Hello everyone! This is Sarah from Singapore, and today I will be covering on some of the notable food equivalents between Singapore and South Korea.

Singapore is well-known to be the ‘food paradise’, both regionally and internationally. With its multi-ethnic society and a diverse mix of cultures, there is a wide variety of different cuisines available such as Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cuisine, et cetera, to cater to the significant proportion of expatriates living in Singapore.

Having had lived in Singapore and South Korea for some time, I have realised that there are quite a number of similar food types/equivalents that I can find between Singapore and South Korea. Although there are subtle differences between the food types, I feel that the main component of the dish/food remains the same.


1. Ice Kachang vs. Patbingsu (팥빙수)

Ice kachang, literally “ice beans”, is a traditional dessert that can be found in Singapore, but is also popular in other Southeast Asian regions like Malaysia and Brunei. Traditionally, toppings consisted of just shaved ice and red beans, but now, the toppings have expanded to include Attap seeds, cubes of grass jelly and sweet corn. There is also the additional option to add ice cream, cendol, nata de coco and aloe vera. Condensed milk or evaporated milk, coupled with red rose syrup and sarsi syrup, is then drizzled over the mound of shaved ice as the finishing touch.

ice kachangPhoto credit: shellfish

ice kachang
photo credit: shellfish

I am sure that all of you will be able to guess what is the equivalent of ice kachang in South Korea. Yes, you are right! It is Patbingsu (팥빙수). Patbingsu, literally red beans with ice, is similar to ice kachang; in the way it is created from shaved ice and has a variety of toppings. Popular flavors include coffee, yogurt and green tea and even up till today, there is a craze over patbingsu in South Korea. Numerous chain stores like Sulbing (설빙), Homibing (호미빙) and Gongcha have jumped onto the bingsu bandwagon, introducing new eclectic flavours to cater to the taste and interests of its consumers.

The popular Green tea and Milk Mealtop(밀탑) bingsu at Apgujeong

The popular Green tea and Milk Mealtop(밀탑) bingsu at Apgujeong

2. Satay vs. 닭꼬치 vs. (Dakkochi)

Ah this one is for the meat lovers! Satay is a dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat that is usually served with a sweet and savoury peanut sauce. The choice of meat for your satay can be chicken, pork, mutton or beef, depending on your preference. Satay is usually served on a banana leaf with pressed rice cakes and some diced onions.

Satay has its origins in Java, Indonesia but is also popular in many other Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Thailand. In Singapore, satay can be found in hawker centres (open-air centres that sell relatively inexpensive food) or at local street vendors. With satay listed as number 14 on the “World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods”, compiled by CNNGo in 2011, satay is definitely a must try dish!

Satay (above left) at a local hawker centre in Singapore

Satay (above left) at a local hawker centre in Singapore

Dakkochi, in my opinion, would be the Korean equivalent of satay. They are both grilled, made from marinated meat, and served with some vegetables. Only difference would be in the choice of meat; As you might be able to guess from its name, Dakkochi is made solely from chicken (usually chicken breast meat); “Dak” (닭) in “닭꼬치” refers to chicken, and altogether, “Dakkochi” directly translates to “chicken skewers”.

Korean Chicken Skewers (Dakkochi 닭꼬치)Photo credit: Mark Wiens

Korean Chicken Skewers (Dakkochi 닭꼬치)
photo credit: Mark Wiens

3. Ban Mian vs. 칼국수(Kalguksu)

Now, let’s get right into one of my personal favourites! Ban Mian (literally ‘board noodles’) is made from wheat flour, egg and water. The dough mixture is later rolled flat and torn into ribbons to form the noodles. Ban Mian is soup-based, and is usually served with vegetables, fried anchovies, minced meat, various spices, and then topped off with a poached egg. This dish is primarily found in Malaysia, China and Singapore.

Ban Mianphoto credit: The Food Republic Times

Ban Mian
photo credit: The Food Republic Times

If you are not able to go to any of these three countries any time soon, do not fret! There is a very close alternative to Ban Mian that can be found in South Korea which is ‘Kalguksu’. Kalguksu (literally ‘knife noodles’) is a Korean noodle dish that consists of handmade, knife-cut wheat flour noodles served in a broth with other ingredients. There are different variations of Kalguksu in South Korea. For instance, you can get Bajirak Kalguksu (바지락 칼국수) which is seafood-based, or Dak Kalguksu (닭 칼국수) which is chicken-based. For me, I tend to eat more Kalguksu during the colder months. Having noodles served in a hot broth is a always a comfort during the harsh wintery months. Do give it a try in the upcoming winter!

바지락칼국수photo credit: yuri kim

photo credit: yuri kim

4. Sweet and Sour Pork vs.탕수육(Tangsuyuk)

With a predominantly Chinese population that comprises of different dialect groups, Singapore is no stranger to Chinese food that comes from various parts of mainland China. This particular dish comes from the Cantonese dialect group from the Guangdong Province. Sweet and Sour Pork is basically prepared through the deep frying of pork and then coated with the sweet and sour sauce. Although pork is more commonly used to prepare this dish, chicken or fish can be used too.

Sweet and Sour Pork photo credit: It's all about FOOD

Sweet and Sour Pork
photo credit: It’s all about FOOD

The Chinese-Korean variation of Sweet and Sour Pork is Tangsuyuk, and this dish is usually eaten alongside with 짜장면 (Jjajangmyun), both of which can be found in Korean Chinese restaurants. I have eaten both Sweet and Sour Pork and Tangsuyuk, and one of the main differences between the two, in my opinion, would be the taste of the sauce and the quantity of the meat. The Tangsuyuk that I have tried in Korea is more ‘airy’ and less dense than the Sweet and Sour Pork that I have tried in Singapore. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Tangsuyuk incorporates more flour than meat in their batter. The Sweet and Sour Pork I have tried in Singapore uses more meat, which results in a more hearty, satisfying bite. The sweet and sour sauce in Korean-Chinese restaurants also tend to be gloopy and sweeter.

Korean-Chinese version of Sweet and Sour Pork  - Tangsuyuk photo credit: EunHo sung

Korean-Chinese version of Sweet and Sour Pork – Tangsuyuk
photo credit: EunHo sung

I’m sure there are other food equivalents between your home country and South Korea too. I would love to know more about them! Do share them in the comments. Have a blessed Chuseok everyone!


By Sarah Chua, ASEAN Correspondent from Singapore