There’s a certain type of fever that’s been lurking around for years. You might know of it. You might know people who have it. You might even have it. Some of its symptoms are a desire to binge-watch Koreanovelas (Korean drama shows), an uncontrollable urge to sing and dance along to K-pop songs, and a need to sport Korean fashion and makeup look. Yes, we’re talking about Korean fever.
Korean fever struck the Philippines in the early 2000s, when K-dramas started airing on local TV. Over the years, the madness transformed and infiltrated our dining scene, too, and now Filipinos can be seen munching on Korean snacks
and stuffing themselves with samgyeopsal
(grilled pork belly). This food trend is not only making big waves in Manila; in fact, a little drive up north and you’ll find Korean Town in Angeles, Pampanga
The area comprises a line of restaurants, groceries, bakeshops, and coffee shops located at the Fil-am Friendship Highway. Need a food trip itinerary? Here are some suggestions on where to eat in Pampanga
and take home for an ultimate food adventure.
What to Try: Unlimited Samgyeopsal
Samgyeopsal is one of the most popular Korean dishes in the country and is offered in most restaurants in Korean Town.
Samgyeopsal refers to sliced pork belly. In most Korean places, diners cook it on the grill on the table. To eat, add your choice of vegetables and ssamjang (a seasoned mixture of chili paste and soybean paste), wrap the mix in lettuce, and then dip it in gireum-jang (sesame oil with salt and black pepper). Some of the side dishes that go with this dish include pickled and stir-fried vegetables, egg pudding, miso soup, sweetened, boiled baby potatoes, fishcakes, and tofu.
Because of its unique taste and preparation, locals have grown to be fond of this dish. That’s why it’s no surprise that many unlimited samgyeopsal restaurants
have opened in Korean Town. Here are some of the well-known ones!
Side dishes and drinks are included in the unlimited samgyeopsal promo.
Image: Cristin Mallare
Jang Soo Korean Restaurant offers an unlimited samgyeopsal promo for PhP250 per person, which already comes with unlimited side dishes and drinks. Although the place is not as clean and cozy as most restaurants, its rate is cheaper and the food is tasty, so it gets crowded easily.
September 2020 Update: Jang Soo Korean Restaurant is open for take-out only.
Stuff yourself with samgyeopsal!
Image: Yu Ganne 2 Samgyupsal Galbi Facebook Page
Just a few meters away from Jang Soo is Yu Ganne 2 Samgyupsal Galbi. Its unlimited samgyeopsal promo is at PhP250 and this already includes unlimited side dishes and iced tea and a slice of watermelon and Melona ice cream. It also has ala carte menu options and an unlimited samgyeopsal and buffet offer for PhP299.
Ingredients are always served fresh in Clark Renaissance Hotel’s buffet table.
Image: Clark Renaissance Hotel Facebook
For a different kind of unlimited samgyeopsal experience, go to the inner streets of Korean Town and look for Clark Renaissance Hotel, a European-inspired four-story hotel. The place offers a buffet dinner and unlimited samgyeopsal combo at PhP300 every day, with free use of the swimming pool and videoke thrown in the mix.
September 2020 Update: Clark Renaissance Hotel is temporarily closed.
What to Try: Korean Desserts
Cap off your sumptuous Korean samgyeopsal feast with sweets and desserts. It’s a short walk from the restaurants to Korean Town’s coffee and pastry shops, so you’re just a few steps away from satisfying your sweet tooth cravings. Since there are various Korean desserts available, we’ll break them down for you.
Choose from a variety of Korean cakes and breads!
Image: Mr. Park's Bread & Cake Facebook Page
Already full? You’ll make some room for these irresistible bread and cakes from either Jiin Bakery and Coffee or Mr. Parks Bread and Cake. Both offer freshly baked breads and elegantly designed cakes. The bestsellers in Jiin Bakery are its matcha flavored cookies and the mini seashell pastry, while Mr. Parks is known for its mini-cream puffs which you can take home in boxes of 20s and 30s.
September 2020 Update: Mr. Parks Bread and Cake is open for delivery.
Three of Snow Bingsu’s bestsellers in one table
Image: Snow Bingsu Facebook Page
If you want cold treats, try some bingsu
—a popular Korean shaved ice dessert topped with fruits, condensed milk, cookies, cakes, red beans, and/or ice cream. To get this in Korean Town, head to Snow Bingsu
where you’ll be greeted by an Instagram-worthy ambiance perfect for selfies and groufies. Some of the must-tries here are the Green Tea Bingsu, Oreo Bingsu, and Mango Bingsu. The restaurant also has other food, drink, and dessert choices including waffles, frappes, and smoothies.
Green tea frappes (left) and green tea cheesecake (right)
Images: Coffee en Tree Facebook Page
For those who chill after dinner with desserts and coffee, Coffee en Tree is the place to be. It is located on the third floor of Ecco Building, so you can get a good view of Korean Town. Aside from coffee-based hot and cold drinks, tea and cakes are also available. Don’t miss its green tea latte, green tea frappe, and green tea cheesecake.
What to Try: Korean Groceries
If you’re not up for a dine-in experience and you want to enjoy Korean food and treats at the comfort of your home, then you can go grocery shopping at either IM-Mart or Sing-Sing Hi Mart. In both stores you’ll find various Korean items at almost the same prices. Below are some of our recommendations.
September 2020 Update: Both IM-Mart and Sing-Sing Hi Mart are open.
Some Korean snacks and sweets
Image: Sing-Sing Hi Mart Facebook Page
For something to munch on, you can get assorted snacks such as chocolate, milk, or strawberry-covered breadsticks from Pepero; choco-filled biscuits; custard cakes; different variants and fillings of choco cream pie; and Ghana chocolate bars.
This is Melona’s most popular fruity and creamy ice cream flavor – honeydew melon.
Image: Melona Ice Cream Official Website
Another Korean supermarket bestseller is Melona Ice Cream. It has a creamy consistency and comes in refreshing, fruity flavors like honeydew melon, strawberry, mango, and banana. For a cheaper deal, you can buy a whole box. Another unique Korean cold treat is bungeo-ppang, which literally translates to “carp bread.” It is composed of a fish-shaped wafer that is stuffed with vanilla, strawberry, or red bean-flavored ice cream.
A variety of Korean noodles in different flavors and levels of spiciness
Image: Sing-Sing Hi Mart Facebook Page
You might already be familiar with the trending spicy noodle challenge, and if you want to, you can actually try it for yourself! You can find packs of fire noodles in both Sing-Sing and IM-Mart. However, if you can’t stand too much chili but still want to have hot Korean noodles, you can buy a variety of a whole pack of ramyun (noodle soup) instead.
You can also recreate a samgyeopsal feast complete with side dishes at home, as IM Mart and Sing-Sing Hi Mart also offer frozen slices of pork belly or beef cuts, as well as different choices of side dishes, fresh lettuce, and ready-made ssamjang.
In Korean Town, you can have your fill and feed your Korean fever without actually going to South Korea!
This article was originally published in Yoorekka on March 30, 2018.