Tag Archives: Korean food

On getting my first taste of Asian fever

I had only been living in New Malden for a few months, the nondescript suburban neighborhood in South-west London between Wimbledon and Kingston. It’s not known by anyone outside of the area, except for one thing. It has the largest Korean community outside of Korea, and for me that was the reason why I ended up spending more than five years there.

I was living right in the middle of Korea-town – and as far I was concerned this was the best place in London to be. There may have been trendy areas outside – that were better connected to the rest of London. But what did I care? I had twenty Korean restaurants to visit – this was the closest I was going to get to Korea without moving there.

To give things some context, only two years before, Psy had smashed internet records by being the most played video on Youtube. Korean movies had already become well-known, and people were getting excited by Korean dramas. The K-pop scene had yet to become the all-conquering global power it is now, but it was getting there. But all this is just the frills, the extras on what was and is my primary reason for becoming interested in Korea.

I really started to notice the women when I moved to Korea town. The first thing I did was try to learn Korean. There’s no better way to meet a girl than attempting to speak her language. At the same time this was happening I got my first law firm job – providing personal injury support for road accident victims.

Maybe it wasn’t the best job – I was far too underpaid for the stress I got trying to meet targets- but there was one thing that made me happy to come to work each day.

Nak-young was a legal secretary who started working a month after I did. Eun Young was married and had a child. Not that that stopped me speaking to her. Nak-young was tall and slim. As far I was concerned she was the most beautiful woman in my life – she had the oval face, pale skin and full lips that are associated with Korean beauty. She was much nicer than most of the k-pop girls as well. She looked great wearing a hoodie or full evening wear. I soon started treating Nak-young as a close friend and the time we spent together was extremely precious to me.

We didn’t stop seeing each other after I left the job – she got to know me even better – as I felt that i could tell her everything about myself. i started to realise that there were two types of women as far as Asian women are concerned. There are those girls you can go out with – who may go on to be your girlfriend. Then there are those who will become your close friend, someone you can confide in, on the understanding that you will remain only friends. Even if I knew that Nak-young was never going to be more than a friend, I will say that I learned so much from my time with her.

When we went out the first time she told me about her job as an air hostess, then meeting her husband, and having a son with learning difficulties. The second time, it was her turn to talk about me – and she spent most of the time helping me find a way I could have sex with my girlfriend.

I won’t say that Nak-young was my Asian first time because she was not the first Asian woman I was intimate with ( I count our encounters as intimate based on the closeness of our thoughts). I think Nak-young was smart enough to see how much our experiences meant to me, though I’m sure they were more significant to me than her.

For the first time in my life, I felt that my life had a clear sense of purpose.. I felt there was a clear connection between the spicy heat of pickled cabbage, the green bottles of soju I drank, and Nak-young’s jet black hair, long legs and dazzling crescent moon eyes. My world was good and I loved everything in it.

Ten things I hate about South Korea.

In no particular order:

Bars and restaurants

One of the worst things is going to restaurants and bars on your own. Koreans have a hatred of doing things on their own. Don’t expect to be welcomed by other Koreans when you go to restaurants as a foreigner, they will completely avoid any interaction with you. Although I enjoy eating Korean food, the pressure of sitting in a restaurant being glowered at is too much sometimes. The bottom line: Korea can be very lonely place for a single person.

Korean language

Aaahh, the Korean language. When I was England I was serious about studying Korean. I took lessons, went on language exchanges and used apps to improve my Korean. THe worst thing is when you have a conversation in Korean and people ignore you, or laugh, or answer you in English. I have learned very little Korean here and I am convinced my Korean is going backwards.

Dating

Wow, is dating hard work here. Its not that dating is unpleasant, it’s mroe the attitude Korean women have towards dating foreigners. For example, a common excuse is “I can’t speak English so I won’t date anyone who isn’t Korean.” It’s hard to approach someone and simply ask them out, at least, in my experience.

Traditional culture

I visited the Korean palace in Seoul. Apart from a nice garden and a pond, there was little else to see. As for traditional culture, Korean’s traditional music, pansoori consists of a drum being banged loudly for half an hour whilst a woman makes a noise like she is being slowly impaled. Apart from concerts and Koreans wearing Hanbok, I see very little signs of traditional culture here. At least in Japan you can easily see kimonos and visit traditional restaurants.

