Korean food in Sydney has taken off. New openings, such as Moon Park in Redfern – with chefs Ben Sears and Eun Hee An (both ex-Claude’s) at the helm – are now perennially bustling with patrons thanks to a new-found enthusiasm for the cuisine. The thing is, though, Korean has been big in Strathfield for years; Strathfield and East Ryde are known around Sydney as Little Korea. This is where you’ll find food like grandma would make it. A Korean grandma. In Korea. Which makes it so much better.
For the ultimate Korean BBQ experience, go to Bassim Restaurant. Although there are many BBQ restaurants to choose from, Bassim has long been known as one of the top BBQ spots in the area. It’s a DIY, smoky affair, with as many helpings of meat as you want (priced individually). If you’re into beef, choose from sogalbi (marinated ribs cut away from the bone), seng galbi (fresh ribs cut away from the bone), chadol (sliced brisket with heavy marbling), wagyu beef tenderloin and many others. There are also pork, chicken, seafood and vegetarian dishes. The best way to approach the Korean BBQ experience is to order whatever meat takes your fancy as well as the bulgogi. Raw, marinated beef is teamed with mushrooms, thin noodles and spring onions, cooked at your table alongside your other selections. The sides that come out are plentiful. Think zesty kimchi, fish cake, finely sliced shallots and more.
20 Albert Road, Strathfield
(02) 8756 5689
A little outside the centre of Strathfield, this is the eatery Korean expats frequent. It’s full of in-the-know locals night after night. For newcomers the menu and ambience may seem a little unusual at first. The menu is more like a book, but in true Asian style there are pictures of every dish as well as English translations. And instead of trying to catch the waiter’s attention when you’re ready to order, there are buzzers at the tables. The soups are what Stra Haejangkuk is most famous for. Koreans call these, “hangover soups” (perhaps a nod to their gutsy, flavoursome punch), but on the menu they are simply called pork soup with rice, spicy pork bone soup rice and soondae (Korean sausage soup) with rice. These three soups are the most popular. There are vegetarian options too, as well as a plethora of meat cuts to BBQ at your table. Bibimbap comes in both varieties – with the beef, cooked vegetables and egg on rice in a sizzling hot stone pot, known as a dolsot, which gives the layer of rice a wonderful crisp layer, or cooked beef and egg teamed with fresh vegetables on rice in a plain silver bowl.
Shop 25, 45–47 The Boulevarde
(02) 9764 3996
If there were a “best Korean fried chicken” award then it would go to the friendly chicken experts at Alrose Garden. It’s what they do best here and the shirts they wear even say so. Fried chicken is a big part of Korean cooking, and some Korean eateries have pages of their menu dedicated to the variations, which include different accompaniments, sizes, marinades and sauces. Good fried chicken comes down to a two key factors; the chicken needs to be well seasoned and it needs be moist on the inside, yet crunchy on the outside. Depending on where you are you can order it doused in a spicy, tangy and sticky marinade. Some places serve sauces alongside the dish. At Alrose Garden chicken schnitzel is served with the batter and meat as the stars. It’s huge, it’s crunchy and it’s moist where it should be, teamed with a pungent sweet-spicy sauce (on the side). For $2 extra there’s the option of chips instead of rice. We’re not sure if that’s traditionally Korean, but if you’re a first-timer to Korean food, it’s a pretty easy way to slip into perhaps Sydney’s best cuisine.
7–9 Churchill Avenue
(02) 9764 1117