Words: Catherine Faulkner
As Donald Trump carries on his startling dalliance with Kim Jong-un, we in turn continue our more palatable love story with the many delights of Korean food. Fermented cabbage is de rigeur these days and pickling jars are selling on the internet faster than you can say ‘K-pop a-loo-la kimchi’s my baby’.
We have all fallen not only for kimchi but for bibimbap, bulgogi and all the fire and spice in between. Where only recently we would have had some trouble with those names, now they are so au courant, and so welcome, that they trip off the tongue before it begins to salivate.
This is one food trend that looks set to stay well beyond any relationship and there is no better way to try Korean cuisine than with one of the things it does best – street food. St. Giles has become quite the hot bed (or should that be hot pot?) for all things Korean and as you saunter down Tottenham Court Road, around Bloomsbury or Holborn you will be spoilt for choice. Just follow your nose, the tell-tale queues, or have a look at some of our favourite spots that hit the spot.
On the Bab
on Wellington Street focuses on fresh and zippy comfort food that is typical of what is eaten in many Korean homes. Emphasis is placed particularly on the anju tradition of sharing small plates with abundant servings of alcohol. There are the familiar dishes, such as bulgogi beef and kimchi pancakes, as well as cheeky yangyum Korean Fried Chicken (the spices and sauces of which lift it to something quite heavenly). The latter especially, is the perfect foil to an ice cold beer or a classic soju, that fiery Korean staple spirit.
On the Bap: 36 Wellington St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 7BD
in Soho is a temple to that most delicious of traditional Korean dishes. There are ten bibimbaps to choose from, as well as a host of rice and noodle dishes. The hot stone options are the obvious to go for, be it beef fillet or seafood, if only for those delicious nuggets of crisped rice that are the spoils of any glutton. The chilli squid is the perfect side dish for anyone who pretends they might like to share and keeps their fingers crossed that everyone else is too sated or polite
Bibimbap Soho: 11 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 4DJ
offers not only grilled meats and vegetables (the marinated lamb is a winner, as is the soft and crisp pork) but a side order of karaoke fun to boot – never has singing for your supper been so fun. For the daring, branch out with other traditional dishes including yuk hwae (beef tartare with pear and egg) and hot hot hot kimchi soup. For the really daring, you can try your hand at singing in Korean – Total Eclipse of the Heart will never sound the same again. Just don’t tell Donald and Kim.
Superstar BBQ: 4 Central Piazza St Giles, Saint Giles High Street, London WC2H 8AB