an alternative sunday lunch

I’M not suggesting that the Korean feast I had on Sunday should become a permanent substitute to the comfort of a home-made roast, but it seemed an exciting alternative on what must have been one of the gloomiest days of the year.

(N.B. I am loathe to recommend going out for Sunday roasts, though if you must then I recommend heading straight to Paradise Bar which, to my critical restaurant-made-roast eye, served up an impressive nut roast. And I see no reason why the meat option wouldn’t be a winner too.)

But I digress. Jee Cee Neh is to be found off the main high street in New Malden, where there is a thriving Korean community. Hence the multitude of Asian markets and other Korean restaurants that we passed on our way to this particular foodie destination.

I have not eaten much Korean food before – kimchi is about the extent of my knowledge of it – and so as always I was looking forward to something new. Plus I had a desperate craving for dumplings.

Well my craving was definitely satisfied. And satisfied well. The large dumplings that arrived before us were a masterful example of how a perfect dumpling should be. The silky noodle casing that delicately yeilded to being broken in two (for there was no way a dumpling this large could be consumed in one bite) enveloped a stuffing that was a million miles away from the congealed mass that may often be found lurking inside inferior versions. The contents of this filling was identifiable and flavoursome, with a pleasant texture aided by the crisp spring onion on top.

The tangy bite of the crunchy cucumber kimchi provided a refreshing taste on the palate – not only alongside the dumplings but throughout the rest of the meal too – especially as the chilli was not overwhelming spicy.

cucmber kimchi

sun du bu ji ge

Keen to sample a cross section of the best that Korean cuisine had to offer we went with the waitress’ recommendations of traditional dishes that were apparently most frequently ordered.

Sun du bu ji ge was an uncurdled tofu stew that came bubbling to the table. This was our seafood choice, represented here by clams. There may not have been many of these little creatures in their shells, but the delicate seafood flavour of the broth was a marvel. And the silken tofu was divine, so soft that there was no hope of capturing it with chopsticks. The subtlty of this dish literally stunned us, with flavours slowly unwinding on the palate. This is the dish I will return to Jee Cee Neh for.

dol sot bi bim bab

 

deo ji bul go gi deub bab

That’s not to say that the other two dishes were poor. Dol sot bu bim bab arrived as a brilliant colour wheel nestled within its heavy black bowl. It was a rainbow of fresh vegetables and beef with a raw egg cracked open in the centre, but I was too slow off the mark with my camera before the waitress stirred a chilli sauce into this sizzling mix (just seconds after it arrived at the table). There was something quite earthy about the flavours in this comforting one pot dish, which made for perfect eating on this dreary Sunday.

Deo ji bul go gi deub bab was my typical last minute panic order, when I just can’t bear the thought of missing out on trying one more thing from the menu. And so despite being assured by the waitress that we would certainly have enough to feed two, I opted to add on the chargrilled pork in a rich soy sauce. Upon its arrival, I felt as though our trio of mains was now complete.

I asked for some lettuce leaves to wrap these succulent pieces of salty/sweet belly pork in (as there really wasn’t much need to eat any more rice, even if it was delicious), and in addition to this we also received fresh green chillies, garlic cloves and what tasted like a soybean paste with a wonderfully nutty flavour. I have since found out that it was ‘doenjang’, a traditional Korean condiment indeed made from soybeans, and which in the form that we ate it may have been combined with garlic, sesame oil and a hot pepper sauce called ‘gochujang’.

To finish, we were presented with juicy segments of orange, a much needed refreshment following the selection we had just sampled. What was most impressive about Jee Cee Neh was how understated yet rich in flavour the food was. We ate a lot, and yet we were not overwhelmed; purely delighted by the depth of flavour that was packed into each mouthful.

And the best bit: we were the only English people there throughout our long and lazy grazing. Not your typical experience when out to Sunday lunch.

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  • and all that’s in between

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