- March 01 2016
Samgyeopsal in Japan’s Korean town , Shin Okubo.
I presume that a number of tourists visit Japan to experience Japanese cuisine, but I would like to emphasize that there are more other options out there. Especially in Tokyo, dining options are so diverse with cuisines from all over the world, and this diversity is certainly one of the Tokyo attractions.
Among many international cuisines, Japan’s next door neighbor ‘South Korea’ is well known for gourmet foods, and Japanese people love Korean cuisine. I cannot describe everything, but the deep hot flavor and various spices, which are possibly a secret to their beauty and health, are some of reasons why people get fascinated by the food. So, I will write about delicious Korean foods that are available in Tokyo!
Korean town, ‘Shin Okubo’
On the Yamanote Line, ‘Shin Okubo’ station is one after Shinjuku Station. The area around this station is known to be Japan’s largest Korean town.
The station avenue is packed with rows of Korean restaurants and food stalls on both sides, and there are some stores selling items relating to Korean pop stars (K-POP).
Because of the overwhelming number of Korean restaurants, it is not easy to answer to a question like ‘Which restaurant is the best in Shin Okubo?’ One of the restaurants called ‘Ton chan’ has established an unshakable popularity for the last few years, which I am going to introduce here.
No1 Korean restaurnat, ‘Ton chan’
This is Tonchan’s cute restaurant character.
Ton chan is a big restaurant chain with 11 branch restaurants including the Shinjuku Honten main restaurant and others in the popular areas such as Shibuya and Ueno. This is a highly regarded restaurant for their quality of distinctive flavors, and local online reviews show all the branches are highly rated.
Their signature dish is samgyeopsal!
What is samgyeopsal?
Ton chan’s signature dish is samgyeopsal. This is one of the most well known Korean dishes. You cook sliced pork belly in Korean BBQ style and have it with various toppings of Kimchi, spices and other condiments.
This Ton chan was apparently the first restaurant that served samgyeopsal in Japan, and it is their specialty and signature dish. Compared to other Korean restaurants, they serve fairly thick slices of pork belly and that creates a perfect harmony of the pork and Kimchi.
For this samgyeopsal dish, they cook the sliced pork belly on top of the iron plate in the middle of the table. This is a dynamic sight with oil sizzles and splashes, and you’d want to wear a paper apron in advance that you’ll see on the table.
First, you’ll see some side dishes.
You can eat the half of them as they are, but some of them are to be eaten with samgyeopsal.
I love eating the spicy spring onions! (lol) ...even though they are to go with the pork. The flavor was a perfect match to the beer.
Let’s begin samgyoepsal!
At ‘Ton chan’, you can relax at the table as a waitstaff is there to grill the perfect pork. The slices of thick pork belly, possibly with 1cm thick, are put on the iron plate.
The waitstaff quickly flip the pork over.
When you grill samgyeopsal, it’s typical that you flip the slices over frequently while grilling slowly.
After about 10miniutes, the pork turned deliciously brown, and they were ready. This crispy surface is so invitingly aromatic and delicious!
How to eat samgyeopsal
The waitstaff cut the grilled slices into a bite size with cooking scissors.
First, you dip the piece into the sauce mixture of sesame oil and salt.
Put it on sangchu lettuce...
Add the spicy spring onions...
Roll it...and dig in!
It’s rich and juicy, but the lettuce is so refreshing that create a delicious combination!
I often find it too heavy on my stomach when I just eat rich meat, but I didn’t find it too heavy this time, thanks to the lettuce. I could go on eating forever!
Good selection of side dishes
This is a spicy beef soup, and you can’t resist it if you love spicy food. It’s rich and good. I love it finding so much chopped-up chili ruthlessly in the soup.
Kimchi fried rice
This is as popular as samgyeopsal, and it’s becoming another signature dish of the restaurant. They use the same iron plate for this Kimchi fried rice after cooking samgyeopsal! Again, the waitstaff cooks this for us, so we can just sit back and watch. It’s so good and juicy with the oil from pork belly mixed in.
When you ask for the Kimchi fried rice with cheese, you’ll be stunned by its amazing richness. It’s quite salty, so the beer goes down so easy.
Ah, I’m full! I somehow get a craving for samgyeopsal regularly, and it’s the meal that I go back for.
I think you’d have fun visiting the Korean town in Shin Okubo, or you can just pop into a Korean restaurant in somewhere that is easily accessed, such as Shibuya and Shinjuku as a part of sightseeing. When you enjoy Japanese foods and you also feel like trying something different, why don’t you try this samgyeopsal from our nextdoor neighbor ‘South Korea’.