There’s a new kid on the Surry Hills block, and I’m willing to say it’s going to be the next big K-thing.
We’ve got K-Pop, K-Drama and K-Beauty…but when it comes to K-Food, I think you’ll find a lot of people are still a little bit confused as to what it actually is…
Is it Korean BBQ?
Is it a lot of stinky soybean paste?
Is it just kimchi and bibimbap?
If you’re on this website now, you probably know that Korean cuisine is so much more than just these quintessential foods. But, the broader community has come to know the cuisine by these.
That is, until they’ve tried the delicious food at Sang by Mabasa.
It’s a very little restaurant run by a Korean-Australian family…and it honestly feels like you’ve stepped into their home for a meal when you come here.
The tables are long, so that you share them with multiple parties, or you can sit at the bar and watch the matriarch and patriarch at work.
Every group’s table settings are very traditional and neat – nothing too pretentious or fancy, just basic chopsticks and plates.
The service is also friendly and they really know their stuff, so they’re more than happy to talk you through everything – what the dish is, the cooking method, the ingredients, what certain words mean…
It can be hard to come by this sort of service at a more casual restaurant.
But let’s get onto what you’re here for…the food.
And my GOD was it good!
I’ve been there twice now, in about as many months, with both Korean and non-Korean friends, and both groups equally agree this is some of the most delicious and thoughtful food they’ve ever had.
It’s a mix of everyday and more festive foods. They have kimchi, seasonal side dishes and pickles, as well as dishes like bibimbap and jaeyuk bokkum (spicy, stir fried pork belly), as well as dishes like gu-jeol pan (a platter of nine delicacies).
Aside from fancy restaurants in Korea, no one makes it as well as my mum (ask anyone in the Korean community in Sydney!) but Sang take it a step further.
GU JEOL PAN
The presentation is so delicate and beautiful, and the way they’ve approached the dish is so creative. The idea of using the water from things like beetroot to naturally colour the wraps is simply genius!
Then there’s their octopus dish, moon-eo sook-hwe. It’s basically poached octopus. Now, whenever my dad has this at home, it’s always very plain; some poached octopus with chilli paste.
But at Sang, it’s been given a little bit of a face lift, with the addition of radish, coriander, chilli and sesame oil. It was so clean on the palate, with no fishy-ness (which often happens, even at the best restaurants).
MOON-EO SOOK-HWE( Boiled Octopus Dish)
Dessert is always a bit of a weird one when it comes to Korean cuisine. To be honest, I’m still not sure I know exactly what constitutes “dessert” in K-Food. Cinnamon donuts? Puffed rice snacks?
Well, at Sang, it changes regularly, based on Korean favourites and some typical Korean flavours.
The first time I went there, it was makgeol-li ice cream with a perilla leaf sorbet.
It was divine. So creamy and fresh, and who’d have thought perilla leaves could be used to make dessert?
The second time I went was even better, because dessert was kkwa-bae-gi (twisted Korean donuts). They added a little twist to it though, by using sourdough batter. I really enjoyed this, because it made the donut a little lighter than usual.
And my friend, who’d never had it before, wanted to know where she could get some more!
KKWABAEGI (Twisted Korean Dounuts)
They also have a daily lunch menu, which is always changing! It could be anything from naengmyun to ddeok-guk…even gwejang!
The Sang family shows Australia that Korean food isn’t just something that’s homely, but that it can also be delicate, creative, beautiful and high end.
The only down side?
A bottle of soju costs $18…but I was willing to pay that for the full K-Experience.
We need more restaurants like Sang by Mabasa in Australia to really spread Korean cuisine. Fusion and “modern” restaurants are great at introducing people to the cuisine, but it’s time to show the rest of the community what traditional K-Food is like.
Sang by Mabasa
98 Fitzroy St, Surry Hills
TUE - SAT
L 11:30 - 15:00 / D 17:30 - 22:00
L 11:30 - 15:00 / D 17:30 - 21:00
To book, call 9331 5175 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributed by Harnsle Joo, Producer of 2GB