K-pop

When people talk about Korean Wave, Hallyu, it’s K-pop that often comes up. Now, I like K-pop. I think some of it has been good fun. What I don’t like is that for most people K-pop is the only music they will hear in Korea. There are some great rock and Indie bands but due to the large record companies that produce and distribute music its very difficult to hear anything but the Melon 100.

Work

Korea has the most miserable work culture in the world. But at least Koreans can talk to each other and share food at work. As a foreigner, I feel excluded from most work activities. For some reason, it doesn’t occur to my colleagues to ask me any questions about my life or pay any interest in what I am doing, or invite me to lunch. Although many Koreans teach English, they would much rather talk to their colleagues in Korean than speak English to me.

Old people

Encountering old people is one of the hardest aspects of life here. For example, there are seats marked for use for the elderly, one of the many areas where old people have privileges over everyone else. It’s quite common for older Koreans to take up every seat in a carriage while young people who have been working all day must stand.  Korea has a real problem with age. There are places where you won’t see anyone under thirty. At other times, you can visit an outside market and it will be mostly be seniors. It’s hard to reconcile the behaviours of older Koreans with younger people. It’s a problem that is going to get worse as Korea has the lowest birth rate in the world.

Clothes and fashion

I try not to buy many clothes here. It’s hard to find clothes of very good quality. Unfortunately Koreans have a mania for new things. It’s not socially acceptable to wear old clothes here. everything has to be brand new and up-to-the minute. I can’t deny that Koreans are well-dressed, stylish people, but the desire to follow the latest fashions seems exhausting.

TV

This is certainly the least serious problem because there’s always the option of simply turning the TV off. There are typically three types of popular shows here:

1: Lifestyle and travel shows. A group of foreign tourists visit Korea and try kimchi, wear hanbok, etc. I can’t watch without cringing, but there are at least five programmes I can see which follow this theme.

2. Wacky and zany variety programs, the most popular is Running Man. They sometimes feature famous Americans such as Tom Cruise and Steven Youn.

In the last category are dramas. The good ones are ‘The Good Wife”, “The Return” and “Mr Sunshine.” There are also Korean soap operas which usually revolve around family relationships. A very common trope is a mother-in-law who criticises her daughter for not being a good wife, or making bad food or something. These are the least interesting programs on TV. There are several news programs which seem to be exclusively focused on domestic news. Which brings me to…….

Attitude to foreigners 

As many have pointed out, Koreans have a strange attitude. On the one hand, I think they want foreigners to know about Korean culture. I see that they have a lot of information about Korean attractions on line. On the other hand, a foreigner could easily come to the conclusion that Koreans don’t want to have any interaction with foreigners unless it involves money. Come on Koreans, you can do better!

My first visit to South Korea

First, let’s get past the over-familiar, guidebook cliches written about South Korea: It’s a land of contrasts (often the first sentence of many travel guides); its one of the most rapidly developing of Asian countries (actually it was, but the economy has been slowing down in the last few years; the country doesn’t have any old buildings (kind of true, but not the full story).

First things first. Most passengers arrive at Incheon airport, the rectilinear building that was opened in 2009. The first thing you notice is how quiet it is. Korea is often referred to poetically as the land of the morning calm. It’s peaceful and quiet on the day that I arrive. From the airport it’s a one hour bus drive into the centre of town.

Seoul has been a popular tourist destination for many years and traveller numbers are growing every year. Whilst it has a reputation for being closed off to foreigners, it has become a very accessible city.

I wanted to do several things on my trip. Firstly, use the language which I have been learning for the last 16 months. Secondly, I wanted to get to know as many Korean people as I possible. Finally, I wanted to know how it would feel being a foreigner in a country whose population is over 99% ethnically homogenous.

