SINGAPORE: A holiday in South Korea isn’t complete without filling your belly with authentic bibimbap, tucking into a whole chicken in nourishing samgyetang broth, picking bulgogi off a sizzling hotplate, and stuffing pieces of lettuce-wrapped succulent beef into your mouth.
But if you think finding halal food or Muslim-friendly restaurants is going to be as impossible as bumping into Park Bo Gum in Gangnam, don’t worry. You can stop packing emergency instant ramyeon in your luggage now.
With as many as 100,000 Muslims in South Korea, according to the South Korea Muslim Federation (KMF), there are restaurants and cafes that cater to Muslim diners – some even have prayer rooms.
And we’re not talking about Turkish, Middle Eastern, vegetarian or seafood either. From the crispiest Korean fried chicken to a good dosirak for a picnic, you can live out your mukbang fantasy in between sightseeing and shopping.
Here are five Muslim-friendly places to makan at.
1. EID HALAL KOREAN FOOD
Said, the young owner of Eid Halal Korean Food, posing with his family-run restaurant’s dishes.
Located in Itaewon and opened in 2014, it is the only halal Korean restaurant in Seoul that is certified by the KMF. The owner Said is a young Muslim Korean who runs the homely restaurant with his parents. Said’s mother is the cook, so you can look forward to home-cooked meals and authentic Korean flavours. The menu is simple and has mainly four items: Samgyetang, bulgogi, bibimbap and grilled fish.
Each comes with a bowl of rice, three sides of kimchi, salad, fried anchovies and tea. No alcohol is served. Said also runs a guesthouse just a stone’s throw away from the restaurant. They have even opened an outlet in Bangi Sentral in Malaysia called Eid Halal Korean Food – Bangi.
67, Usadan-ro 10-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11.30am to 9pm. Closed on Mondays. Prices start from ₩8,000 (S$9.80) for mains. Click here for more information.
2. HALAL KITCHEN
If strolling through Gyeongbokgung Palace is making you hungry, make your way to the nearby Halal Kitchen. Owner and chef Hassan Lee is a Muslim Korean who serves up his country’s favourite treats such as tteokbokki, dakgalbi, bulgogi and galbijim, which is a melt-in-your-mouth braised lamb short rib, with either a spicy or soy sauce.
Deliveries and lunch boxes are available if you don’t feel like eating there. But why would you and miss out on dining in the ambience of a quaint hanok (traditional Korean house)? Halal Kitchen also has a prayer room.
86-4 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul. Open daily, 11am to 9pm; break time from 3pm to 5pm. Prices start from ￦20,000 for lunch boxes. Click here for more information.
3. YANG GOOD KOREAN BBQ LAMB
If you’re hankering for juicy, tender, grilled lamb, you’ve come to the right place. Although alcohol is served here (the locals also favour the restaurant), the meat is from Australia and is halal-certified. If you are hesitant, you can inquire with the manager; a blogger did and was shown a halal certificate. Or you can avoid this place altogether.
The lamb here comes unmarinated or slathered with a sweet Korean BBQ sauce. The Koreans are experts when it comes to meat and the lamb cuts do not have a strong gamey smell. If there’s still room in your tummy, Yang Good also has lamb soup, deonjang jjigae, naengmyeon and other Korean dishes.
15, Nonhyeon-ro 95-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. Open daily, 4pm to 2am. Prices start from ₩11,000. Click here for more information.
4. HALAL KOREAN FOOD DOSIRAK
As the restaurant name indicates, they do dosirak, which are kinda like bento sets and great for takeaways if you’re keen on a picnic in the park. Take your pick from beef bulgogi to squid and chicken dosirak. Some sets even have or kimchi fried rice instead of plain rice. For more tummy-filling options, order the tteokbokki or jjajangmyeon.
Tip: Save time by pre-ordering your dosirak ahead. Drop them a message on Facebook and indicate the item, quantity and pick-up time.
You can also eat there though the place is small. Halal meat is used and they don’t serve alcohol. Halal Korean Food Dosirak is located on the first floor of BoA Travel House.
15, Sinchon-ro 1-gil, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm to 9pm. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Prices start from ₩7,000 per dosirak for guests of the travel house, ₩8,000 for non-guests. Click here for more information.
5. DONG MOON ASIAN RESTAURANT
Namiseon Island’s gorgeous natural scenery is the reason they shot the K-drama Winter Sonata here. The crescent moon-shaped island is also where you’ll find halal-certified Dong Moon Asian Restaurant. The restaurant serves buldak (it literally means fire chicken in Korean) with chewy sliced rice cakes and gooey melted cheese as well as beef and squid bulgogi.
If you are starting to develop kimchi fatigue (is that possible?), Dong Moon is also the place for your Asian food fix, from nasi goreng to beef pho and pad thai. It has a prayer room on the second floor of the restaurant.
1, Namisum-gil, Namsan-myeon, Chuncheon-si, Gangwon-do. Open daily, 10am to 7pm (weekdays and winter season), 10am to 8pm (weekends and non-winter seasons). Prices start from ₩10,000 for mains.