Heard the old business maxim “so good he bought the company”? That’s exactly what happened to Bilal Mansour
The entrepreneur was a regular at Manna Land in Satwa, serving Korean food for more than 15 years. He persuaded its owners to open a branch in Abu Dhabi, and now at Dubai’s International City.
Bilal says the eatery is a favourite with Dragonmart’s business owners, and that customers travel from as far away as Jebel Ali for a kimchi fix. The tart fermented cabbage is served among other small plates as a complimentary “banchan”. YouTube is full of sobbing toddlers encountering the signature Korean dish for the first time, and while it doesn’t move us to tears, we’re happy to pass on second helpings.
Probably equally well-known, but more accessible than its cabbage cousin, is the one-pot wonder that is bibimbap. Seasoned beef, vegetables, white rice and hot pepper paste are vigorously mixed together with egg at our table and served in a warmed stone pot so the mixture continues to gently cook and bind together. Homely and huge, laced with the wonderful sauce of egg yolk, it’s a straight 10/10.
Korean people liked to get involved with their food, and our dish of syabeu syabeu (pronounced shabu shabu) is another DIY delight. A platter of thinly sliced beef, shiitake mushrooms, wafers of pumpkin, plump dish balls, vivid pak choi and more are dunked into a large bowl of boiling noodle soup. We dip, splash and slurp our way to satisfaction with traditional metal chopsticks.
Fresh slices of marinated tofu (tofu jarim) prove a hearty main for our vegetarian, as does sizzling Jjajamyang (black bean noodles).
We finish with small bowls of bing su – miniature snow cone of shaved ice, condensed milk and sweet red beans. If yo like halo halo, you’ll have feelings for bingsu too.
Sipping on ginseng tea throughout the meal, Bilal can’t let us leave without trying the world’s first fermented ginseng coffee. Branded as Red Coffee and mixed and brewed at our table, it changes our take on fermented foods before we down chopsticks for what we hope is not the last time.
Manna Land International City, Indigo Spectrum 1, Central Business District, International City
Three dined well for under AED 300
04 558 8962