You step on to the subway and typically you are the only white person on board. I keep my head down mostly. The wifi connection means that people can use their phones underground, but nobody bothers sending messages or makes calls, instead they use the countries’ message app Kakaotalk. Its free to send messages and emojis. I also notice how large the elderly population is. With one of the lowest birthrates in the world, South Korea has a huge army of seniors. Sometimes they look at me strangely and at other times they seem to glare, but it’s not always easy to tell. They can be very helpful as well. I go to Busan, and when my ticket won’t open the gate, an ajeosshi (old man) pushes me though the turnstiles at the same time as himself. Interesting fact – they have underground malls at most of the big metro stations. Some of them are easily 500 metres long. And they sell things everywhere. From piles of stockings, winter gloves and scarves, to food stands (the waffle craze is going strong) you can’t travel anywhere without buying something. The stations are huge (some have as many as fourteen gates) and all are very clean. They also have toilets just inside the gates, its very conveninet. The urinals are stationed directly on the floor, meaning that unfortunately it’s possible to aim and miss.

Old vs new

Does traditional culture still exist in  modern Korea? Yes, you can find it if you know where to look. You can stay in a hanok (traditional Korean house) in the Bukchon area of Seoul. Girls dress up in hanoks (korean traditional dresses with voluminous and brightly cooloured skirts). The most popular Korean drama is currently Dokkaebi (and it cleverly sets itself in the past and present with a time travelling goblin played by Gong Yoo. Coffee has become extremely popular with several US imports (Starbucks, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, as well as Korean companies such as TOM N TOMS and Yoger Presso). I go to several but disappointingly they are all much the same. It is still possible however to go to a traditional Korean teahouse (tabang), where you can sit on the floor and drink various teas from beautiful Korean ceramics.

Eating

I had already primed myself for eating Korean food, and I have enjoyed many bottles of soju. But I wasn’t ready for the sheer amount of it. My first snack was grilled chicken, eaten standing up in the frozen streets near Jongno Samga station. In Busan, I eat the famous odeng (compacted fish cake on a stick) with a cup of fish broth. Everyhwhere in central Seoul you will see pojang machas, the tents that are run by seasoned men and women. I eat a plate of the sweetly spicy snack known as tteokbokki and I am instantly flooded with endorphins. Later in the university district of Hongdae I try a deep fried milyang hotdog on a stick (no bun) which costs WON 1,000, the equivalent of one dollar. If a stall has a long line, it’s usually good indicator of the quality. Korea is a fairly rule-based culture, but it seems you can do anything where selling food is concerned. I wonder why we can’t have the same thing in England, before realising that the red-tape and bureaucracy means that vendors can serve nothing more adventurous than burgers and ice-cream.

In the coastal town of Mokpo, I have some of the best food experiences of all. First, I visit a raw tuna restaurant. They serve different parts of the fish, which we roll up in thin layers of dried seaweed. I try the cheek and the liver, each part having its own different taste. We sit in a private room with curtains which are opened every few minutes by the waitress who has to crouch nearly to the floor to bring in new delicacies.

Soju/beer

With so many places offering food and drink, it’s hard to find somewhere that only serves alcohol. Seoul has very few British style pubs. The one I went to was Cask, a wrong-headed attempt to make an upmarket pub, with table reservations and a beer sommelier. One beer here costs 8 dollars. Only a few minutes away I stumble across one of my best finds. Situated above a chicken restaurant and a karaoke room is a hof. I go alone, a daunting prospect. Luckily the barman sits down with me and shows me some drinking games. I try them out on a group of female students on one of the tables next to me and they are impressed enough to spend the next few hours drinking with me.

Whilst it’s rare for traditional Koreans to eat and drink alone, there is now a craze for solo dining and eating known as ‘honsul’ and ‘honbab’. Honsul Couple was also a recent Korean drama starring SHINee. There are even solo noraebang (karaoke) rooms for people who want to sing without the horror of others watching them. I tried one and it was a very liberating experience.

Random encounters

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I believe that you should be able to go anywhere on your alone and meet up with someone, make friends. Sadly it doesn’t happen too much in London, where people are more concerned about themselves than other people. But I has several encounters where I met up with people in this way. When I left the girls at the hof, I walked into a pizza place and ate it at the table. Pretty soon I meet a bunch of Korean guys and we start talking. Then someone suggested going on to somewhere. That meant more food and drinking, the place being a yang gochi joint, and I got to try the latest Korean food trend, which is to rotate skewers of lamb over a charcoal barbecue.

