I was completely new to the whole Korean craze in Asia (or any Korean culture tbh) before my introduction to Korea Town in Bangkok. Even then, I kind of thought of it as a subculture of sorts, rather than this global phenomenon centred around a love for Korean Music (K-Pop), Korean soap operas, and Korean food and Korean Barbecues (KBBQ). And to think of a British equivalent, it would be a bit like chowing down at an Australian barbecue restaurant, surrounded by posters of Harold Bishop and Toadfish, while Kylie Minogue and Peter Andre run on repeat.
Anyway, one thing we can all agree on, is the love for Korean Barbecue. It is easily one of the most exciting eating experiences in all of Asia, and one that I will never tire of. And while similar experiences are found throughout Bangkok these days, with various chain KBBQ copies (Sukishi for example), along with Japanese Yakiniku grills dotted across the city, they generally lack the overall immersive package of K-Pop and the other authentic Korean experiences that are found at Bangkok Korea Town at Sukhumvit Plaza.
Welcome to Bangkok Korea Town (Sukhumvit Plaza)
Found on the main Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok Korea Town is found just a short walk from the main Asoke Interchange in a 4-story shopping arcade called Sukhumvit Plaza. Just look for the big screen playing K-Pop music videos and the sign saying ‘Welcome to Korea Town’. It’s really hard to miss from the main skywalk. Then there are teps down to the ground level from the skywalk are found on either side of the plaza.
Bangkok Korea Town is home to much of the best Korean Food in Bangkok, and the best Korean Barbecues in Bangkok, but it also has an immersive atmosphere given it’s patronised mostly by Korean ex-pats and local fanatics of Korean pop cultures. There is kind of an embedded connection between the 2 cultures as well with many Thai artists making it big in K-Pop in Korea including Lisa of BLACKPINK who is the most successful K-Pop idol in the world right now. And she literally grew up near our farmhouse in rural Buriram.
Anyway, pretty much all of Sukhumvit Plaza is occupied by Korean shops and Korean Restaurants, and almost every restaurant is found on the ground floor with additional seating in the floors above. So the restaurants may look small and cramped at ground level, really most of the tables and seating is in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th floors etc. So the escalator in the centre of Sukhumvit Plaza is kind of obsolete. There are also shops/convenience shops on the ground floor selling all sorts of Korean products including Korean Barbecues to cook at home.
What is a Korean Barbecue (KBBQ)?
Korean barbecues, or KBBQ for short, are restaurants where charcoal (or similar) grills are built into the tables along with a ventilation hood above as most of these Korean Barbecues are indoor restaurants. The customers are then handed the necessary utensils to work the grill along with the ingredients etc. to cook their own meats themselves. This normally includes tongs to flip the meats etc. and scissors to chop them up.
What Do You Eat on a Korean Barbecue?
Ingredients will vary at Korean Barbecues, and can potentially be endless, but generally, the set favourites are a variety of selected marinated meats and veg, and mushrooms, and… Probably the most famous grilled meat, synonymous with Korean barbecues, would be bulgogi beef (or pork) marinated in a savoury, salty and sweet sauce. It literally translates as “fire meat”.
What Chilli Dip Do You Eat with a Korean Barbecue?
Korean barbecues (KBBQ) are typically eaten with a chilli dip on the side, and Ssamjang, a fermented Doenjang bean and Gochujang chilli paste, is the standard favourite. But chilli dips can normally be made to personal preference with optional additions of soy sauce, garlic, chilli and lime to be mixed/added for extra salty, sweet, hot and sour flavours.
What are Banchan Side Dishes?
Set menus all come with sides, or Banchan as they are known in Korea, and they accompany almost every Korean barbecue at no additional cost. They’re a bit like the ketchups of Korea. The most common is Kimchi, pickled napa cabbage (baechu kimchi), although there are seemingly endless variations of spicy, fermented vegetables and seasonings. But banchan go much further than just kimchi and below are the (current) banchan on the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Il Mi Jung Barbecue Buffet restraurant in Korea Town in Bangkok.
Best Korean Barbecue Buffets (All-You-Can-Eat)
The best introduction to Korean Food is likely with the all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue buffets, with so main different barbecue, banchan (sides), and other options, you’ll be hard-pressed to try them all.
Note, with these barbecue buffets, there is a time limit (normally between 1 hour – 2 hours which will also depend on how many people are eating. The larger the group the more time allowed.
There will also be an a-la-carte menu if the barbecue buffet doesn’t suffice as well as an alcohol/drinks menu although basic juices/drinks are normally included in the buffet.
Below, the Best Korean Barbecue Buffets in Bangkok Korea Town are ranked by Google Review Scores.
1. Viking Korean BBQ Buffet
2. Il Mi Jung Barbecue Buffet (일미정)
3. Kwang Han Roo BBQ Buffet
4. Darak Korean Restaurant
Best Korean Barbecue Restaurants
Korean Barbecues Korean barbecues without the buffet. These are more upscale experiences, with a-la-carte menus and food brought directly to your tables. Meaning there’s less back-and-forth to the barbecue buffets.
The reason I have separated these Korean Barbecues from the buffets is that the layout and atmosphere is more personal and intimate, and, at some barbecue restaurants, the staff will also help prep and cut your meats.
Many of these restaurants offer special set menus at cheap prices to keep spending down. Or, alternatively, there are always high-quality meat options with well-marbled wagyu etc for something a bit fancier. And the complimentary banchan sides will always be included.
The Best Korean Barbecue Restaurants below are ranked using Google Review Scores.
1. Myeong Dong
2. Arirang Korean Restaurant
3. Doorae Korean Restaurant
4. Dong E Korean Barbecue (โดงอี / 동이)
5. Jang Won Korean Restaurant 장원
7. Hobak Korean Family Restaurant
8. Hwa Shin Korean Restaurant
9. Myeong Ga
10. Nak Won (นัควอน) 락원
11. Han Gang ฮันกาง
Traditional Korean Restaurants
There is more to Korean food than barbecues and banchan (obviously) and again most of these can be found at Bangkok Korea Town at Sukhumvit Plaza. Although they’re not quite as prevalent as the KBBQs there. Anyway, here’s a decent list of the more obvious Korean foods to look out for.
So there are a number of restaurants which share a wider range of Korean foods, and while many of these foods can also be found at Korean Barbecue Restaurants, many patrons prefer to not have built-in bbq/ventilation at their table. At the same time, it is possible to have many Korean barbecue foods ordered to the table. So you can still have KBBQ without the BBQ.
Also, there are a handful of restaurants specializing in popular Korean food trends such as Korean fried chicken, Bingsu shaved ice desserts, and maybe Korean spicy noodles ( best known with the Samyang noodles at the 7-11s). Although it seems these food trends have a shorter shelf life (Sulbing Bingsu recently closed).
1. Salroman 살로만
2. Cheong Dam (อาหารเกาหลีชองดัม)
3. Kimkun Korea Style Bistro (สาขา / 김군네)
4. Choongman Chicken (Now Closed?)
5. Jobang Nak Ji Korean Restaurant
Where is Korea Town in Bangkok (Sukhumvit Plaza)?
Bangkok Korea Town is located at Sukhumvit Plaza on the main Sukhumvit Road between the Nana and Asoke BTS Skytrain stations. The best way to reach it is from Asoke where it is just a short walk along the skywalk from the Asoke Skytrain (BTS) Station and the interchange area of the Sukhumvit Underground (MRT) Station.
Address: 212, 4-5 Sukhumvit Rd, Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110, Thailand