When Sharlin Kwok (Gin Long Canteen manager) and Jae Park (head chef at Bai Long Store) took over the former Fish Head premises on Morphett Street, they’d planned to open a vibrant and lively street-food joint serving fried chicken and soju late into the night. Then Covid-19 struck.
Months of planning was turned upside down overnight, as hospitality venues were forced to implement strict social distancing measures, and later, cease dine-in trade completely under sweeping federal government restrictions.
Amid all this, they opened their doors anyway. “It was scary,” Kwok tells Broadsheet. “When we first opened with all these restrictions we were worried, but when we turned to takeaway, we basically changed the whole business model.”
The pair adapted the shop to accommodate takeaway orders by installing a pick-up window by the front entrance under a neon-pink “Takeaway” sign. They also altered and shortened the menu, and introduced soju and beer packs to take home.
“We could have just postponed it until the restrictions are gone, but we thought if we can keep it open and running at least we can pay the staff to keep them going,” Kwok says.
The venue’s April opening date means staff weren’t eligible for government support such as Jobkeeper. Several staff members are on temporary visas and ineligible for Jobseeker payments.
“It is difficult, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” says Kwok. “It’s not like we’re making big money, but we’re surviving.”
Busan Baby’s condensed menu still has Korean fried chicken, which comes coated in either salt and pepper, soy garlic glaze or a spicy sauce.
Another item from the original menu is the ram-don jjapaguri (ramen noodles with bulgogi beef), which famously features in the Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite. Among the new additions are five takeaway hotpots to make at home, available in two sizes. The duo will this week add a ginseng chicken soup with pumpkin noodles, and japchae, a sweet-potato noodle stir-fry with mixed vegetables.
For dessert, there are two types of chiffon cakes, light and spongy in texture and filled with either strawberry or hot chocolate cream in the centre. (The cakes are also available to take away from Bai Long Store).
Soju remains the focus for the drinks menu, with flavoured options such as peach, watermelon and lychee alongside one local and two imported beers. They can be ordered individually or in a set containing a bottle of soju and two beers of choice.
With SA’s coronavirus restrictions easing this week, Kwok and Park have decided to open their outdoor dining area (for a maximum of 10 patrons). Just make sure you book ahead.
Post-lockdown, the pair plan to reinstate their full food and drink menus and introduce board games and K-pop tunes to create the fun and vibrant dining atmosphere they envisioned from the outset.
Busan Baby’s menu is available for pick-up, or you can order via Deliveroo, Easi and – soon – Uber Eats. Delivery is available within six kilometres of the shop.