When you think of Asian cuisine, Korean food may not be at the forefront of your cravings but it absolutely should be. It’s unique, tasty and yes, there’s more to Korean food than just barbeuce meat. Whether you have a hankering for fried chicken or want to get your micronutrients in a flavourful way, the versatility of Korean dishes is perfect for you. Here are some places to get the best Korean food in Auckland.
Let’s start this off with a true and authentic Korean eatery. BannSang don’t just serve up bomb tasting and authentic Korean food but they also stay true to one of the many Korean dining experiences. South Korea is quite a fast paced country so many of the restaurants tend to encourage a speedy culture. BannSang replicates with their fast pace and cluttered tables with side dishes, sizzling hot plates of grilled meats and massive soul-warming sharing pots. Head on over to BannSang if you’re wanting to experience an authentic, casual Korean dining experience.
Hansik Restaurant & Bar
Offering more of a fine-dining vibe and slower paced part of Korean cuisine, Hansik Restaurant & Bar is a great place to sit down and really take a good moment to enjoy the unique and complex Korean flavours. Each dish is an accurate representation of one of the many traditional dining experiences in Korea. Hansik clearly puts delicate care and thought to all elements of the food they send out of their kitchen from taste, texture and presentation. The raw beef carpaccio is a must when it comes to this eatery. We know, raw beef may sound a little odd but once paired with a creamy egg yolk, it all makes sense. Hansik also has a wide menu of traditional Korean alcohol such as plum or raspberry wine to compliment the Korean food.
No. 1 Pancake
Street food is a huge thing in Korea and Auckland has been blessed with a Korean pancake house that has landed itself on food network shows in South Korea itself. No. 1 Pancake has been booming for16 years now and there’s a very good reason for that. These aren’t just your regular pancakes with maple syrup from any old café. These guys cook to order to make your pancake as fresh as possible with surprise fillings. What makes Korean pancakes different to the regular ones we’re so used to mainly comes down to the texture. Crispy on the outside and super chewy on the inside and all the excitement is filled inside, not on top. The OG is the cinnamon sugar pancake but don’t be scared to branch out to the savoury options like the beef and cheese.
Fried chicken may not sound authentic or Korean but don’t knock it till you try it. Korean fried chicken takes it to the next level with their special sauce that marinates the crispy and super tender chicken. The sauce is sweet with a hint of spice and there really isn’t anything like it. If you’re a little anxious about going for the full blown Korean dining experience, consider this your gateway to Korean cuisine. KS Chicken in Albany is the fried chicken hub amongst the Koreans in Auckland as these guys don’t fool around and they stay true to the Korean formula of fried chicken.
We all have those days when we don’t know what the heck we crave. Half of you wants to try something a little new and different and half of you just can’t shake off the need for a good old burger, why not do both? Tiger Burger put a modern Korean twist on western burgers including the famous (and all-rights-reserved) Kimcheese®, which combines top-quality New Zealand beef with sauteed kimchi, aged cheddar and gochujang mayo. Tiger Burger also do a dessert called the chapsal doughnut which is another Korean streetfood delicacy that is an absolute staple in not just Korean cuisine but Korean culture. The rice flour doughnut is a nostalgic treat among Koreans as it’s usually sold on the side streets by locals. It’s super crispy on the outside and extremely chewy on the inside, not too sweet but not bland either and is absolutely deeelish. Oh, and did we mention it's served with a side of condensed coconut milk?
Simon & Lee
Simon & Lee is a Korean outpost hidden away in the back streets of Parnell. Their bibimbap is not to be missed, the bulgogi is tender with slight sweetness and the hot stone bowl makes the bottom layer of rice have a crispy texture and smokey, charcoal flavour. This dish is also jam packed with micronutrients without compromising on taste—eating your daily greens has never been so easy. Staying true to Korean culture, Simon & Lee also serve amazing Korean fried chicken with a variety of marinades to choose from such as garlic and soy or gochujang, to elevate your Korean fried chicken experience.
There’s a lot of Western, Asian fusion joints out there but have you ever heard of Korean, Chinese fusion? Believe it or not, it’s actually a common thing for Korean people and is a staple fast food. Harimgak is a restaurant with Korean owners putting their own twist on Chinese sichuan and stir fried dishes. This place is perfect for those people who are craving Chinese takeaways but want something a little lighter on the oil, spice and sodium. The classic Korean Chinese dish is the jjajangmyeon which is a noodle dish coated in a black bean paste and caramelised onions. Sounds weird, we know but don’t knock it till you try it.
My Fried Chicken
If you hadn't already guessed, Koreans loveeeee fried chicken; and you'll find an entire eatery dedicated to their version over at Ponsonby Central. These guys don't mess around with fancy names of flavourings (they're called My Fried Chicken, after all), but what they do deliver on is a simple dish done really cluckin' well. Pull up a perch in the funky, neon surrounds and watch as their crew fire-up the fryer, then cook your chicken to poultry perfection in one of four flavour blends including OG, Cluck Cluck Soy, Hot & Sweet As, or Thunderbird. Make it a feast by adding a side of Korean garlic bread (yes, that's totally a thing); or perhaps some fries and pickled veggies. And in true Korean style, there's also a cold one with your name on it courtesy of Garage Project, whose craft beers are the drink of choice here.
