After my first attempt at making kimchi, there very almost wasn’t a second attempt. Not because the end result wasn’t tasty, or because it was particularly hard to make… it was the smell. I thought I was adequately prepared for that funky fermentation whiff when I opened it for the first time, but I was not. And neither was a certain someone… from memory, he actually left the flat, for no other reason. So as you can imagine, once that batch was finished, it took me a while longer to work up the courage and olfactory fortitude to try again…
The second, third, fourth… I’ve lost count now… times that I’ve made kimchi since then, it’s turned out a lot less messy both in the mixing and the smell factor. Which is an absolute relief because we love the stuff and have taken to eating it any which way we can. The distinct sourness and gentle blend of sweetness and spice makes it a perfect accompaniment for more than you might realise. Of course it’s an absolute necessity in Korean dishes such as kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew which you can add pork and/or tofu to), kimchi buchimgae (pancakes), or as a side to a bibimbap. But… it’s also absolutely delightful in a crispy chicken burger or a grilled cheese toastie. That, my friends, is why you need to start making your own with this easy kimchi recipe…
The first thing that hits us in Asadal is the smell. We had barely been in this Korean restaurant a minute and the warm inviting aromas were already making our stomachs rumble. It felt so secluded downstairs, I could hardly believe that only moments earlier I was jostling my way through the peak hour moshpit around Holborn station. It’s dimly lit and simply furnished, I get the sense that they care more about practicality than style which suited us just fine.
If we were here with a few friends in tow, we probably would have tackled the a la carte menu. With more mouths to feed, you can get away with carefree over-ordering, but with just the two of us, we had to be a bit more selective. Instead of enduring my inevitable long-winded deliberation process, I saved our stomachs from further rumbling and decided on the Asadal Special Set. Sometimes when you’re ready to eat your arm, a short cut is a must.
I have taken my current Korean food obsession to a new level. No longer content with satisfying my cravings whilst eating out, I somehow managed to convince myself to recreate some Korean dishes at home. Bearing in mind I’ve only just discovered this cuisine in the last few years and can barely pronounce some of the ingredients, let alone actually know what they are, this was definitely a step outside the comfort zone. The results? Mixed. And a little bit stinky…
I’ve noticed that many Londoners, both native and new, can be quite picky with their postcodes. North, south, east or west, no one seems shy about sharing why they think their part of this city is the best place to live and why it’s much, much better than yours. Personally, I’m fairly neutral on the whole matter; my flat criteria consists of spare room, decent sized kitchen, short distance to tube station and supermarket, not outrageously expensive, outdoor space optional. We happened to find a flat that ticks all those boxes and it happens to be in Tooting, that’s SW17, in case you didn’t know.
It’s not one of those swanky central postcodes or even one of the sought after SW ones (I’m looking at you Claphams) but it’s certainly got character and more recently has often been reported as quite ‘up and coming’. Or so people kept telling us when we moved here, I think they said it in Time Out which we all know is quite the authority on these matters. Yet I was still unphased by this ‘my suburb is better than yours’ malarky, frankly, our flat fits the bill and I’m not that worried about precisely where it is. But then we started thinking about moving and I thought, it’s more than not bad here, it’s actually pretty good, and getting better all the time.
“Oh sure, we’ll definitely be getting a barbeque!”
That’s what we said at the start of last summer when quizzed endlessly about it by our charred-meat deprived friends. Why? Because as all stereotypes have some truth to them, every great Kiwi summer requires a great Kiwi barbie, no matter where you are. It might also have something to do with that fact that we have a decent sized outdoor area all to ourselves, complete with rickety picnic table and chairs. It’s no grassy New Zealand backyard, but it’s not bad for London.
So a barbeque made sense; they’re not that expensive anyway and of course we’d have people round all the time to make the most of it. But that’s not how it works in London is it? Not if the weather gods have anything to do with it. When the sun is shining and you decide to have an impromptu barbeque, everyone’s already busy, but when you’re a bit more organised and plan something in advance so people can actually come… the sunshine doesn’t come to the party.