Popularly known as the national drink of Korea, soju is a clear, distilled liquor that happens to also be the best selling alcohol in the world. However, only a select few restaurants across India serve it. Here’s where you can head for a taste of this spirit.
Log into Netflix and play any K-drama (Squid Game counts, of course) at random, and chances are you’ll end up at a scene with the characters knocking back a shot of soju. The drink traces its origins back to the 13th century when invading Mongols brought with them distillation techniques they had picked up in the Middle East. Back then, soju was made using rice wine and contained 40-50% alcohol. Recipes for making the spirit were passed down from generation to generation until shortages in 1965 forced the government to pass a law that forbade rice from being used. Soju makers began diluting the spirit and using substitutes like barley, sweet potatoes, and tapioca to keep the prices low.
This changed the way soju was made and consumed to the extent that even when the ban was lifted, cheap soju continued to grow in popularity. Even today, soju is considered a pocket-friendly drink with an alcohol content of just about 20%. While it has been the alcohol of choice for most Korean celebrations for a long time now, its sweet, milky flavour has begun garnering attention across the world. Yet, despite its growing popularity, sighting this spirit in India is a rarity and often limited to the menus of specialty Korean restaurants in major cities. It also isn’t the most cost-effective alcohol option at the moment. That said, if you’ve always been intrigued by the drink, here are some places in India that serve it.
Drop by these six restaurants in India for a taste of Korean soju
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A cosy restaurant in Humayunpur, Little Seoul serves up some delicious and authentic Korean ramyun, kimbap, and stews. While Korean food can leave vegetarians with little to choose from, they will be spoilt for choice at this spot with options like kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew), bibimbap (rice and assorted vegetables) and miyeokguk (seaweed soup). The only thing that makes the food here that much better is some delicious soju flavours – original, apple, peach, and lemon.
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Located in the bustling Kammanahalli, Arirang is the place to go for a traditional Korean dining experience in Bengaluru. The restaurant is characterized by low-rise tables with BBQ grills, lots of banchan (side dishes) to go alongside your main meal, and traditional art in the background. Jjajangmyeon, bibimbap, ramyun, and stew come highly recommended here, as does a bottle of classic soju.
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With an extensive menu that features both Korean and Japanese delicacies, Jang Won Korean And Japanese Restaurant in Kottur Gardens is the local choice for satiating Korean fried chicken, bibimbap, and pork belly cravings. The place also has a norebang (Korean karaoke room) for you to sing your heart out in. However, the highlight of your meal is sure to be sharing soju with your friends or family as you polish off the last bits of what’s on your plate.
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For when you’re feeling a bit fancy, Heng Bok in Mumbai’s Bandra offers delicious Korean fare with a side of Kpop music. Popular options here are spicy ramen, pork belly, tteokbokki, and bulgogi. They even serve some delicious authentic desserts like patbingsu (shaved ice) and tempura ice cream. Round off your delicious meal with several shots of soju.
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Locals in Sikkim head to Mu Kimchi for their fill of authentic kimbap, samgyupsal (live pork barbeque), dolsot bibimbap, chicken ramyun, and kimchi jjigae. The incredible food as well as the warmth of the staff and the atmosphere is sure to draw you in but it’s their bar that serves some delicious soju that will have you stay.
Image courtesy: @mu_kimchi/Instagram
Although primarily known for Japanese specialities like beef and fish tataki, okonomiyaki, pork katsudon, and ramen with an 8-hour bone broth, Roboto in Calangute also has a few Korean options like Korean wings, kimchi cheese sandwich, and ramen. What caught our attention is a particularly delicious cocktail on their menu with the spirit in the discussion, soju. Their ocha-wari drink, which combines soju with jasmine tea, lime cordial, and sparkling wine, is a delicious way to top off any meal.
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