The Candy Shop
You won't find candy at The Candy Shop, but what but you will find is some seriously sweet Korean fare. Their fried chicken is some of the best in Auckland (cheekily dubbed KFC—you do the math) and is fittingly served with rice cakes, or on a platter with pickles and waflle fries. These guys have also gained a bit of a rep for their Korean-style pancakes (known to come in some pretty epic flavours—think nutella and matcha); while it's hard to go past the bibimbap, to which you can add bulgogi beef or a fried egg (or both, we won't judge).
The Kimchi Project
The home of kimchi waffle fries. These guys were the first to mix spicy, traditional kimchi with creamy mayo and top them on a crispy bed of fries. Therefore, The Kimchi Project is absolutely iconic when it comes to Korean-Western fusion. With one of the best outdoor courtyard spaces in Auckland, this Korean-owned eatery with Korean chefs has earned the reputation of being one of the hottest in Auckland and they’re also super busy in the evenings as well. Pair the obligatory fries with some squid ink pasta, one of their droolworthy bao, or if you simply can't get enough of the fermented stuff, a kimchi sampler.
Little & Kitchen
Locals of Glen Innes have been absolutely blessed with one of the best Korean takeaways in Auckland. With a mix of authentic Korean dishes and fusion creations, Little & Kitchen have something for everyone. If you’re in the mood for a classic dish that doesn’t play around, the jaeyuk deopbap is the one for you. Spicy marinated pork combined with rice and a yolky fried egg is a common delicacy among Koreans and is an explosion of flavour and texture. Little & Kitchen are also one of the very few places that serve up the Korean streetfood delicacies of deep-fried seaweed rolls filled with glass noodles, and Korean street toasties. What makes these toasties special is that they add a crunchy slaw for extra texture and use a generous serving of scrambled eggs to add some depth and creaminess to the sandwich.
One thing that makes Korean dining so special is the endless amount of side dishes that are complimentary to the main dish you order. Totoya located in Rosedale have a menu of traditional Korean main dishes such as the steamed seafood medley with spicy sauce and it comes with almost 10 plates of more food. Use these sides to take your bowl of rice to the next level as they add flavour and texture to the spoonfuls of simple carbohydrate which makes your dining experience so much more interesting and exciting. Also, don’t be shy to ask for refills for the side dishes. That’s completely normal in Korean restaurants and no, you will not be charged!
This one is for the connoisseurs of Korean food who think they’ve done it all. Fried chicken, bulgogi and raw meat has been ticked off the list and they’re wanting something a little more thrilling. Well, have you tried pig skin and pig feet? It may sound weird but it’s a delicacy that is common and popular amongst Koreans. Kaya don’t let any bit of pork go to waste and prove that all parts of the animal can be tasty depending on how you cook it. They of course also do the classic and traditional Korean meals for the newbies out there but this is a great place for those who want to challenge themselves and experience something completely new.
Han has made a name for itself as one of the top Korean restaurants in Auckland. Their secret? Fresh, seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients—with the exception of a few specialist Korean items—whipped into modern dishes that blur the lines between east and west (think pickled mussels, and kimchi and pork pie); as well as a couple of traditional options thrown in for good measure (namely, Korean barbecue). On that note, one thing's for sure: this is probably the fanciest spot you'll ever cook your own food at.
OBar Snack Bar
This is the sister of another popular Korean spot, OBar, which you'll find a literal stone's throw away in Chancery Square (and, we might add, is also worth a visit). Drawing inspo from the bustling lunch bars of Seoul, the focus here is on quick, fuss-free feeds; with patrons placing their order via pen and paper, selecting from three customisable combos. Each one comes with gimpab, a kind of Korean sushi, paired with your choice of noodles, tteokbokki (essentially rice cakes on sticks), or fried chicken and dumplings. If you're feeling extra hungry, beef up your order with a couple of Korean sausages, one of their many choices of fries, or even some additional gimpab (because why not). Factor in a can of grape soda (a fave refreshment in Korea), and the whole thing will cost you no more than $20—how's that for cheap and cheerful?
After reading that list and you just want to try a bit of everything, The Buffet is an all-you-can-eat restaurant with a huge variety of Korean dishes and meat you get to grill by yourself. So you get the full Korean barbecue experience and to make it even better, you get to have a taste of all the different sorts of food Korean cuisine has to offer. From fresh vegetable side dishes, the infamous Korean fried chicken to traditional Korean desserts like the caramelized toffee kumara, this place is perfect if you have all the curiosity and cravings but very little time.
- Centro (Takapuna) often draw on Korean flavours for their dishes. Case in point? Their mega-tasty fried chicken.
- The Glasshouse Cafe (Northcote) make a mean Korean steamed bun, loaded with juicy wagyu beef; as well as other dishes inspired by the owner's Korean-Vietnamese heritage (pork belly bene? Hell yes).
- Billy (Newmarket) have been known to sling some sweet Korean feeds, including kimchi tacos and a fried chicken burger loaded with gochujang sauce.
Munch your way around Asia With a visit to one of Auckland's Best Chinese restaurants.
Image credit: Han,