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.

Epicure - - CHEF’S TRAVELOGUE - Dan Bark, ex­ec­u­tive chef and owner of one Miche­lin-starred Up­stairs Mikkeller Bangkok de­voted over 15 years of his ca­reer be­hind the culi­nary scene. He had worked his way up through some of the finest restau­rants in Chicago. Dan was pre­vi­ously a sous chef

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.

ONE-STOP SHOPS

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.

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