Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bi Bim Bap

So Hong Kong P was interested in a gastronomic week in London and I was more than happy to oblige. Little did I understand how gastronomic this was going to end up being. In the amazing way.

Similar to what I was suffering from when living in Helsinki, she was missing all of the different kinds of Asian food one normally can get back at home (for her this is Hong Kong, naturally, and even in Hong Kong the wealth of Asian foods is ridiculous in comparison to Helsinki..in fact it's probably even better than what I'm used to in California). So, I rest my case when I say: she was interested in having Asian food.

So for our second meal together? Korean.

I did a hearty search on Yelp UK for an answer to our Korean prayers and this is what I came up with: Bi Bim Bap.

Many of you might be acquainted with this traditional Korean dish - hot stone bowls filled with rice, meat, and veggies, sometimes covered in a raw egg.

Fantastic.

I mapped it so we'd be near Paddington, as we were coming straight from work and she'd have her suitcase with her (as she was staying the weekend at my place...my first real guest since my parents had left) and we didn't want to go too far because the journey back would likely be by taxi (company-expensed, luckily).

We arrived at the place a bit later and it was crowded. Guess this shouldn't have been surprising considering it was close to 7pm on a Friday night in the middle of Soho London. But whatever. Plus there were no reservations at this place. Only queuing. And we had about 10 people in front of us.

Luckily the wait wasn't too long (maybe 20 minutes) and we were soon seated downstairs at a small table for two.

What did we order? Delicious things. I got the bulgolgi bowl with the classic veggies. She ordered the chili pork bowl.


With raw egg on top, of course. Extra pound fifty for that, or something, but totally worth it. The thing was crazy hot when it came to the table and the egg cooked right away as I was stirring it into my rice. Maybe I should have been less zealous so I could have kept it gooey and delicious.

The verdict? Tasty and really healthy. I was expecting something a little fattier, as Korean food tends to be. Not so here.

There were two sauces on the table, which I added on as well - one was a creamier sriracha-like sauce which I enjoyed, and the other was like a more fermented hoisin. Not sure I've had either one of these before as they didn't seem all that familiar, even though I've had Korean many times before. Curious.

Anyway, we sat there so long chatting and laughing that they eventually forced us to pay and get out. There were other people queuing upstairs still so we understood why. Oh well, still had the journey home and the entire weekend ahead of us.

Tasty and cute though it's likely I'll not come here again unless I'm craving this specific dish. The thing I love most about Korean food wasn't here: the tens of teeny side dishes. Things like sweet tofu, pickled bean sprouts, steamed broccoli, kimchi, teriyaki fish. None of that was present. I suppose it wouldn't be, if you're only eating a rice bowl, but it was kind of disappointing to me because of that. Perhaps I just need to go to a Korean bbq place next time.

Still good though. Many more good eats to come in London.

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