With Kpop culture’s worldwide domination going stronger than ever, it’s timely that Singapore has her own dedicated Korean butchery. Opened in January this year, The Butcher’s Dining includes a retail and dining space for all things Korean cuisine. We speak to head chef Heba Kim, who doubles up as resident butcher, to get her thoughts on being one of the few female butchers in Singapore. 

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Why did you decide to take up the Craftsman Fabrication of Meats certificate?

One of my fondest memories growing up was of my parents taking me on family trips from one province to another in Korea to taste whatever was in season. That sparked my passion and curiosity to further cultivate my knowledge in the culinary area and that’s when I realised the more I learnt, the more I particularly love meat, which led me to obtain the Craftsman Fabrication of Meats certificate in Korea. I then returned to Singapore, where I was able to translate that knowledge and expertise of working with meats and different parts to the kitchen, creating innovative dishes at DB Bistro and Meat Smith (to name a few).

The Butcher’s Dining is really everything I’ve dreamed of, combining all I’ve learnt in the butchery and in the kitchen. Here, we aim to showcase and share the very best of Korean culinary culture with the local crowd. Everyone at The Butcher’s Dining, especially myself, is meat-obsessed, which is why our slogan is #trulymadlydeeplymeat.

Are female butchers common in South Korea?

When I was studying for my Craftsman Fabrication of Meats certificate, there were only three females (me included) in a class of seventy students. However, despite this ratio disparity, female butchers are actually rather common in South Korea. Notably, most female butchers in South Korea tend to fall in the older age range (i.e. ajumma). For example, my fellow classmates were both older ladies who decided to obtain the certificate as a means of passing time and/or refining their hobby.

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Are there other women in your industry?

In Singapore, it is rare to find other female butchers. That is why, most of the time, people find it surprising when they realise that I’m a butcher – but overall, I find society has become more open-minded and I always enjoy sharing more about what I do.

On top of that, there are advantages to being a female in the meat industry. Most people don’t realise that being a butcher is not as simple as just ‘cutting meat’, there is a delicateness necessary in handling the meat and being a female allows me to bring such deftness to the table. Additionally, there’s a lot that goes into assessing the meats, prepping the meat for cutting and ensuring it’s well-cut and packaged to ensure freshness. 

Being a butcher gives me the know-how on working with different meats (specific to pork and beef in my instance), the different cuts as well as the specific technique required to carve each cut, how best to store them and most importantly coupled with my passion for meats – the best way to prepare each cut. As Head Chef and Butcher at The Butcher’s Dining, I hope to educate more people about meats by encouraging them to try cooking with different parts and different recipes.

Who are the women in your industry you look up to?

Someone that I look up to the industry would be Sam Howe. She is head butcher at The Healthy Butcher in Ontario, Canada. Her passion, work ethic and extensive knowledge of meat motivates and inspires me to better myself and my craft. I would take reference from the things she does and think of ways I can apply the same methods to the processes at The Butcher’s Dining. I have not had the chance to meet her in real life, but would definitely like to meet her one day.

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At The Butcher’s Dining, are the animals processed on site?

At The Butcher’s Dining, we receive larger, wholesale portions of the animal and then cut and trim meat onsite into various different cuts. Our beef is imported from Australia, US and New Zealand, while our pork is imported from Spain. We then weigh and wrap the cut meat, before putting it out for display and sale. Upon customer’s request, we also prepare special cuts of meat depending on what the customer is planning to cook and who the customer is planning to cook for.

Aside from slicing the meat differently for Korean cooking, are there other aspects of butchery/meat selection unique to the cuisine?

Those well-acquainted with Korean food would be no stranger to our love for meats of all kinds, and our philosophy of letting no parts go to waste. At The Butcher’s Dining, we try to make use of all parts of the animal, resulting in ‘exotic’ cuts of meat. We hope to be able to introduce new textures as well as flavours to our customers’ palate that will elevate and bring their culinary adventure to the next level.

What are some of the less popular cuts of meat that you carry?

One of the rarer cuts of meat would definitely be the Beef Rib Fingers – that is, meat found between the bones of beef ribs. Although thin and typically smaller than your usual steaks, rib fingers pack a punch of flavour as it’s rich in fat content and extremely juicy. It is best served in a bowl of hearty stew, or grilled and wrapped in fresh lettuce with a dab of ssamjang and kimchi.

We also carry the diamond cut belly of pork that is unique to Korean culinary culture. To prepare this special cut of meat, I would recommend setting it skin-side down on the grill and letting it sizzle till golden brown for an extra crispy texture on the skin while the meat remains tender and overflowing with juicy goodness.

What other items are offered at the store?

Other than fresh meat, customers can also unearth the flavours of Korea at The Butcher’s Dining through a carefully curated array of hidden food treasures by the exceptional Myeongin Myeongchon (MIMC). MIMC presents a range of condiments, sauces, and drinks handcrafted by artisans from different Korean provinces. These food treasures, reflecting the diversity and richness of Korea’s culinary culture, are manually produced in small workshops using only the best seasonal ingredients.

To emphasise on how elusive the MIMC range is, this is the first time the brand is made available outside of Korea. Some of the highlights from the MIMC range include Master Yoon Won-Sang’s Cheongokdang Sesame Oil from the Yanggu Gangwon Province, Master Seong Myeong-Hee’s Soy Sauce from the Yangpyeong Gyeonggi Province, and Master Park Seong-Chun’s Sea Salt Sun-Dried on the Mudflats from the Sinan South Jeolla Province.

Beyond the extensive MIMC section, fans of Korean lifestyle goods can also pick up a tasteful selection of lifestyle products from Korea. Some of the products include Busan brewer WERK ROASTER’s drip coffee bags and coffee beans, TheLivingFactory’s dishware set sporting a vibrant and cheeky design, and The Butcher’s Dining’s sleek grocery cooler bag.

The Butcher’s Dining is located at 593 Havelock Road, Singapore 169641.

Photos by The Butcher’s Dining.