Gratuitous picture of Seoul nightlife

Don’t really need to say much, but here’s an awesome picture of Seoul nightlife courtesy of pixabay.com 

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North Korean Style

When eating in Korea, the various styles of food are so interesting and diverse. Often pretty subtle, but as an example, kimchi from the Seoul area and kimchi from Busan is really different. Busan kimchi is richer, often made with oysters, and generally spicier.

What isn’t readily available, though, is a bit of North Korean food, and at Cheoga Jip, here’s a little taste of North Korean food that had us really excited. 

Fascinatingly, Cheoga Jip literally means, “your wife’s parents home”.  The reason for this, is that traditionally, when a son-in-law visits, he’s fed steamed chicken as a welcoming meal.

So guess what’s on the menu? Yup, steamed chicken, steamed mandu, and makguksu, a noodle dish that’s perfect for summer. There’s just no point not ordering the chicken though. It’s the garnish that is almost like a chutney, mixed with mustard, that you eat with a Korean leek. Totally and utterly amazing, and so clean in taste too. In fact, I was told by Korea’s biggest food blogger, Zenkimchi, that when the Washington Post food critic visited this place, it was one of his favourite meals of the year. 

I agree.

Three points:

1. The decoration inside the restaurant is basically someone’s house from the 1970’s. 

2. A whole steamed chicken, mandu, and three portions of noodles, cost less than £30.

3. The old North Korean lady who owns the place is lovely. So friendly, so welcoming, so smiley. 

Anyway, enjoy the photos and have a great weekend.

Spicy Korean Chicken Stew

Dakdoritang, aka 닭도리탕. Most people have heard of bulgogi, kimchi, bibimbap, Korean Fried Chicken, to name a few, but whilst this might be lesser known, dakdoritang is one of the tastiest dishes known to Korean food.

A slightly sweet and spicy stew, with chicken and vegetables, the key is the chunky pieces of chicken, mainly thigh and drumsticks, that have been slow cooked to absorb all the flavours.  The perfect comfort food. 

Even better, once everyone has taken out the chicken and vegetables, you add rice to the pot and make a really delicious fried rice with the remains. 

We really liked this recipe from Korean Bapsang: http://www.koreanbapsang.com/2012/12/dak-doritang-korean-spicy-chicken-stew.html

Awesome love (@KimchiCult)

One of our customers, Kimchi Cult in Glasgow, is an awesome set-up. Inspired by his experience in Korea, Danny took his knowledge of Korean food back to the UK and set up Kimchi Cult in the street food scene in London. Winning an army of followers and essentially the first of the Korean street food vendors, Danny has gone onto bigger things, earning rave reviews in Scotland, and the other day, this postcard image popped up on our feed which really made us smile.


To have inspired customers to actually visit Korea is amazing, and we’re over the moon about it too. 

So, if you’re in Glasgow, fancy kimchi and bibimbap that’s as good as Seoul’s, then head to: Kimchi Cult

Kimchi Cult, 14 Chancellor St, Glasgow, G11 5RQ, UK

http://www.kimchicult.com

Jinjuu Review: From a British Korean

It’s every day that I eat Korean food. Being a British Born Korean, with my parents having run one of the most successful Korean restaurants in London from 1983 to 2013, and spending time in Korea eating Korean food, I think I am well placed to be an authority on the Korean food in the UK.

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Korean food has changed immensely in the UK in recent years. The profile has been heightened, with high-profile chefs such as Gizzi Erskine, Neil Rankin, Stevie Parle, Cyrus Todiwala, Carl Carke all giving Korean ingredients and food a massive boost. The street food traders that have emerged have done a great job in getting Londoners and beyond, a great idea of the versatility of Korean flavours and food. Korean restaurants have changed ever so slightly, with the likes of Koba, On the Bap, and Kimchee all doing their level best to market themselves differently to the pokey traditional Korean restaurants that are dotted around London.

But, just very recently, a high-profile chef has opened their own Korean restaurant, Jinjuu.

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Judy Joo is similar to myself, in that we are classified as a “gyopo”, a Korean from another country. So, we look at Korean food differently to Koreans, but have this absolute desire to scream at people from where we live about the virtues of Korean food. I never shut up about it and preach to everyone about what they are missing out on.

Judy Joo’s new venture, Jinjuu, is located in a classy part of Soho, 15 Kingly Street, where the pedestrianised street feels a little more pleasant and classy than other parts of Soho.

