will usually head to the original venue on the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 53.
Spicy Grilled Chicken from Tongkeungui
The Korean community celebrating Lunar New Year.
Koreantown in Los Angeles
A wide array of side dishes from the supermarket.
Premium beef for Korean barbecue.