Korean culture has become part of the Philippines’ melting pot. From pop bands to TV shows, Filipinos have included the media aspects of Korean culture into their lifestyle. Surprisingly, their food has not been incorporated into the Filipino mindset. Rarely do you hear a friend go “Let’s have Korean tonight!” Thanks to our fluency in English, a good number of Korean restaurants have given us the numerous gastronomic opportunities. A good number of Korean establishments have sprouted out like mushrooms along BF Parañaque’s Aguirre Avenue. Unfortunately the non-translated signs force non-Korean speaking Filipinos to stay away from these restaurants. With a little courage and food enthusiasm, I dared venture into two popular restaurants along Aguirre Avenue: Sam Won Garden and Coco’s Family Restaurant.
Sam Won is a house-turned-restaurant, similar to other establishments in Aguirre. The establishment’s former life is not obvious thanks to the many tables and maximized space. Each table has a coal stove in the middle, with a long ventilation tube hanging on top to suck out the air. These lessened that familiar meat smell we get from eating in a shabu-shabu type restaurant.
Hungry from finding the restaurant along Aguirre, we ordered two kinds of meat: Usamgyup (grilled beef belly, P300) and Daegi Galbi (Grilled pork short ribs, P250). According to the waitress, the Usamgyup is a popular choice among customers. To balance out the meat, we ordered Kim Chi hot pot (P200).
Before the grilled meats, we were served a diverse set of appetizers: dilis, toge, bean sprouts, kimchi, bangung (vegetable pancake), potatoes in sweet sauce, fishcake, and 2 servings of salad. Thankfully we were all hungry enough to devour this assortment. The bangung or vegetable pancake may sound odd, but it was the perfect fusion of sweet and healthy. One-third of my appetite was already full from sampling all of these dishes. The appetizers were not only a pleasant surprise for the stomach but also no burden for the wallet: these were all for free!
Next on our stomach’s agenda was the grilled meats. The meats were served with a dish of green vegetables, namely lettuce and arugula, red bean paste, and two kinds of sesame sauce. The red bean paste was served with several garlic cloves for cooking the meat. One sauce was thicker and spicy while the other sweet. Fortunately for us first-timers, the waitress took charge of cooking the usamgyup and daegi galbi for us. Kitin instructed that the proper way to eat the meat was to wrap it in a green leaf. By itself, the usamgyup had a distinct sweet taste that completely overwhelmed my mouth. It did not require any sauce but the spicy sauce and red bean paste gave it more kick. The daegi galbi tasted like any other pork dish. It needed more of the sweet sauce and red bean paste compared to the usamgyup. Nonetheless, it was filling for the mouth and stomach.
The Kim Chi hot pot soup was a lot spicier than the Kim Chi appetizer previously served. But as our meal progressed, the spiciness died down with the soup’s cooler temperature. Nonetheless, it complemented the meats we feasted on. After finishing the meat, we were served a free slice of pineapple.
Another equally popular Korean restaurant along Aguirre is Coco’s Family Restaurant. Each table also had a stove and ventilation tube but were in traditional Asian style, expecting customers to remove their shoes before sitting on the floor. Serious followers of Koreanovelas and other aspects of Korean culture will appreciate the restaurant’s setup. Although the restaurant was empty when we arrived, it seemed to be a place frequented by Koreans in the area.
Coco’s Family Restaurant
To differentiate our previous experience, we ordered Beef Gal-bi (grilled beef ribs, P350) and Jap Chae Noodles (P350). The prices on their menu are slightly expensive but offer the same grilled goods and hot pot soups. Individuals after seafood can try out their special dishes.
For our main dish, we ordered the Beef Gal-bi. The beef had a sweet and simple taste. It did not require the use of a stove and was already served cooked. Those who prefer to avoid the kitchen smell can have this dish. The Jap Chae Noodles were a sweet symphony of carbohydrates and necessary nutrients. The glass noodles covered in mushroom, pechay, and carrots provided the right mix of sweet and salty. For our free appetizers we were served Kim Chi, dilis, bangung (vegetable pancake), sweet peanuts, and vegetable torta in red sauce.
Jap Chae Noodles
Whether you’re after new cuisine or a step closer to your favorite Koreanovelas, Aguirre Avenue offers these two popular and satisfying restaurants. Although the cuisine served is the same, a unique experience is guaranteed in each restaurant. And not to mention, the affordable prices that are non-existent in other foreign cuisine establishments.