Women

What can I possibly say here? Except that – with or without plastic surgery – they are some of the best looking women you will find anywhere in the world. Whether young or old, fashionable or cute, they are all different but at their core they have something about them that is unmistakably Korean. When you approach them always be polite, friendly and respectful. I didn’t always get the best reaction, but it was always interesting.

 

With the popularity of British culture currently very high, Koreans are very interested in learning about England. I met several women who wanted to practise speaking English with me.

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Film

When a big new Korean film is released, everyone goes to watch it. A country smaller than the UK has a very healthy film industry. Recently released Crime thriller Master beat Star Wars to the number one slot at the box office. Its star is Lee Byung Hun, who recently appeared in the American film remake of the Magnificent Seven. I watch it at the luxurious cinema chain Megabox in Busan. Cartoons are also very popular, with Japanese anime Your Name currently topping the box office. In Seoul, I try a DVD room, a place where you can watch a DVD in a private screening room. I watch a Korean film Shinsegae (New World) which also happens to be the name of the country’s largest department store. It’s possibly the most violent Korean film I have watched.

Music

K-pop has been the biggest thing in Asia for the last several years and shows few signs of slowing down. Not everyone loves it by any means and some Koreans hate it. When I was staying in Gangham, I found a Dunkin’ Doughnuts store right outside the offices of JYP Entertainment. I was surprised to see that most of the women waiting to catch a glimpse of their idols are middle-aged tourists from Japan. Right now the biggest acts in K-pop are the Korean/Taiwanese/Japanese girl group Twice and boy band 2PM. English music is also very poplar and it seems that Koreans love romantic ballads by Sting, The Bee Gees, and Ed Sheeran.

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Politics and protest

Nowadays everyone must surely be aware of the political storm surrounding President Park Geun-hye. Even sub-zero temperatures couldn’t keep the protestors away from the streets of Seoul on the Saturday I visited. But away from the main pro-democracy protest calling for the President’s resignation, there was another protest defending the president against all the charges. The pro-park rally gathered outside Seoul Station, where they sang the National anthem and waved the Korean flag. There was a slightly sinister air about it. The old guard, who supported Park Chung Hee (dictator until 1979) obviously don’t want things to change.

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The best of Korea

Here are some of the places I enjoyed visiting on my trip:

Bukchon Hanok village: I stayed here with Miho for three nights.

Busan, Seoul’s second city is only three hours away from Seoul by train. The food is different and the people speak with a different dialect. I found it to be very laidback and relaxed.

 

 

 

 

Which is better; Korea or Japan?

Of course, in an ideal world, there would be just one country, a combination of the two called “Japorea” or “Korpan”. There is so much these great countries have in common. They have similar environments and climate. They like similar music and films. Let’s put it to the test.

Starting with:

Language

Japansese is a beautiful language to listen to  but very difficult to read and write. On the other hand, the Korean alphabet Hanguel is very easy to read and write and is phonetic too. Korean is a very difficult language to learn but there are many opportunities to speak it because Koreans travel so much.

Winner: Korea.

Food

Would you rather have sushi or Kimbab? Most Korean dishes can be done in a similar style by Japanese restaurants. Most of Japanese cuisine looks incredibly beautiful ob the plate whereas Korean has a tendency to be served in a straightforward, unpretentious way. Apart from seafood and rice, the patisserie in Japan is second to none. Therefore, Japan has this one.

Winner: Japan.

Alcohol

South Korea has the world’s number one liquor, Soju. At only an average of 20% alcohol, its light enough to be slammed in shot glasses and still packs a punch too. You can’t do the same with Sake. Japan has several delicious beers (Sapporo, Asahi) but Korea has makgeoli, a sweet, slightly sparkling wine that goes so well with fried chicken. It’s tough, but I think South Korea has a better selection of alcohol.

soju

Winner: South Korea

Cinema

Ozu, Mizocuhi, Kurosawa. These are some of the most famous Japanese directors that have made well-known films. I’m not going to mention more recent Japanese works, but think about Studio Ghibli. On the other hand, Korea made some great films between  2002-2005, but they haven’t been nearly as successful recently. Many Korean directors are now working with American studios or even for Netflix, with the example of Bong Joon-ho. Japan’s film industry is far-better established for Korea to compete.

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Winner: Japan.