My guests consisted of my Commercial Director (an Englishman in his fifties), and then two guests from Korea who supply Korea Foods loads of different types of food. My Korean guests comprised of a father and son combination, with the father (Mr. Kim Snr) being an ultra-conservative Korean man who knows what he likes, and the son (Mr. Kim Jr), being a bit more Gangnam Style.

It was a Tuesday evening when we decided to visit Jinjuu. We had booked the day before, and noticed on walking to the restaurant that the area was actually fairly quiet for 7.30pm, but looking into the windows of Jinjuu, it was packed. “It doesn’t look much like a Korean restaurant” said Mr Kim Snr. And no, it doesn’t. It looks a bit like a bar, but that’s because the ground floor actually is a bar.

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Pic by Lynn Youn

Not a big venue, but soft mellow house tunes with a young affluent Soho crowd chatting away with Soju cocktails or Korean beer in their hands.Maybe my scene a few years ago, and definitely not Mr Kim Snr’s scene. I dare say my Commercial Director, Dave, looked out of place too. In we went and were greeted with big friendly smiles by the reception team, and were then taken to the basement. The ground floor is a bar, with seats and an “Anju” menu, which means “Beer food”, as Koreans always eat when they drink. The Anju menu looked great. Certainly not a bowl of nuts and a pack of crisps. More like stuffed chillies (Gochu Bombs), Carnitas Fries, Sliders, Tacos, and other street food style food (check out some pics here). Perfect with beer. Doesn’t need to be overly fancy, it just needs to line the stomach and taste good. I am told by other people in Korea Foods who have eaten the Anju menu, that they really do taste good. Whether or not they were completely plastered or not is a different matter, but needless to say, they were in work on time in the morning!!!

So from the sleek ground floor bar, we were led to a different world downstairs. The open kitchen acts as the theatre, with Judy’s team bustling away preparing the food in full view. The basement restaurant was full of people and although it was busy, the booths and the table system was fine for me. I wouldn’t say spectacular, but the space is limited, so you work with what you have, and I felt more than comfortable. Our coats had been taken away (I did check the pockets later and nothing had gone missing), and we spent the next couple of minutes looking around like a bunch of tourists, taking in the atmosphere and looking at what other tables had ordered, wondering if we should order the same. For Mr Kim Jr, he found great excitement at visiting the toilets. He spent far too long in there, but we discovered he had taken lots of photos of the really good-looking K-pop girls that are plastered all over the walls of the toilets. To be honest, I spent quite a long time in there later myself, but that was more for the North Korean propaganda art that also gets displayed in the toilets too.

Anyway, with the menu, we knew kind of knew what we wanted. We wanted to eat Judy’s interpretation of Korean food. Sure, we knew it wasn’t going to be the same as in Korea, we just wanted to see where Korean food could be taken to outside of Korea. Our order was:

Jap Chae
Meat Mandoo
Ya-chae Mandoo
Kimchi Fried Rice
USDA Sirloin Ssam Platter
The Jinjuu Tong Dak
Bulgogi Bibimbap

As I always do, I finished up with the words “and if we want more, we’ll just order later”. I can assure you, that was way enough for 4 people……..but I did leave just a little bit of space for the dessert.

Nearly all of the menu chosen was designed to benchmark against traditional Korean food. To be honest, Mr Kim Snr was really determined to find criticisms as he put his “old school Korean” hat on. I was going to benchmark it against what I know of Korean food and the developments that I’ve seen over the years. So, the first dish was Jap Chae. The plate was served and instantly Mr Kim Snr picked it up and started to sniff it. “It smells like japchae” he said. A sigh of relief from Mr Kim Jr and myself, and David just looked hungry. We all got stuck in and sure, it tasted like Korean japchae. Nothing to complain about here. Basically, it’s sweet potato glass noodles, stir fried with vegetables and meat. Judy Joo has given it a small twist, but it sure tasted authentic and I’d give it a massive thumbs up.

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 Pic by David Kane

Next came the mandoo (mandu is another spelling for it too). Both Mr Kims actually run Korea’s largest mandoo factory and are complete experts on mandoo. This was going to be the sternest test of the evening, seeing as we had two experts with us. First off was the meat mandoo. For me, it tasted pretty good. Served almost in in a Shanghai Dumpling style (in its own individual spoon), and personally, I found the seasoning to be as I’d expect of meat mandoo in Korea. Heads nodded in agreement around the table, but the two Mr Kim’s really perked up after the Ya-Chae Mandoo. Big noises of “mmmmm” and “wow” came from every seat on our table as everyone agreed that the seasoning and flavours from the vegetable dumplings were outrageously tasty. “Yup, that’s really really good flavours” Mr Kim Jr said, whilst Mr Kim Snr tried to comprehend how on earth he’d come to London to get such a great mandoo. Sure, he complained about it not being spelt “mandu”, but then again, he swelled with pride as he proudly boasted that Judy Joo was in keeping with Korean names for her dishes.

