Authentic, homely Korean cooking served alongside a curated selection of makgeolli in Hong Kong’s Little Korea.
Words and Food Photos Iris Wong
Tucked away on the quieter end of Kimberley Road, Ssal Bori Ssal looks just like every other Korean restaurant in the area. While the restaurant’s dimly-lit, no-frills interior doesn’t set itself apart, its vision does: to bring Korea’s popular makgeolli culture to Hong Kong. An alcoholic beverage often consumed on rainy days, Makgeolli, especially good ones, are hard to find in Hong Kong due to its short shelf life. Ssal Bori Ssal is the city’s first restaurant to brand itself as a makgeolli bar. A late closing hour of 1am on Fridays and Saturdays mean patrons can hop in for a drink or two after dinner or movies in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Ssal Bori Ssal’s focus on makgeolli is reflected in the menu, which is pork-heavy and without much appearance of beef, as pork is the meat that is frequently eaten with makgeolli. We started with the braised pork trotter ($260) and pork belly ($220). While both are excellent in flavour, we found the trotter a bit dry and preferred the pork belly for more tender meat. We also loved the salted shrimp sauce that came with both pork dishes. The kimchi pancake ($80) that followed was deliciously carby, albeit a tad oily. Our favourite dish of the meal was the spicy seafood and fish cake soup ($170). Comforting on a gloomy day, the broth is loaded with daikon, shiitake mushrooms, mussels, clams, octopus and fish cake on skewers. We happily slurped up all the broth.
No surprises here, the highlight of our meal was the Boksoondoga makgeolli ($260/935ml), the only artisan, fresh makgeolli produced with natural carbonation available in Hong Kong. The award-winning rice spirit was reminiscent of a carbonated yogurt drink – unique, refreshing, and dangerously easy to drink. This makgeolli alone is enough to being us back.
Ssal Bori Ssal’s dishes have their hits and misses, but we enjoy the restaurant for its homely vibes and simple flavours. Perhaps you’ll see us there, on a rainy day, slurping makgeolli and savouring the fish cake soup.
Spending: around $800 for three people
Highlights: Boksoondoga makegeolli, pork belly
What else: for those only here to drink, order an assorted snack platter of dried squid, dried fish, seaweed and nuts to go with the makgeolli.
Ssal Bori Ssal
Shop B, Brilliant Court, 28 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 2736 8444