Pop music

K-pop has sold the image of Korea all around the world. Big Bang, Girls Generation  and Super Junior sell out in China and Japan. When was the last time you heard of a Japanese pop group doing the same? PSY still has the most watched Youtube video of all time.

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Winner: South Korea

Women

Some of the world’s most beautiful of women come from Korea. Ordinary Korean women are super amazing too. Not only are they beautiful but they are very smart too. A further plus is that most young Korean women speak English. It’s not the same with Japanese women, who don’t travel as much outside their country. Personality-wise, Korean women tend to be very outgoing and confident. Contrast Japanese girls who are much shyer and prefer staying at home.

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Advantage to Korea on this one.

Literature

Since Yukio Mishima won the Pullitzer prize, western readers have known about Japanese writers. Haruki Murakami has sold millions of books which have been translated into 5o languages. Japan’s thriller writers like Keigo Higashino enjoy huge success. Korean novels are only starting to be translated into English. Korean writer Han Kang recently won the Man Booker Prize for The Vegetarian. Literary accolades aside, it’s not a novel people are going to enjoy reading.

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Japan can have this one.

Politics and History

Japan’s history dates back thousands of years. So does Korea’s, but less is known about it. Korea has had a very difficult past century of conflicts that weren’t its fault. Japan came out of the Second World War to become one of the world’s largest economies. Korea’s economic turnaround has been no less impressive. I can’t stop reading about Korea, on the other hand, I am also fascinated by the history of Japan.

Draw.

TV soaps

Most people have watched at least one Korean drama. Truth is, they are really not something I can recommend. Japan’s dramas are not something I have watched but I’d like to think they are better than crappy TV series such as My Love from the Stars.

Winner: Japan

Culture

Visit to Japan and you can be entertained by a Geisha. Or visit a Buddhist temple. Perhaps a visit to a bath house, or a tea ceremony? Most visitors to Seoul go shopping, drink and eat and go to nightclubs in Seoul. There is probably a wider variety of cultural events in Japan.

Real Geisha posing before a cherry blossom tree in the Geisha quarter of Gion in Kyoto, Japan, Asia
Real Geisha posing before a cherry blossom tree in the Geisha quarter of Gion in Kyoto, Japan, Asia

Winner: Japan.

Korea: 4

Japan: 5

Restaurant review Jin Go Gae

With over 20 restaurants serving Korean food in New Malden, finding the right one can be difficult. Following the crowds leads you to Jin Go Gae, which is away from the hight street along an unprepossessing road off the A3 fly-over.

Don’t let the destination fool you – this is a great restaurant.

We started with an incredible kimchi pancake which combined delicate pieces of cabbage with the lightest of batters. each slice was dipped into a bowl vinegar and soy sauce condiment. The pancake was luscious, and so light.

Jin

Three bowls of banchan were brought out. We had seasoned bean sprouts, a dish of sliced kimchi and a terrific potato salad with chunks of potato and cucumber in a sweet mayonnaise sauce.

I wasn’t sure we would have much room for barbecue but somehow we did. The kalbi was sliced long-ways and laid down carefully on the hot metal grill under which hot charcoals were laid in a cauldron laid into the table.

We ordered squid too, which cam unwarranted. We dipped it into samjjang sauce and then we wrapped it up in lettuce leaves.

If you come here regularly the waitresses will start to recognise you and remember you as though an old friend.

Groups of contented Korean families sat eating happily opposite us and smaller tables were to the back of the restaurant. As we finished, there was a queue of people already waiting outside. At the front of the restaurant a group of young adults were celebrating someone’s birthday. It was busy but not somehow not noisy. This place is perfect for a friendly meal, and at other times during the week this would be an ideal date spot.

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Food 4.5/5

Service 4/5

Ambience 4/5

 

 

Book review: KOREATOWN A COOKBOOK

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Koreatown A Cookbook captures the flavours, the people and the atmosphere of Korean food

Authors: Deuki Hong & Matt Robbard Clarkson Potter New York 2016

If you’ve never eaten Korean food, try to imagine a less-refined, spicier Japanese cuisine, or rather, Chinese food with less MSG.

The profile of Korean food (Hansik) has risen immeasurably in the past few years. It’s now possible to eat Korean food in many Western cities. London boasts several venues where you can eat authentic cuisine and to do so in a korean style.

