Korean dining etiquette rules you need to know

With the growing appetite for Korean cuisine in Singapore, coupled with the wild popularity of K-drama and K-pop, the Korean wave that hit our shores years ago is showing no signs of receding any time soon.

Most recently, Korea's charcoal BBQ concept restaurant Seorae Galmaegi finally opened in Singapore after much anticipation. Founded in 2007 by Chef Chul Park, Seorae Galmaegi has already established its presence in Asia, with 250 outlets in Seoul, Busan, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Jakarta, Bandung, and - now - Singapore. The restaurant specialises in Korean galmaegisal, or pork skirt meat; it is a unique cut found between the ribs and the belly of the pig, and forms only 250 grams of every full-grown pig. Apparently, galmaegisal was served exclusively to the Royal Family of Korea in ancient times!

Chef Chang Youngmin, Executive Chef of Seorae Galmaegi Singapore, arrived in Singapore just in time for the launch of the outlet. In the two weeks he's been in the country, Chef Chang has already witnessed some similar table manners between Singapore and South Korea.

"In Singapore, I understand that when eating certain Indian food and Malay food, such as nasi biryani, roti prata, nasi lemak and nasi padang, it is usually consumed using the right hand by some locals," says Chef Chang. "This practice is sometimes done in Korea as well! For example, for the galmaegisal (pork skirt meat) in Seorae Singapore, it can be eaten with the meat wrapped up in lettuce and kimchi. You have to make sure your hands are clean, of course, before you touch the food."

Given Singapore's rich and diverse cultural mix, Chef Chang also noticed some unique Singaporean dining etiquette. "I've noticed that Singaporeans tend to share jjigae (stew) with one another, but Koreans usually have one jjigae to themselves," says Chef Chang. "However, we live in a modern world, and I understand that everyone has different dining etiquette and practices."

Having said that, there are still a few Korean dining practices that should be followed, especially if you're dining with seniors. Chef Chang shares more, below.

- For Koreans, as a sign of respect, elders eat first before juniors.

- While dining, juniors should use two hands to serve their seniors.

- After finishing a meal, elders should leave the table first; juniors should wait till the seniors leave the table before making a move.

- Koreans try not to talk with their mouths full.

- While dining, one should only use one hand to use the chopsticks or spoon; it is not encouraged to use a spoon and a pair of chopsticks on different hands at the same time.

- When a Korean drinks with his or her boss, he/she should hold the glass with both hands (when the glass is filled with a drink).

- Right after a glass has been filled by one's boss, we should have a small sip of the drink and put the glass down on the table.

- For the first drink, we should always do a bottoms up.

- We should turn our head away when drinking with our boss.

- We try not to make too much noise while eating.

Surprised? Well, at least at Seorae Galmaegi, you don't have to worry about offending anyone - and certainly not Chef Chang: "I do not judge as Singaporeans can follow Koreans' style, and Koreans can follow Singaporeans' style. It's a cosmopolitan world where dining practices are culturally-dependent; as long the food is of high quality and tastes good, and diners enjoy themselves, it doesn't matter!"

Seorae Galmaegi is located at #02-01 Plaza Singapura, Tel: 6238 8429. For more information, visit www.seorae.com.sg.

Go Away is a website with a strong focus on making travel and living meaningful without the need to spend a lot of money - it’s all about keeping it real here!