Welcome to Little Seoul
212 Sukhumvit Soi 12 (near BTS Asok, exit 2)
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In the centre of Bangkok’s busiest shopping and business district, Sukhumvit, a plethora of kimchi awaits. Sukhumvit Plaza, one of Bangkok’s oddest architectural eyesores between Soi 10 and Soi 12, is also home to two floors of Korean restaurants, markets and specialty item stores. Informally known as Little Seoul or Korea Town (but without the karaoke bars you might expect), Sukhumvit Plaza has arguably the best Korean food in Bangkok , or at least the most options to choose from in one place. All of the restaurants in the plaza are comparable in both price—expect to spend around 300 to 500 baht per person—and food options, with personal charcoal grills at your table.
While the establishments offer about as much ambiance as a car park, Arirang, in the front right corner of the plaza, is the most well-known and well-appointed, with bright lighting and sparkling clean floor that rival Terminal 21. All of their offerings are tasty, though their hot noodle soups, which often fall flat at other Korean restaurants, are brimming with flavour.
What most of the restaurants lack in style, they make up for in taste and portions. The beauty of Korean food is the five to ten panch’an, ‘freebies’, that arrive on your table to accompany your meal—a feast of pickled cabbage, stewed crab, anchovies, scallion pancakes, squid, potato salad, or even cockles—that put the standard bread basket to shame.
For fresh beef and other DIY barbecued meats, Doorae (with a circular wooden door straight from The Shire) might take the lead. In a room covered in photos of celebrities you’ve never heard of and flanked by doll furniture (!@?), you can order cubes and slices of short ribs, prime sirloin steak, chicken or tender pork with or without marinade, which your server can help you cook on your own barbecue. A warning: the danger of eating these delicious meats is the same one that haunts all tapas restaurants – it’s easy to get carried away ordering different kinds, and run up a steep bill and a bloated belly.
My go-to dish when facing a menu crammed with too many options is the seafood pancake, or pajeon, which is best done at Myeong Gay, a Korean expat favourite towards the back of the complex, with equal parts barbecue and non-barbecue dishes, and towards the more expensive end. The seafood and spring onion pancake, served crispy and with an accompanying sauce, made from vinegar, soy sauce and magic, is a meal in itself and an easy way to stay under the 300 baht line and still be stuffed to the point of immobility.
To find your Korean restaurant of choice, I recommend you try them all. Or, if you’re short on time or money, close your eyes and choose at random, as you’re guaranteed to be pleased. Lunch time is best for a reasonably priced meal, as many places offer specials. Cast your net wide: many Korean restaurants also trickle out beyond the multi-storey complex, interspersed in the adjacent Times Square building and across Sukhumvit.
By Emma Rosenberg
Last updated on 2nd March, 2015.