Bibimbab

Bibimbab

Korean cuisine came to the forefront of the culinary world when David Chang burst onto the scene some years ago in New York with Momofuku. Since then, he has expanded his empire across New York and into Sydney and Toronto. He also achieved two Michelin star status at Ko and has become a leading light amongst fellow chefs for his innovative creations. His pork buns retain a legendary status and are fast becoming a street food favourite with the likes of Yum Bun doing such a great job at recreating this bite sized treat.

Here in London, Korean is a lesser known Asian cuisine although it is gaining more prominence lately. Last night I ate my first authentic Korean BBQ in London at Asadal in Holborn.

We walked past another Korean restaurant on our way and both places boasted very long queues in this unlikely area of London to house just such a cuisine. Thankfully we had booked, so we swanned past everyone and found ourselves in a lovely corner table, wondering just what it was that brought so many people to this very spot.

It was easy to understand once we had experienced the meal, because we had ticked so many of the boxes that people are embracing in the eating world at the moment. Firstly, there is a basic premise that this is a sharing experience as dishes are brought to the table for you all to tuck into.

Don't stab the pork belly!

Don’t stab the pork belly!

The lovely thing about this was the BBQ in the centre of the table. It was a shame that it wasn’t charcoal, but the gas burner sufficed and we had much fun searing the marinated meats ourselves. In fact, we took much umbrage to the waiting team who seemed intent on stabbing the life out of our meats with increasing levels of aggression but once we had reassured them that we were more than happy with DIY, they left us to it. Thankfully the health and safety militia were nowhere to be seen so we could risk burning ourselves or poisoning ourselves as we saw fit.

Each meat was meltingly soft with a wonderful balance of flavours although our favourites were those with extra spiciness. Mr Jones unveiled a trick to creating that fabulous texture which he learnt when in Korea and apparently it is all down to the addition of pineapple in the marinade because the enzymes break down the meat and tenderise it. Well, whatever the trick, it was yummy.

Kimchee

Kimchee

The next fashion to be addressed in this meal was served by the appearance of the signature Korean dish: kimchee, alongside all the other pickles and sides that accompanied the meat. This preserved Chinese cabbage dish is a wonderful balance of fermentation and spice that really does complement the meal. As well as being delicious, it is also very good for you which is a real bonus. The trend for pickled and preserved anything continues and couldn’t be better served than by this traditional dish.

Finally, the whole meal just felt healthy, in a Japanese, Asian kind of way. There was very little fat in any of the dishes and each plate was freshly cooked but with a lovely balance of flavour coming through. I positively skipped out up the stairs feeling like I hadn’t been too naughty and yet having indulged to way beyond my fill. How wonderful.

Empty plates all round

Empty plates all round

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