What about the cook who wants to eat Korean food at home? If you live in an Asian neighbourhood, you can find all the ingredients you need. Furthermore, there are several blogs that contain useful recipes.

However, this is the first book that I have read to really capture Korean food in all its messy, earthy glory. Combing the heat of red chillies, the saltiness of soy sauce and the richness of sesame oil, Korean food is seriously addictive. For example, Kimchi (the ubiquitous ingredient found in the majority of stews) is fermented; meaning its made the same way as beer. Once you start eating it becomes difficult to stop.

What are the key dishes in this book?

It’s divided in to three main sections. First, kimchi and banchan. These are the small plates which arrive at the start of a Korean meal. For example, Kongnamul Muchim (crunchy sesame bean sprouts) and Dubu Jorim (soy braised tofu).

My favourite is Kimchi Jeon, which the book suggests is made with pancake mix rather than flour.

Rice, noodles & Dumplings includes Japchae (glass noodles with julienned vegetables) and Ddeokbokki (Korean rice cakes, which are  similar in texture to gnocchi).

Nothing is missing from this book. You like instant ramen? This book contains a recipe for the perfect al dente packet noodles. They recommend that you fan the noodles with a paper fan to slow down the cooking process and make them more chewy. Or perhaps you want to make Hodduk (delicious hotcakes filled with nuts and brown sugar). Or you might want to learn how to make something wicked with Soju like the Watermelon punch listed here.

There are stories, reflections on nearly every page. It must have been a real labour of love for the authors. One chapter tells us “how to cook Korean food without pissing off your neighbours” ( although in my case it would be flatmates). Another highlights the important role of the Emo, the woman who looks after diners, gives them mints and stirs bowls of steaming Bibimbap.

There are several barbecue recipes (a key part of the cuisine is grilled meat); bulgogi, pork belly and kalbi,  marinated short ribs.

There is a list featuring the foods to eat whilst drinking (Pojangmacha). The word means “covered wagon,” which in Seoul is a tented places serving food in styrofoam boxes. Recipes in this chapter include Dakgangjeong (fried chicken) and Jokbal (soy-braised pig’s feet).

The writers of the book spent three years travelling to all the different Korean restaurants in America, hence the book is named Koreatown.

The book’s design is stunning.  As well as following a logical order of dishes, the colour photos and texts make it the kind of book you can easily follow whilst cooking at the same time ( I’m seriously thinking of buying a spare copy for night-time reading).

More than just a book, this is a celebration of everything which makes Korean food such an extraordinary, life-affirming celebration.Koreatown_book_cover

What others are saying:

“Eating Korean food is the best legal high in the world and KOREATOWN is the gateway drug you need!”
— Gary Shteyngart, author

“Koreatown is not a place. It’s an energy, an attitude, a painstaking stew of spice and frugality and brutally honest flavors. For the first time, here’s a book that captures all of its electricity and mystery in a voice that is both vibrant and respectful.”
— Edward Lee, chef and author of “Smoke and Pickles”

Adventures in Koreatown

After having lived in New Malden for over two years, I’ve become a total Korean connoisseur and a little bit obsessive about everything 한국어. I started blogging about New Malden in 2014, specifically relating to the Korean establishments.

New Malden has changed a lot since then, with the arrival of Pizza Express and Nando’s, not to mention Foxton’s Estate Agents – a sure sign that the area is quickly moving upmarket.

It still holds the claim of being home to the largest Korean population outside of Korea. Here are my favourite places to eat and drink in and around the area of New Malden….

 

(left to right: Flat White and green tea cookie (The Place); Meeyoung at K-Mart; Blue House cocktail and Bazooka Joe cocktail at Sing Sing Bar & Karaoke)

The Place Cafe

They make the best flat white here. I rate their snacks and cakes highly too. A slice of carrot cake with your coffee will do you no harm at all.

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Yami

This place is so popular that they have to make extra room for customers at the back by the freezer compartments. It doesn’t really need my help as it’s already doing extremely well. Try the naengmyeon (cold chewy noodles with chilli sauce) or galbitang (rib of beef soup).

