The undisputed mecca of makgeolli in Hong Kong
District: Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
How Much: Dishes range from $50 – $250
Best for: Casual lunch or dinner with friends
Must order: The pork ribs and the kimchi pancake
Nestled on Kimberly Road in TST – Hong Kong’s very own ‘Korean Quarter’ – Ssal Bori Ssal has opened its doors as Hong Kong’s first makgeolli bar and restaurant. As a huge fan of Korean food and a self-confessed makgeolli virgin, I was excited to get my first taste of what was once Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage.
With a shelf life of only one month, the selection of makgeolli available in Hong Kong has always been very limited – which is where Ssal Bori Ssal has stepped in to fill the void, stocking a whopping 12 different types! But with so many to choose from, where is a girl to start (decisions, decisions!)? Luckily, the placemats double as pairing guides and rank attributes such as sweetness, acidity and carbonation of each makgeolli on a sliding scale, recommending which of its homely authentic Korean dishes it should accompany.
Dining as a group, I decided to start with the Pork Belly ($220), a great sharing option with lettuce leaf wraps, a selection of fillings and an incredibly tasty bean paste. And what better way to wash it down than with the restaurant’s signature Boksoondoga ($260)? This deliciously creamy and sweet premium makgeolli is the only naturally carbonated artisan makgeolli available in Hong Kong, and it has the added bonus of blending itself upon opening (no effort required!).
After the success of my makgeolli experience, I was feeling brave enough to continue the trend of ‘firsts’ and turned my attention to the Chicken Feet ($92) (deboned – thankfully!). I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty these little delicacies were, especially smothered in Ssal Bori Ssal’s spicy signature sauce (yum!).
Next up on the menu was the kochu jang Pork Ribs ($250) served on a bed of melted mozzarella cheese (heaven!) – clearly a firm favourite with the table, as the sizzling iron plate was empty within seconds!
After rolling up my sleeves to enjoy moulding (and devouring!) the delightfully simple DIY Rice Balls ($38) with seaweed, it was time to switch up the drink pairing. After consulting the guide, I decided upon the Grape Buya Songsan ($135), a delightfully fruity, bubble-free makgeolli, considered to be a revival of the traditional Korean grape rice wine.
I finished up the evening with the rich one-week fermented Kimchi Pancake ($80) and a bowl of Spicy Seafood and Fishcake Soup ($170), a flavoursome seafood pick ‘n’ mix including octopus, squid and clams cooked in a homemade chill oil that packed a real punch.
The attentive, friendly staff and quirky, playful design make this laid-back, unassuming little restaurant the perfect place for a casual dinner with friends and the undisputed mecca of makgeolli in Hong Kong. Oh, and did I mention that the first few diners each night receive a free makgeolli soaked facemask? Form an orderly queue, ladies…
Ssal Bori Ssal, Shop B, Brilliant Court, 78 Kimberley Road, Ssim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, www.facebook.com/ssalborissal