Manis Kitchen; Halal Cuisine in Seoul, South Korea

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Laila Afifa

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaMuslim travelers may face difficulties in finding halal snack bar in Seoul, South Korea. But no worries, there is one stall selling Korean halal cuisine near the main gate of Seoul Central Mosque in Usadan-ro 10gil, Yongsan-gu. The name is also familiar to Indonesians: Manis Kitchen.

    “Manis means sweet, from Indonesian or Malaysian language,” said Safiya Kang or Kang Na Yeon, the stall owner, who is also the mosque caretaker and manager of Korean Muslim Federation.

    The name was actually brought up by Ahmad Cho, the director of Korean Halal Committee who was married to a Malaysian. “I came up with the name,” he said.

    Similar to street vendors in Indonesia, visitors can take a peek foods displayed in Manis Kitchen, such as Toppoki, fish cake, chicken sausage corn dog (similar to hot dog made of chicken sausage), shrimp fried rice, kimchi fried rice, kimbap, and various fried foods as well as see how Safiya and her brother cook. “We have bakwan and Ubi (sweet potato),” said Safiya, talking in multi-languages.

    The price is relatively affordable. A bowl of Toppoki is set at 3,000 won or around Rp40,000, while a piece of fish cake at 700 own or Rp8,500 and fried foods at 600 won each or Rp7,300. As for kimchi fried rice with egg, the price is 4,500 won or Rp54,000.

    Several tables in two small rooms are provided for visitors willing to dine in. That afternoon, Malaysian tourists were seen in conversation in a room, while in the other room, there were Indonesian visitors; Elnanda Citra and her mother who came from Depok, West Java.

    Elnanda said that she heard Manis Kitchen is the only trusted snack bar that provides Korean foods for Muslims. “I follow Olaborasong (on social media). She informs via Instagram that there is a Korean halal snack bar,” said the 32-year-old woman. “Then I seek the place. As I walking down this street, ‘Ah, this is it’. I am instantly happy.” Olaborasong is an account name of a South Korean social media influencer who is a Muslim, Song Bora.

    Nanda and her mother ordered several snacks including fish cake and fried foods. “Delicious,” she said. Other varieties of snacks include corn dog, fried Ubi, and mini kimbap.

    Safiya established Manis Kitchen in December 2018 based on her difficulties in finding a halal snack bar. “So I open this business,” said the woman who converted into Muslim five years ago.

    Manis Kitchen served some 200 people per day. “They are mostly foreigners, from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and other countries.”

    PURWANI DIYAH PRABANDARI