Monthly Archives: October 2013

A journey to K Town: You Me Korean restaurant, New Malden

London’s transport system is magic. Hop on a train and within 20-30 mins, you can be transported to a place so different, the culture shock will make you blink.

It’s often said that London is a city of villages, but really it goes further than that – it’s a city of scattered micro-cultures; a wondrous international hodge-podge.

Go west towards Kensington and you’ll find the Persian ghetto. A bit further out and Southall is like a mini-India, complete with ladies in glittering saris weaving through beeping traffic. Palmers Green has largest community of Greek Cypriots outside of Cyprus and the Kingsland Road is known as the “Pho Mile” because of the proliferation of Vietnamese shops and restaurants.

London is a melting pot but often the most vibrant pockets of ethnic communities – and the most authentic dishes – are found beyond Zone 1.

The other day a pal and I headed to New Malden, aka Little Korea or K Town, on a mission to hunt out some “proper” Korean food, having been underwhelmed by some tame, Anglicised offerings we had sampled in central London.

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Walking through the doors of You Me was a transportive experience. Straight away we were being fussed over hy a charming Korean matriarch while the rest of her patrons chattered away in their native tongue. I’ve never been to Korea (on the list!) but this definitely didn’t feel like Kansas any more…

Obviously as a couple of Brits with far from expert knowledge about Korean food, kimchee was the first thing ordered and You Me’s was excellent – aged and pungent yet somehow still crunchy and even fresh on the palate, with a subtle fizz that sparkled on the tongue.

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The kimchee was served with a couple of extras including bean sprouts dressed in sesame oil.

Bibimbap is another ubiquitous Korean dish and I was excited to try You Me’s version: the sizzling bowl arrived at the table holding such pretty, colourful piles of individual ingredients, it almost seemed a shame to combine them vigorously with our chopsticks. But the joy of the dish is breaking the egg yolk and mixing everything together, so some bits catch against the hot dish and become crisp.

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Steamed buns were great – sweet, fluffy dough encasing nuggets of seasoned pork.

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Moreish deep-fried chunks of chicken with garlic…

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Beef ribs were cooked with mushrooms on another sizzling platter and were scissored into manageable strips at the table. If we had been more than two people, we would have cooked them ourselves at the barbecue sunk into our table.

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Our new Korean mama advised us to try the house-made noodles with beef and a slightly gloopy black sauce which I forgot to photograph – too much food to keep track of!

Another reason to return with a larger army in tow – we were utterly defeated by the amount we ordered and had to get a lot of it packaged up to take home (which You Me was more than happy to do).

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Enough food for four people, or two with plentiful leftovers cost around £55 – including a couple of Korean beers.

I spotted some private rooms for small/medium sized parties, in which you get your own low table and barbecue – this could be a great spot for a low-key celebration. Sure enough, we saw a Korean family carrying in a child’s birthday cake for a family party.

I’ll be back to You Me restaurant with as many people as I can convince to journey to the exotic depths of Zone 4, and one of these days I will go to Korea itself. If only you could put Oyster card journeys towards air miles…

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Good things come to those who (can be arsed to) wait: Patty & Bun

In his book Notes From A Small Island, Bill Bryson celebrates the unique British queuing culture as a benchmark of civilisation.

I can understand his admiration for the orderly manner in which people in the UK approach mundane errands, like politely waiting for your turn at the post office, or using public transport without pushing and shoving.

However it feels far from civilised to line up outside a restaurant in the freezing cold, fighting the urge to press your nose up against window and drool pitifully in the direction of the smug gits seated cosily inside, unwrapping their burgers in a warm glow.

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Four of us arrived at Patty&Bun at 7pm on a recent weeknight to find the queue already snaking around and doubling up on the pavement outside the small restaurant. We took our places at the back like dutiful Brits, buoyed by the knowledge that this place comes very highly recommended – I had heard the words “best burger in London” from several sources.

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The off licence down the road should give a cut to Patty&Bun; they’re doing well out of the situation judging by the number of tinnies being clutched by frostbitten fingers in the queue.

By 8pm it was our turn to be seated and it was all we could do not to high five each other and bellow “in your FACE suckers” to the remaining forlorn queuers as we crossed the threshold.

The feeling of victorious achievement didn’t last long before it was replaced by a new, different kind of queue stress. It’s impossible to ignore the hungry, cold, miserable crowd watching us through the glass, mouthing “come the fuck ON!” every time we dared to linger over our ordering and eating. It reminded me of the scene in Shaun of the Dead where the cast takes takes refuge inside their local pub, with the zombies on the outside scratching at the windows to get in.

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Part of me wanted to run outside and share our order with our former queue comrades. Instead, I did the other very British thing of turning a blind eye and getting stuck in.

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The burger was gloriously, filthily, eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-the-head gorgeous.

The sides were not the lazy afterthought many places bosh out without care; Patty & Bun’s salad included some interesting morsels like shaved yellow courgette and a punchy dressing which lightly coated every leaf. The slaw was decent; crunchy and moreish. The rosemary and sea salt fries were flavoursome without being perfumey or gimmicky.

So thanks for a great night Patty & Bun, but I fear I may not see you again until the weather becomes warmer/ you get some outside heaters/serve hot toddies to the queue of diehard burger fans outside/take bookings!

Lucky the burger was good enough that the memory may just see me through to next spring.

PS: cute detail on the stairs on the way down to the loo…

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Bramley apple chutney

The name of this blog is a pretty big clue that I’m a Salman Rushdie fan.

The phrase “swallower of lives” is borrowed from the sublime Midnight’s Children, a novel which also coined the phrase “chutnification”, which can be interpreted as a metaphor for preserving memories in the same way that you preserve fruit and vegetables as chutney.

With chutney, the lengthy steeping with acid and aromatics will inevitably affect the flavour and texture. In the same way, memories mature, mellow and morph over time too.

My parents had just harvested a bumper crop from their bramley apple tree and one of the best ways to enjoy something good for as long as possible is to make chutney.

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The toughest bit of the process was tripling the quantities to account for the ridiculous amount of apples.

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Otherwise it was just lots of chopping and chucking everyone into a big pot.

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We actually ended up using two, we had so much.

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Making chutney is a lovely way to get in the mood for colder months and long cosy evenings indoors.

We used this recipe as a guide, adapted for the vast quantities:

675g onions, chopped
2.7 kg apples, cored and chopped
330g sultanas, raisins or chopped dates
45g ground coriander
45g paprika
45g mixed spice
45g salt
1kg granulated sugar
1,275 ml pints malt vinegar

Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for two hours, stirring from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.
When it is very thick and you can draw a wooden spoon across the base of the pan so that it leaves a channel behind it that does not immediately fill with liquid, the chutney is ready.
Turn into sterilised jars, seal and cool.

I didn’t have enough mixed spice so I added a little extra cinnamon. It’s a sharp, spicy, lip-smacking chutney to have with cheese boards, cold meats, sandwiches. It’s even better if you leave it in a cupboard for a few weeks before eating.

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If any of the jars last until then, they also make great Christmas presents.