It is very seldom that a woman in apron would come to your table to teach you how you should eat your food. Well, maybe at home, but we are talking about a Korean restaurant here.
Big Mama Korean Restaurant is not exactly ‘Gangnam Style’ (I know the song is hot, and it is Korean language colloquialism that actually refers to a luxurious lifestyle), but offers comfort ‘Home Style’ cooking.
Former tutor and caretaker, Ji-young Nam Gung nick-named as “Big Mama” (looks like “Cooking Mama” in the Nintendo game), has set up a homely Korean eatery at Tiong Bahru after cooking for Korean students in Singapore for years. Her Korean dishes are in between authentic and creative, because half are inspired by her own mama’s recipes while others have been fine tuned to suit Singaporean taste-buds.
It was quite funny because my friends were all trying to guess who Big Mama was, then realised it was not difficult to point out. The one behind the cashier loh.
The restaurant looks quite minimal in terms of decor, but has groups of Koreans dining, an indication that this is worth your try.
There are two big pictures of the Dakgalbi (spicy grilled chicken) and Suyuk (steam pork belly) on the wall, which suggests that these are the two must-try dishes.
Big Mama or one of her staff would help you prepare the Dakgalbi ($15 per pax, min 2 pax), where marinated chicken chunks, Korean rice cake and vegetables are fried with a special homemade chilli sauce right in front of you on a grill.
Surprisingly, this is very delicious with the saucy chicken going extremely well with plain rice. Maybe it is also Big Mama is talking while preparing, which makes us feel right at home. Yes, she would tell us how to eat Korean food the right way. A tip is to NOT finish the ingredients, because Big Mama would fry it with rice (additional $3.00) if requested.
Normal Suyuk are thinly-sliced boiled beef or pork served with a soy sauce or a salted shrimp dip. Big Mama’s Suyuk ($25/$40) uses a special steaming method for the pork belly, ensuring the outside stays crispy while the inside is tender. She also removes all the extra fat so that it is healthier.
The pork is eaten wrapped within delicate celery and cucumber slices, then dipped in either a saltier black bean sauce or a sweet spicy sauce. Does it already sound good?
Big Mama may not be the most polished chef, but she prepares home-style Korean food with a big heart and bigger smile, making this one of the best Korean restaurants I tried locally. Kamsahamnida Big Mama!
Big Mama Korean Restaurant
2 Kim Tian Road, Singapore 169244 (10 min walk from Tiong Bahru MRT) Tel: +65 6270 7704
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30pm – 11:0pm (closed on most Mondays)