Korean cuisine has traditionally been under-represented and criminally overlooked in Manchester, but over the past couple of years, some truly exceptional restaurants have surfaced – offering up a range of authentic and rather unique dishes (and experiences).
Jeongol 전골 (Stews and Soups)
Jeongol (pronounced Jen-Gol) is the Korean word for Hot Pot which is somewhere between a western soup and a stew. They’re made by combining meat broth with a variety of ingredients such as fish, mushrooms, meat and vegetables, and boiling together. These soups and stews are said to originate from times of war where soldiers would cook in their helmets for lack of cooking utensils.
There are so many variations to choose from, but most famous would be Haemool Jungol or seafood hot pot. This usually consists of prawns, squid, octopus, crab, mussels, cod and clams with mushrooms and other vegetables. It is traditionally flavoured with red pepper powder – so it packs a punch and warms your soul from the inside out.
Koreana on King Street has a fantastic selection of stews, soups and hot pots on their menu which are authentic. I always tend to go for their Kimchi stew with pork which is not for the faint hearted – it will blow your head off!
Bulgogi 불고기 (Korean Barbeque)
If you haven’t had a chance to dive headfirst into a little Bulgogi (pronounced Bull-Go-Ghee), then you need to cancel all plans and bunk it up to the top of your to-do list. It directly translates to ‘fire meat’ and you will see why when you sit around the table with a hot plate/grill in the middle, and you order a few rounds of raw and marinated meat which you cook it for yourself just to your liking.
Traditionally it will be served with rice, lettuce leaves, sweet and sour spring onions and a range of sauces for dipping. Typical meat choices include thinly sliced marbled beef, pork belly, marinated chicken, ox tongue (trust me on that one) and beef ribs.
There has been an influx in recent years in excellent Korean barbeque restaurants, any one of which will offer up the most authentic experience possible. There’s Ban Di Bul on Princess Street, as well as Annyeong just off Cross Street.
Our favourite though is the fantastic Azuma in Hulme, a true Korean experience and the best barbeque you’re going to find in the North. They offer up an all-you-can-eat experience that any self respecting foodie should try ASAP.
Bibimbap 비빔밥 (Mixed Rice)
This dish (pronounced- as you would expect) is usually served in a piping hot stone bowl and consists in its purest form of steamed white rice topped with meat, vegetables and an egg. The primary and most important ingredient is Gochujang (fermented red chilli paste) which gives this dish its unique flavour and heat.
If you want to lose your Bibimbap virginity, then look no further than Seoul Kimchi on Upper Brook Street. This tiny, unassuming little restaurant couldn’t be in a stranger place – right next to the Royal Infirmary, student halls and a blood donation centre. But please don’t let that put you off.
A favourite of the infamous Guardian food critic Jay Rayner, their Bibimbap is utterly perfect too. The bottom of the rice bowl starts to crisp and the bottom, and as you mix it, all the raw egg starts to cook and turns into a comforting bowl of almost-egg fried rice. Honestly, this dish is comfort food at its best.
For another Bibimbap experience closer to the city centre, head on over to eatGOODY just off Oxford Road, a no frills Korean eatery that serves up daiy lunch specials, including their outstanding Bibim Box every Wednesday for just £4.45.
Korean Fried Chicken 치킨
A rather recent addition to menus throughout the land. Korean Fried Chicken tends to be spicier and crispier than the usual US-style that we’ve all become accustomed to over the years. This is because it is fried twice, making the skin crunchier and less greasy.
The idea of frying chicken started in Korea during the Korean war, when American troopers ere stationed in the South from the late 40s until the early 50s. Traditionally Koreans would steam or boil chicken in broths, but with the arrival of the troops came street food stalls selling fried chicken.
You’re spoilt for choice in Manchester for Korean Fried Chicken, with an impressive amount of street food and restaurant offerings. There’s the excellent FUKU in Hatch, Chimaek just off Oxford Road and Seoul Food in the Arndale Market – who promise “the best Korean fried chicken in town.”
Banchan 반찬 (Starters & sides)
And now on to the best bit. Everyone loves little morsels to get tucked into, and no one does it quite like the Koreans. There is nowhere better to start than Kimchi which is spiced, fermented cabbage which is so indicative of Korean cuisine. It is often used in cooking but can be eaten raw on the side of your meal.
Cold seaweed salads make decent side dishes too. They are usually served mixed with bean sprouts and dressed in a sweet rice wine vinegar dressing and go wonderfully well with some salty BBQ meat.
Another one to look out for is Mandu dumplings. They are similar to the Chinese and Japanese varieties, but the Korean type is usually a bit fatter and better stuffed. They can be steamed, boiled, pan-fried or deep fried and are typically filled with minced meat and vegetables such as cabbage.
Finally, it’s important to mention the fantastic Oseyo over on Oxford Road, a relatively new Korean supermarket offering up 2 floors of Korean foods, toys, stationary, housewares and electronics. Their offering is extensive to say the least, with everything you need to make all of this delicious food at home, plus freshly made snacks, gifts and even K-Pop albums!