Last week we set top chef Josh King a challenge; take £20, dive into Chinatown, and create a dish to reflect and celebrate the Chinese New Year 2019: Year of the Pig.
No stranger to cooking Asian cuisine, Josh has spent the past few years working as Head Chef on board some of the world’s largest superyachts travelling all over the world, cooking for public figures, Russian Oligarchs, and pop stars. And now, he’s cooking for NAVA. [Full interview, coming soon.]
Chinatown is a fascinating enclave in London; surrounded by the effervescence of Soho and the darlings of Theatreland off Shaftesbury Avenue, in and around Gerrard Street you leave London behind and enter the mysterious world of the Far East.
It was actually in Limehouse during the early years of the C19th that the Chinese population in London concentrated, with businesses catering towards the Chinese sailors who would be moored up in the Docklands. After the area was badly damaged during the Blitz of WWII it was only in the 1970s that a cultural hub was yet again formed.
Now home to more Chinese restaurants than you can shake a duck at, look past the All You Can Eat Buffet’s and you can still find authentic shops that would not go amiss in the centre of Kowloon. Find freshly made noodles down Dansey Place alleyway in Lo’s Noodle Factory, their doorway hidden amongst the rubbish bins of various restaurants; be overwhelmed by masses of exotic produce at Loon Fung Chinatown; pick up freshly imported spices and peppers from New Loon Moon Supermarket.
This, to me, is like being a kid in a toy shop at Christmas.
Introducing: Josh’s Year of the Pig’s Trotter Noodles
- Pig’s Trotters (unnervingly tasty)
- Enoki Mushrooms
- Noori Seaweed
- Szechuan Pepper
- Coriander Sees
- Fish Sauce
- Dried Chilli
- Shrimp Paste
- Fresh noodles
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Brussel Sprouts
- Tempura Batter (w/ charcoal)
LO’S NOODLE FACTORY
Don’t be put off by the location, down a dingey alley in the backstreets of Chinatown, in amongst the overflowing bins of a myriad Chinese restaurants, for here you will find a true hidden treasure; Lo’s Noodle Factory. From its diminutive surroundings Wai and his team create the most incredible fresh noodles and freshly made dim sum and other baked goods. Opened by his great uncle in 1978 to outdo his own noodle supplier, Lo’s now supplies nearly 95% of Chinatown’s restaurants with Ho Fun and Cheung Fun Noodles – including the Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan. It is the delicate balance of potato starch, rice, and water that make Lo’s noodles in such high demand, their silkiness almost too good to be true. And at only £1 a bag, with more than enough for two servings, you really can’t go wrong.
LOON FUNG CHINATOWN
Serving Chinatown since 1965, “For the Chinese in You”, Loon Fung has gone from humble shop to one of the largest Chinese supermarkets in London. You’ll find goods from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and Korea. From a fascinating array of exotic vegetables and fruits, to better known sweet treats (Hello Panda, anyone?), Loon Fung sells everything you need to create an authentic Chinese meal at home.
NEW LOON MOON SUPERMARKET
The grandfather of Chinese supermarkets in Chinatown, New Loon Moon was the very first oriental store to open in the area. Opening 40 years ago the supermarket is still owned by the Cheong Family who took over in the early 80s. Three storeys are stacked with over 4,000 different types of Southeast Asian foodstuffs and cookware, from Thailand to Burma, Singapore to Korea. Every product is hand-sourced by staff who undertake annual trips to discover the best items to import. Don’t be surprised if you bumped into Jamie Oliver or John Torode here, they’re both regulars.