Hidden Flavours of Korea

Written by on July 25, 2012 in Lifestyle, Travel

As the K-food fad continues, Londoners are increasingly likely to have tried traditional Korean food, and visited at least one of the now many Korean restaurants in London. What may have passed them by is the surge of innovative and inventive K-food fusion mixes hidden in somewhat unexpected places. Let’s sneak a peek at some of those hidden Korean flavours…

Kimchi Burger (The Hawksmoor, Covent Garden)

The recent trend in real, good-quality meat has brought out the best in burgers. It’s often as much about the toppings as it is about the meat, and kimchi is a unique and spicy addition. Some say it’s an instant classic, some say it’s simply not right. I just love the debate!

Mac ‘n’ cheese with kimchi (Anna Mae’s, London street food)

Macaroni cheese is a well-loved comfort food, and has been a very welcome addition to the London street food scene through Anna Mae’s. Always the experimenters, mac toppings have included beef hotdog, homemade BBQ sauce & chives and chipotle, jalapenos, sour cream & coriander. Kimchi (homemade by street food buddies Kimchi Cult) was a natural, delicious progression.

Scrumptious photo of Anna Mae’s Mac ‘n’ cheese with kimchi courtesy of @kookybakes

Kochujang chicken (Blossom, Ropemaker Street)

Restaurant chain Blossom prides itself on the concept of being “Japanese with a Korean twist”. The hot, saucy kochujang chicken dish is said to be a hearty treat.

Vietnamese kimchee with ginger pickle (Cay Trey, Old Street)

I remember when kimchi (or kimchee) was such an unknown side dish that it would have to be explained as “spicy sour kraut”. Now, it’s so familiar that it’s being used to describe side dishes in non-Korean restaurants. Vietnamese kimchee is known to be less sour than its Korean counterpart.

Kimchi side-dish crops up in Vietnamese restaurant Cay Trey

Korean Calamari (Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen cookbook)

Equally famous for being one of the UK’s most successful TV chefs as she is for using ridiculously exotic ingredients, Nigella concocted this daring recipe. It uses kochujang to add an Asian twist to the Mediterranean squid dish, and has proved to be a hit with home chefs.

Salt beef and kimchi (Bell & Brisket at The Queen’s Head, Piccadilly Circus)

The Jewish deli meat salt beef has recently made its mark on London’s foodie scene. It’s generally packed into a sandwich with a mustard or horseradish sauce, and served with pickles. It’s hardly surprising, then, that its partnership with kimchi is a successful one!

(Thanks to Tiki Chris for the delicious pic of Bell & Brisket’s salt beef and kimchi )

Kimchi Okonomiyaki (Okan, Brixton Village)

In London, okonomiyaki is far less common than sushi, bento or tempura. This Japanese eggy pancake dish is conventionally mixed with a range of ingredients and usually includes meat or seafood. Now, okonomiyaki ambassadors Okan have added kimchi and pork, kimchi, prawn, squid and corn and simply kimchi varieties to their menu.

Bulgogi Steak Slice (Kimchi Cult, London Street Food)

K-fusion pioneers Kimchi Cult have combo-ed Korean flavours with cuisines such as American, German and Italian. Maybe the dish that truly earned them “cult” status is their bulgogi steak slice. With guacamole, jalapenos and kimchi to top, the effect is a Mexican / Korean taste marriage.

Kimchi Cult’s bulgogi steak slice food station

Lamb cutlets with kimchi (Tapasia, Soho)

Lamb hasn’t been forgotten in London’s kimchi / meat arrangement, and completes the collection. Who needs mint sauce when you can have the hippest Korean flavour in town complimenting your succulent lamb cutlets?

Deep fried tuna or salmon maki with spring onion, cream cheese and kimchee (Feng Sushi, London Bridge)

This burst of flavours could be thought of as a variation on Korean snack favourite, kimbap. It hints at Japan, Korea and London in equal measures. Fusion-licious!

Finding a taste of Korea in Feng Sushi’s Japanese menu

This is just a glimpse of the hidden Korean flavours in London, and I’m sure there are loads more tucked away, expectantly waiting to be stumbled upon. It seems that London is following in the footsteps of cities like New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, whose K-fusion revolutions are in full swing. Maybe these flavour combinations won’t be “hidden” for much longer.

Need an instant K-fusion fix? Try one of these easier-than-pie recipes:

  • Cheese on toast with kimchi

Grate copious amounts of cheddar cheese onto two slices of toast. Top with kimchi. Grill until cheese and kimchi are bubbling. Yumyum!

  • Kochujang mayonnaise

Mix one teaspoon of kochujang with four teaspoons of mayonnaise. Use as a dip for chips / fries or as a sandwich sauce. Mmm.

  • Veggie bulgogi-ish

Fry some Quorn mince with onion, garlic, salt, pepper and kochujang to taste. Serve with rice, bread or pasta. Nomnomnom.

About the Author

Anne Cole

Annie Cole lives in South London, UK, but her heart and soul remain in Korea. After returning from a teaching year in 2009, she began to record her memories, thoughts and reviews on various blogs. She is a vegetarian foodie and a lover of horror films, indie culture, modern art, interesting literature, kooky fashion and anything cutesie. She has made it her mission to seek out, enjoy and share all things London/Korean.