Big Mama Korean Restaurant
Ever since I started watching Kimchi Chronicles on StarWorld and saw an episode where Marja Vongerichten featured the mouthwatering Dakgalbi, I knew that the only way I was going to get that cast-iron chilli red chicken out of my mind was to EAT it! And with that greedy thought in mind, I set out to look for a Korean restaurant that sold Dakgalbi. Lucky for me, Big Mama Korean Restaurant, which opened in March this year, held the answer to my search.
Big Mama is opened by a Korean lady Ji-young Nam Gung, who came to Singapore many years ago as a tutor but instead, found her true calling in the kitchen. Along the way, she had honed her cooking skills by whipping up home style Korean cuisine for her students before finally picking up the courage and started this authentic little Korean eatery at the beginning of Kim Tian road.
We came here on a Friday evening at about 5.30pm, hoping to escape the dinner crowds, but found that upon entering, though only a few tables were filled, the rest were all reserved. And we did not have a reservation. Disappointed and almost ready to be turned away, we walked towards the door, only to be stopped by Big Mama herself who warmly told us that we could have a table but had to leave at 8pm before the people who had reserved the tables arrived.
The star of the day and the reason why I came to Big Mama in the first place soon made its appearance.
The Dakgalbi | Spicy Grilled Chicken serve is prepared by the number of portions you order. It was $15/person with minimum 2 to order. Though there were 3 of us dining that day, we decided to only get 2 portions as we wanted to try other menu items so the portion you see in the photo below is for 2!
This was the black wok that was placed on a make-shift gas stove and the girl in charge will cook it for you. So you enjoy freshly fried chicken chunks and vegetables all drenched in homemade spicy bean paste sauce. Instead of taking the easy way out and using the bean paste sauce from those red containers that you can buy from Korean specialty grocers, the bean paste sauce here at Big Mama is made by Big Mama’s own special recipe and with strictly no MSG!
A little history about the Dakgalbi. This dish originated from the city of Chuncheon in Gangwon Province and actually used to be for the lower income groups such as university students on a budget. The concept of ‘throwing’ all the ingredients into a single wok to cook and thereafter eat straight from it, made it convenient and inexpensive. But now, in its modernized version and with increased popularity, more effort is put into the preparation of the ingredients such as the marination of the chicken pieces before they are fried .
My first time trying the Dakgalbi and… alas! It was a little underwhelming. Granted that Big Mama had done a great job at marinating the chicken chunks and every piece I picked up had thoroughly soaked up the marinate and when it was succulent when fried with the spicy bean paste. But there was somehow something missing that I could not quite put my finger on, except to say that the presentation and smells coming from the wok were a lot better than the actual taste…
For an additional $3 per bowl, the girl in charge will throw in some rice into your wok once you are almost done with your dish and fry up some fried rice! An interesting experience especially with some shredded seaweed and kimchi thrown in the mix as well, allowing the rice to absorb the remaining spicy bean paste sauce for a cook-on-the-spot Spicy Kimchi Fried Rice! A novelty but that was all it was really…
We also tried the Beef Bulgogi $28 served in a hot plate. Tender pieces of sliced BBQ strips of beef that tasted a lot better than it looked actually. I had initially thought the dish looked a tad plain and bland. The meat however was sweet and surprisingly compatible with the pickled white radish that was served alongside. Though $28 was a little unjustified for the portion we had.
A meal here at Big Mama is certainly in order if you are a fan of Korean food. And as seen from the crowds of people that flock here, Big Mama must be doing something right. I probably will not be back anytime soon though, as I think that the prices were a tad on the high side and the food was not particularly mind-blowing.
2 Kim Tian Road
Tel: +65 6270 7704
Daily: 11.30am – 2.30pm, 5.30pm – 11pm
(closed on two Mondays a month)