Um Yong Baek – Authentic Busan Pork and Rice Soup in Tanjong Pagar
May 26, 2023
When it comes to Korean cuisine in Singapore, the usual suspects such as bibimbap and kimchi pancakes often steal the spotlight. But that’s not the case at Um Yong Baek, a renowned Korean restaurant tucked away in the vibrant Telok Ayer area, that specializes in a lesser-known gem: Korean pork and soup rice. While the name might not ring a bell for many locals, Um Yong Baek has garnered recognition in Korea through numerous publications and TV shows.
Securing a table here is no easy feat. I, too, faced disappointment multiple times. Undeterred, I persisted, and on my third attempt, with a friend queueing ahead of opening hours, we finally secured a spot. They say third time’s a charm, and indeed it was!
The origins of Korean pork and rice soup, known as Dwaeji Gukbap, trace back to the Korean War. In times of scarcity, maximizing available resources was essential, and boiling pork bones for an extended period became a way to extract flavour and nutrients. Today, it has become a beloved local dish, especially in Busan.
It’s important to note that the dishes mentioned in this review are only available during lunch, and the restaurant has a separate dinner menu. During lunch hours, the star of the show is the steaming bowls of Daejigukbab, prepared in either Busan style or Milyang style.
I started with the Busan-style Pork and Rice Soup ($21), which features a clear broth hiding a treasure trove of ingredients. Expect a delightful combination of pork collar, tender pork cheek, and pork stomach adorning a bed of short-grain rice. The soup, simmered for at least eight hours, unveiled an intoxicating aroma and the rich essence of the pork. Each mouthful was a delightful symphony of flavors, with the well-cooked stomach meat devoid of any unpleasant funk. The various cuts of meat contributed distinct textures and flavors, creating a captivating culinary experience.
The Milyang-style Pork and Rice Soup ($21) boasted a thick broth crafted from simmering pork bones, pork leg, cheek, chin, and a generous garnish of chopped chives. Despite the rice sitting in the soup for a while, it retained its perfect texture, offering a delightful contrast to the creamy, full-bodied broth.
I preferred the Busan-style clear soup, as it offered a more pronounced flavour profile. To enhance the dish further, you can add in their delectable house-made kimchi.
For those seeking an extra meaty delight, the signature Boiled Pork Belly with Skin ($45) is a must-try. Pair the strips of succulent pork belly with the condiments of chives, garlic, tofu, and salted fish sauce, and expect a burst of flavour in every bite, without any greasiness.
During our visit, we couldn’t help but notice that the many of the servers were Koreans, a true testament to the restaurant’s authenticity. As of now, the restaurant only accepts reservations. Slots tend to fill up quickly. If you are heading over for dinner, Korean BBQ is available.
Um Yong Baek
Address: 27 Boon Tat St, Singapore 069623
Opening Hours: 11am to 3pm; 5.30pm to 10pm. Closed on Sundays