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Pic by Mr. Kim Jr

With the appetisers whetting our appetites, the kimchi fried rice and USDA Sirloin Ssam Platter were served. Kimchi fried rice, to be honest, is an easy dish to make and varies in every household in Korea. It’s certainly full of flavour and David (allegedly) makes a mean one himself. As was in keeping with much of the food served so far, it tasted authentic. You can tell if Koreans like the food, because they just clean up the plate, with simple nods of approval. For me, it tastes as it should. I can make it at home. It’s my comfort food. And everyone should try it. It’s nothing like the fried rice that some people might expect it to be. Big punchy flavours make the difference.

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The highlight, though, was the USDA Sirloin. 4 month corn fed Black Angus, according to the menu. I love it when beef melts in my mouth, and this didn’t disappoint. The slightly sweet soy based sauce didn’t distract from the flavour of the meat, and as you wrap it up in a lettuce leaf, a touch of rice and some ssam jang (a paste mising Korean soy bean paste and chilli bean paste), it was all shoved in my big mouth in one big bite, and my mouth decided to have a party. If there was a criticism, I’d argue that the lettuce could be shaken with a touch of water to give it that perception of freshness, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. The accompaniments were outstanding: the Ssam Jang is beautifully made, the pickled radish was exactly as I’d want it, and the cabbage kimchi bowled us all over with its intense flavours. Did we order more kimchi? Of course we did!

We then moved onto what I have been waiting for, the Jinjuu Tong Dak, the Whole Korean Fried Chicken.

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Pic by Mr. Kim Jr

There are many many variants of Korean Fried Chicken, and believe me, I have gone through a lot of it when over in Korea. Some believe that it should be a crispy skin-like batter, which is true. There’s a lot of that to be eaten. However, there are many places in Korea that make up a batter that is thicker and much more intense in flavour, and that’s the one Judy Joo has gone with. Served with pickled white radish (which is an absolute must in Korea), Asian slaw (much like kimchi coleslaw), and roasted corn salsa, the highlights are these cute little sauce bottles made in-house, that you can drizzle on top of the chicken or create a pool of it on your plate and dab your chicken into for extra flavour.

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I concurred with the rest of my table that the Gochujang Red sauce was absolutely brilliant, whilst the Jinjuu Black Soy was very good, the Gochujang Red was so good, we had to order more sauce! What really struck us was not only the authentic recipe, but the chicken was really tender and succulent, and at no point during the evening, did the batter lose its crispiness. A true triumph.

During the devouring of the chicken, we actually had forgotten that the Bibimbap had been ordered, and as it landed, a look of panic descended on the table as our stomachs were slowly swelling to the brink of a food coma. But, we were there to eat, and eat a lot. So, we put the chicken to one side and served up bibimbap between us. As is always the case, there is a gochujang sauce served to spice up the rice and vegetables, whilst the fried egg gets mixed in to provide that extra savoury kick. Perhaps, we thought, the stone bowl could be hotter to really burn the rice at the bottom of the bowl (Koreans really love that crispy crusty rice), and perhaps the sweetness of the bulgogi is not massively to my own taste. But seeing as the whole table finished their portion and the flavours were authentic, we were well satisfied.

We somehow managed to get a second wind, and whilst staring at the chicken, we knew it was too good to be left and whilst we slowed down, we had to finish it off. Sitting back, we were all truly satisfied. I had just enjoyed a terrific Korean meal in London, and I can vouch that by and large, everything we had eaten had been true to its Korean heritage. Mr Kim Snr was full of praise for the food and said that whilst he was a very conservative and old Korean man, he was truly inspired by how Korean food could be served to and enjoyed by Koreans and local British people alike. So much so, he demanded to Mr Kim Jr that he must arrange his entire R&D team back in his factory in Korea, to come over to London and try out the Jinjuu experience. He is also vice-chairman of the Korean food manufacturer’s association, and he said that he would be demanding that all manufacturers in Korea realise the potential abroad, to create authentic and tasty Korean food that is relevant and appealing for westerners.
High praise, indeed, from Mr Kim Snr. Mr Kim Jr was still busy stuffing his face with fried chicken and immersing it with the gochujang sauce. As I spend a lot of time eating with Mr Kim Jr, I can assure that his pure focus on eating as much as he could was down to enjoyment, not only the hunger. David was pretty much scraping up any food left on the serving plates, busily texting away at his colleagues’ absence, and sending photos to his wife who is a keen Korean food fan, and fast becoming a very jealous wife too.

