I didn't actually think we had a 'Korea Town' in England until a few years ago. I've been dying to check it out and finally had my chance this weekend with a few friends in tow. We headed down to New Malden and upon Tom Parker-Bowles recommendation, visited 'Su La' restaurant for a big Korean style BBQ chow down.
For those who have never been to a Korean restaurant, BBQ'd meats are the order of the day; accompanied by a myriad of 'Banchan' which are an assortment of accompaniments to your meal including the infamous Kimchee fermented cabbage pickle, as well as pickled radishes, potato salad, shredded spring onions and so much more. You choose your desired meats, ready to be grilled right in front of you on a special gas-fired grill with a special extractor nozzle that is pulled down onto the grill itself.
.We also chose several side dishes; the first being 'Japche' Korean noodles which are glossy cellophane noodles made from sweet potato (of all things!) enrobed in a sweet(ish) soya dressing, shredded vegetables and beef. Bibimbap is another famous Korean staple; a mega hot earthenware bowl filled with steaming hot rice, vegetables, raw egg and strips of raw meat, which are mixed (and effectively cooked) at your table. Another renowned favourite is the seafood pancake, which surprisingly isn't remotely fishy at all and has a lovely delicate flavour as well as a spicy dish of halved boiled eggs with seafood pancakes and vegetables. But lets face it, the meat is the star of the show and we wait patiently as our server expertly grills the meat to juicy perfection. Once done, you take a bit of meat, you dip it in the sweet soya sauce, place it in a lettuce leaf before gobbling it all up. Absolutely delicious and to be honest, one of the main reasons I eat so much Korean food... all that meat is heavenly to a carniverous girl like myself.
After eating all that food, we thought it time to go for a little walk and explore the locality. One of my friends and fellow blogger of the wonderful blog Tamarind and Thyme excitedly informed me that a branch of 'H Mart' is rumoured to have been opened in the area. "H Mart? What the hell is H Mart?" I thought. H-Mart is an North American Asian superstore for groceries, meats, fish, deli goods and homeware and it's HERE in LONDON (or New Malden to be precise) and so to H-Mart, we went!
Shops like this are my absolute guilty pleasure. I could spend hours and hours strolling the aisles of this superstore, reading through ingredient lists of products, checking out new foods and produce that I have never seen, let alone used before. Aisle after aisle of sauces, seasonings, rice, noodles, vegetables, meats and fish... A whole line of giant freezers filled with everything from Dim Sum to Mochi balls and a rather suspect looking bag of frozen green stuff with Marijuana leaf emblems printed on the pack... Could it be? Err, no... probably not! If it was actually wacky-backy, then H Mart would end up having queues all the way from New Malden to New York! But seriously, this is the kind of mega store I love to shop at. I bought 3 kinds of pears, pickled radishes, kimchee, Korean noodles, chilli powder and about 8 bottles of assorted Aloe Vera juices. I'm somewhat of a closet food shopaholic who tends to overstuff my kitchen cupboards with 3 times more than should actually be fitted in them. I'm Iranian, its the only way I was raised to know! Overshoppers of the highest degree, but when things are so cheap and so unusual and interesting, I just can't help myself. But hands down the funniest part of the day was how it ended, with a trolley-picnic with the 4 of us congregating over our trolley in a disused Disabled car parking space outside the front of the shop, stuffing our faces with Coconut Mochi balls, Aloe juice and curried donut buns... to the horror and hilarity of all the other shoppers. Well, when its good, its good... You can't always wait!
Su La Restaurant - 79-81 Kingston Road, New Malden, Surrey, London, KT3 3PB
Tel: 020 8336 0121
H Mart - Beverley Way, New Malden, Surrey KT34PH
Tel: 020 8949 2238 http://www.hmart.co.uk/