Ssambap @ Krystal Point, Penang

A couple weeks ago, this conversation happened over a dinner outing…

Friend: Eh just now I went to this new Korean place with my colleagues for lunch, and you know what happened? We got to eat for free!
Me: What??! Why? They doing some sort of promotion?
Friend: No, there’s no sign of any promotion whatsoever. I think it is because their service sucks, but who cares, free lunch!

So last Friday, I related this eat-for-free place to my lunch mate. We decided to try our luck and see if we too, can get free lunch…

The place is called Ssambap, have absolutely no idea what it means in Korean. It is located in Krystal Point, on the same row of shops as the equally new Mizi Bistro (I might pay this one a visit soon) and that rather popular 辣妹子 Lameizi steamboat place.

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The place is rather small. There’s two rows of with a few booths each, their total seating capacity is most definitely less than 50. I think this is the norm for most new eateries in Penang nowadays.

The walls have a layer of woods, and there’s a big Korean looking mural on one side. (I think) I can vouch for the Korean-ness of the interior, not because I have been to Korean before, but because I have see a few Korean restaurants in Korean TV series.

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I’m not sure if this place is any authentic, to be honest. The waiters are all Nepalese/Burmese, not a good sign. But I did overhear a woman saying to a man at the back of the shop (I presume they are the owners): “Oppa, !@#$%^&* se yo? !@#$%^&* im-nida“. I don’t speak Korean, but I can grasp enough to know they are speaking in Korean, now that’s a good sign.

Anyway, so the menu came, and we saw that they have set lunch items. At RM 19.90, you get a choice of BBQ pork, banchan (side dishes), a rice, a soup, and a drink. Seems like good value for money, so we went for it.

For the drinks, I went for green tea, and the lunch-mate went for orange juice, because when she asked the waiter “Is the orange juice fresh or just syrup?”, the waiter replied “Fresh!”.

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“Fresh” Orange Juice

Yeah, fresh my foot. I think he meant poured fresh from the carton, or orange syrup with fresh orange slice.

Our soup and condiments came quickly.

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Standard Korean condiments: chili paste, garlic/jalapeno slices, sesame sauce
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Soup

I think they served us the same soup that they use as base for the doenjang jjigae (soybean paste stew). There was a generous amount of radish and potatoes in the soup. I thought it was very nice…

Then the banchan (side dishes) came…

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Banchan

I was quite disappointed that there was no kimchi when the banchan was served. Nevertheless, we arranged them nicely, took a picture, and began to dig in on the broccoli.

And then, to our surprise, more stuff was served shortly after…

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More banchan

Oh dear… we did not expect this. Usually, only the more expensive, high end Korean restaurants here will serve us more than 4 dishes for banchan. This… 10 side dishes… it feels like we’re dining in luxury. I particularly liked the ikan bilis (fried anchovies) with peanuts, although I don’t think that is a Korean thing at all. The lunch-mate loved that black bean dish.

Finally, our mains came. I was actually quite worried that the BBQ would leave my clothes smelling wonderful. That would be bad, because it was lunch time and we had to go back to work after lunch. Especially when it is also the month of Ramadan, and I have fasting Malay colleagues in the office. Thankfully, the BBQ meat for the lunch sets are done in the kitchen and served to us in sizzling teppan plates instead.

We had two different types of BBQ mains…

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Jeyuk Bokkeum – stir fried pork with gochujang (chili pepper paste)
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Samgyeopsal – Pork belly

The meats were pretty good. The samgyeopsal was very tender, and the jeyuk bokkeum was very flavorful.

We were there at 11.35 AM, the place has just opened for business, so it was relatively empty. But by 12 noon, the place was full house, and there were a bunch of people waiting for tables. I guess word has gone out about how cheap and good value for money this place is. Or maybe it was just because this place is new and everyone wants to try it. Or maybe it was the eating-for-free so everyone wants to try their luck.

No, in the end, we did not get to eat for free. But then, we also did not get horrible service, so I guess it was alright. Yeah, there is the typical communication issue with those immigrant waiters, but then, like I said, this is a typical issue that we face in most places in Malaysia nowadays anyway, so I’m not going to kick up a fuss over it.

I definitely think that at RM 19.90, the set lunch is good value for money. Well, not exactly RM 19.90, there’s a 10% service charge and 6% GST to contend with. But let’s just say that this could be my new favorite place to get some Korean grub in Penang from now on…

32 Comments

    • I think probably word got out that some people eat for free in the first week or so, so everyone wants to test their luck. I personally quite like the food here, but I think many don’t..

