When Pinoys go to a Korean resto, they invariably order the same dishes they ordered the last time they were there.
The oh-so-familiar mantra — “kimchi, chapchae, kalbi, bulgogi, beef stew”.
Same-same, so no surprises.
Maybe, just for the thrill of it, you should venture into trying other unfamiliar — but well-loved — Korean cuisine.
And guess what?
It’s your lucky day.
Your much-coveted transformation into a more adventurous Korean foodie starts here. And now.
First off, the unforgettable dish: SAMGYUPSAL.
The best Samgyupsal is available in the university district of Seoul… but a trip down Jupiter St. will give you equally good results.
It starts with thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat (similar to uncured bacon).
The meat is grilled until it turns brown and looks crunchy. Then, garnished with shredded green onions, sliced raw onions, and aged kimchi.
Crunch time. Top the lettuce and perilla leaf with several slices of meat, along with the other accompaniments. Fold like lumpia… and enjoy!
This second dish is a magical treat. Magical because just when you think you’ve maximized your enjoyment… there is a next… second way to further push the pleasure. Memorize the name since you will crave for it. No one… absolutely no one… can escape becoming a Jeongol Junkie. Guaranteed 100%. GOPCHANG JEONGOL
It starts out as a mouthwatering stew made by boiling beef tripe, vegetables, and seasonings in beef broth. The beef tripe is cut into long strips while the briskets are cut into bite-sized pieces. These are marinated and kneaded. Then the other ingredients are added, including seasoned oyster mushrooms, dried shiitake mushrooms, seeded and chopped green chilli peppers, scallions cut into long strips, and some noodles. When the concoction starts to boil, it is ready to be served and enjoyed as a soup.
But that’s only the beginning. With the leftover soup, add rice. Mix and stir… keep going until “tutong” forms.
And… holy kimchi! The most delicious flavored rice you’ve tasted in your life.
Of course, the two dishes take a bit of time to prepare (as you watch).To stop your hunger pangs from overreacting, you can enjoy these starters:
KOREAN LUMPIA. Its wrapper made from thinly-sliced pork with delicious fillings of carrots, egg and spinach.
KOREAN MONGO PANCAKE. Mongo beans mixed with scallions, bean sprouts and kimchi… fried with special spices… equals a savory appetizer. So yummy — you’ll swear it can’t be mongo.
Of course, it makes sense to enjoy these fascinating dishes only at a venue that can best prepare them.
I can’t imagine recommending any place other than Korea Garden Restaurant on Jupiter — in between Makati Ave. and Reposo St.
This resto pioneered Korean dishes in the Philippines and has been around since 1974 (long before the current Korean invasion).
All these years — with Korean eateries sprouting by the hundreds — Korea Garden has maintained its consistent quality and reputation as the one place for people craving for the finest Korean dishes. (Along the way, it has won just about every award there is to be won.)
Maybe, it helps that adherence to the highest quality has been Task #1 for the establishment in its over 30 years of existence.
Maybe, it was providential that the Korean lady who owns the place has stubbornly resisted 1) overtures for franchising — plus, 2) the non-stop wooing of the big boys (Ayala and SM) to open branches in their malls — because she is not open to compromising the restaurant’s high standards in food preparation.
(Which is greatly appreciated by loyal clients like the Korean ambassador, PNoy – who almost always dines alone — for no-disruption enjoyment, the former FG, Ping Lacson, the Eusebios of Pasig, Mike Enriquez, Steve O’Neal… and would you believe — most of the members of the local Indian community. One for the books!)
What a principled, passionate lady!
I admire her so much… I married her daughter.
Korea Garden Restaurant • 128 Jupiter St., Bel Air, Makati CIty • Tel. 895-5443
(Photos by Angela F. Garcia)