69 High St, New Malden KT3 4BT

Sing Sing Bar and Karaoke

Run by the exceptionally friendly and welcoming JC Choi, this is like a Korean dive bar. It’s as popular with local  students as it is with Koreans. Last year they introduced a bar menu which includes such classic ‘anju’ fare like ramen and dried squid.

Bingsoo

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There’s no ‘Bingsoo’ in this picture, I just thought it would be nice to show some Koreans at play

This is the newest place on my list (it opened in March 2016). It’s difficult to think of a better way to end a Korean meal than a bowl of shaved ice with green tea or coffee ice cream. Besides a slice of orange or pear given at the end of your meal, you will have trouble finding any dessert items in Korean restaurants. This bright, airy and spacious cafe looks great and is already a hit with Korean locals.

Note: if you want red beans, you must order Pat Bingsoo, rather than ordinary Bingsoo, which translates as shaved ice, and looks like a bowl of snow with a scoop of ice-cream on top.

39 High St, New Malden KT3 4BY

Kangnam

Named after the upmarket location made so famous by Psy, it opened last year, and in my opinion (admittedly not worth much) it is the best option for Korean food on the high street. Prices are cheap and they make you feel right at home. Halfway through a recent dinner the waitress removed the empty banchan dishes and refilled them without even being asked. This sort of thing makes eating in Korean restaurants such an enjoyable experience.

 

19 High St, New Malden KT3 4BY

Hyun’s bakery

Korean baking is a strange and wonderful experience. It’s certainly not as sweet as American doughnuts or even French patisserie. Try a very soft bun filled with red bean paste or custard.

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94 Burlington Rd, New Malden KT3 4NT

K-Mart

Every inch of this store is crammed full of every culinary item you could possibly need to make delicious Korean soups and rice dishes. Have a chat to the friendly staff and practice Korean with one of the women who work there.

71-73 High St, New Malden KT3 4BT

New Malden Korean Food Festival, The Fountain Pub

Once a year, during the second Saturday of July, the beer garden of this grotty local pub is transformed into a giant outdoor barbecue cooking every kind of meat imaginable. Alongside all the eating there are performances and a celebration of Korean music and culture.

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Held on the second Saturday of July in the garden of the Fountain pub

 

Ten great Korean dishes

Here are some of my favourite Korean dishes that I have tried so far…

Bibimbap

This is a hot-stone bowl with julienned carrots, courgette, seasoned beef and other namul. Its served in a hot stone bowl so the rice is still cooking, and comes with a fried egg on top. Stirring it all together prevents the rice from sticking to the sides of the bowl.

BIB
Bibimbap is a perfectly harmonious dish which contains several vegetables and meat.

Dukkboggi

This is a dish made from rice sticks with a sweeet spicy sauce. The texture of these rice sticks is a little like pasta – they tend to be very chewy. It’s commonly served as a snack or as a side dish to go with main meals. They taste great with grated cheeese and slices of boiled egg.

tukk
It took a long time to find a decent picture of this dish, it definitely tastes better than it looks.

Bulgogi

This is one of the most famous korean foods. The beef is sliced very thin and marinaded in a soy sauce and ginger mix. It’s served with rice. Less common but also very tasty is pork bulgogoi, usually slices of pork belly cooked in sesame oil.

Hotteok cakes

hotteok
Hotteok Pancakes, picture from Korean chef Judy Joo

These require more effort than typical pancakes because they are made with yeast. You let the dough rise, then cut in to discs, placing a mixture of brown sugar, peanuts and cinammon inside and then pressing them together. Frying them melts the sugar mixture so that you have a deliciously nutty caramel filling. They taste completely amazing.

Galbitang

This is an excellent choice for people who don’t want anything too spicy. Short ribs are simmered with daikon for 5 hours until the meat falls off the bone.

Kimchi Chige

This is another one-pot meal. You put kimchi (spiced pickled cabbage) into a pot with either water or beef stock. Add pieces of tofu and tuna and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal that’s ready in minutes. You can vary the heat by choosing how much chili to add. It’s great to eat the following morning for breakfast if you have leftovers.

Jap chae

This is a famous mainly vegetable dish that is served with sweet potato noodles (or glass noodles). Mushrooms, courgettes and carrots are julienned and stir fried with slithers of beef and then added to the noodles. The only difficulty is in slicing the vegetables the correct thickness.