  1. I am very much a fan of Korean food. And I love those side dishes hee..hee… The ikan bilis and spinach is my favorite. I am not that fond of kimchi but I do eat it. And of course their BBQ meat is delicious. It’s good that you found a place to get your Korean food fix.

    • You mean Dao Rae? I haven’t been to that really atas place for some time now. Can’t remember their banchan much now. 😐

  2. Yeah, you’re right…to get 9 banchan (I say 9 because I think the cabbage side dish, hence a larger dish, is meant for your pork belly like the one I had here: http://eatwhateatwhere.blogspot.com/2014/03/jung-won-korean-bbq-ampang-hilir.html)
    seems more for the higher end Korean restaurants.

    The value for money set you had is more like the one I had here:
    http://eatwhateatwhere.blogspot.com/2014/05/oiso-cheras-leisure-mall.html
    with only 3 side dishes! 🙁

    • Huh.. I thought only the lettuce was for the wrapping the meats up. That cabbage dish, we ate it like it was a coleslaw LOL!

      I wonder if this 9-10 side dishes will last forever, or just something that they use to overwhelm us in the beginning. I guess we’ll see in a few months time..

      • Yes, you’re supposed to wrap the cabbage with the lettuce it seems (that was what I was told by the server).

        Anyway, I read somewhere that banchan is always served in odd numbers because even numbers are considered bad luck…so, 9 should be correct! 😀

        • Our server did not tell us anything at all! So we just pakai hantam hahaha!

          Really?? Most Korean restaurants in Penang that I see serves either 4 or 6 dishes for banchan. Guess they must all be slapped! 😐

          • Either that…or they don’t know…or they’re Malaysians running Korean restaurants…or they’re not superstitious…or it’s just a myth! 😀 😀 😀 But the ones I’ve been to (oddly) did serve odd-numbered banchans. 😉

  3. “You know what happened?” This’s what I want to say usually and I’ve this friend always answered me…”No, I don’t know what happened…” Hahahaha….

      • Hahaha!! I said when I always want to tell my friend something, I will first came up with this conversation….”you know what happened that day, when I went to……….” Then my friend she came up next is “Nope, I don’t know…” As I haven’t tell her mah, so she said she doesn’t what happened lo!!

        • No, I mean, why you say these in a post about Korean restaurant. I think I understand now, you were reading the first paragraph excerpt…

  4. So when they say can eat for free, means what? Complain about the service, say this not good, that not good, then they no charge you? Yau mou? I don’t fancy Korean BBQ stuffs, coz like you said, later make my clothes and hair smell “wonderful”, hehe.. I think I will keep on refilling the fish cakes, ikan bilis+kacang and spinach..

    • I also don’t know, they just said eat free. Don’t know what the boss was thinking…

      Wei, spinach? Spinach?? I thought you don’t eat vegetables one??

  5. My Penang blogger-friend, Ken, just blog about this the other day. I went to a new one here to try – couldn’t get in, so packed. Will have to try again another day.

    • I have yet to read his post. I think there will be a lot of Penang foodie bloggers featuring this place now, since it is new.

  6. 10 side dishes! So many! Are they refillable but I don’t think you will need refills since you will be full with the main dish. The pork belly pieces look very pale – were they marinated in anything? I agree that it is good value for money.

    You and your friend should have complained that the waiter said the orange juice is fresh when it is not so your friend will get a free meal.

    How did your friends get to eat for free? Just complain that the service is bad and the owner did not take their money?

    • Oh, they’re refillable, all banchan should be anyway. We did refill on the broccoli and the black beans. The pork belly, I think only marinated with salt and pepper, nothing strong there, but still great to eat. 😉

      I’m not sure how they got free lunch also, but apparently another table also got free lunch along with my friends. I think maybe that day the owner realized they were not up to par, so he let everyone eat for free on his own accord.

  7. Ssam – Vegetables / Bap – Rice.
    I love Korean food and their side dishes. Here in KL all the lower end outlets still give generous side dishes which I would not hesitate to attack. Now you inspired me to blog this. TVB can wait.

  8. ssambap, it sounds like “sampat”.. anyway, the thing I enjoy best in a Korean restaurant is the banchan, I consider myself “a bit of everything” kind of person.. when I first saw just 4 plates, I was like WTF?? luckily more to come later, which is kind of within expectation though..

    • You know, most of the less expensive Korean joints in Penang serve only 4 to 6 different side dishes usually. So make sure you don’t go to cheap Korean restaurants if and when you visit Penang LOL!

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