At this point, we looked at the dessert menu and ummed and erred. Did we have enough space? Why did the main options look so good? “Oh look, we can order a dessert selection and share it”. Mr Kim Snr informed us that he doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, so would only have a little, but there you go, more for me! The desserts arrived and they looked great.

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Pic by Mr. Kim Jr

A Yuja Parfait, chocolate brownie, crème brulee, and the Jinjuu take on Hotteok, a Korean style doughnut. As is always the case, I let my guests tuck in first…..my mistake. I was left with (ahem) not my fair share! The Yuja Parfait was one of those desserts where your face scrunched with the strength of the yuja (yuzu), but instantly kept going back for more. The Brownie had gochugaru (chilli powder) and a poached pear and ice cream, the crème brulee had walnut and miso which really blended together nicely, and the hotteok was as chewy as Korean doughnuts are, but the true champion was that it’s basically a de-constructed Snickers. Well, I had a little bit of each, because David and the two Mr Kims had demolished the desserts, but I had enough to know that I could each one on their own.

So, in summary………..it’s perhaps unfair that I went there with two Koreans from Korea, and a non-Soho type Englishman in his fifties. I never profess to be an expert on food. I am, however, much like most people when it comes to eating. Does my mouth say “mmmmm” or “bleurgh” when eating food? I barely care too much for anything else other than that as I outright refuse to over-analyse what I eat. I do, however, know Korean food and have eaten it many different countries. And I know what makes me happy. To say that both generations of my Korean guests are now inspired by Jinjuu, and that David (who’s actually from the north of England) hasn’t stopped raving about it since his visit), is a testament to Jinjuu representing not “authentic” Korean food, but tasty food that has an extremely strong Korean influence. You can go to a Korean restaurant (only a minute’s walk away from Jinjuu) and eat “authentic” Korean food, but the difference is that Jinjuu is far more appealing to local Londoners, it’s going to educate people to want to try the authentic experience.

Walk a minute down the road and you can eat “authentic Korean food”. Travel around London and you will find some amazing Korean (influenced) street food traders. Busan BBQ, Korrito, Kimchinary, and Yogiyo! to name the current trend-setters. But I’m not always 100% sure where they are each week. Believe me, it’s a real treat eating at any of these street food traders though. Their smaller menus mean that they can really focus on what they do best, and they do it well. But Jinjuu is high-profile, run by a team of fantastic chefs (Judy Joo is partnered by Andrew Hales and Jaimie Garbutt), and it is in a fixed place in a great location. What Jinjuu does is open doors to customers who might never have tried Korean food before, and educate people to the extent that they might want to go and eat at an authentic Korean restaurant. No Korean restaurant, though, will put “mandoo”, “gochujang”, into your heads as Jinjuu has the potential to do, because Jinjuu is far more relevant to Londoners than other Korean restaurants. For me, the overall experience was a massive “mmmmmm”. My guests couldn’t have agreed more.

Finally, a big thanks to the waiting staff too. My experience was excellent. They topped up our drinks regularly, they were on hand for anything we needed, and were extremely friendly. But, I don’t go to restaurants for the service. I go there to satisfy my belly. And my belly loved it.

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Pic by Mr. Kim Jr

Jinjuu can be found at 15 Kingly Street, London W1B 5PS. Nearest stations are Picadilly Circus and Oxford Circus.

For their latest news, they can be found on twitter @JinjuuLDN and on Facebook

A little bit of what we ate and drank at Jinjuu

Judy Joo has opened her first restaurant in Kingly Street, Soho. Named after the Korean word for ‘Pearl,’ (and also a play on Judy’s name), Jinjuu is a modern Korean bar and restaurant. Upstairs, you’ll find a sleek bar serving Korean-American small plates (or ‘Anju,’) such as spicy pork belly tacos and saewoo (prawn) pops – to be enjoyed with one of their many fancy (and delicious) cocktails. Downstairs, is where the serious eaters can enjoy bigger sharing platters including their whole Korean fried chicken and leaf wrapped BBQ meats.

We were lucky enough to be invited to their press night – and enjoyed: Bulgogi sliders, crispy chicken sliders, saewoo pops, carnitas fries, edamame, hwayo soju and lots of cocktails…! Here are just some of the pics:

If that’s got your mouth watering, you can find Jinjuu at 15 Kingly Street, London W1B 5PS – booking is recommended as it gets very busy.

Pictures by the very talented Lynn Youn.