The friends walk in groups of two or more abreast, arms locked, in an impossibly slow pace. The couples emerge on Sundays, mooching around, holding hands, erratically zig-zagging in the pavement, or abruptly stopping.
All of them seem absolutely unaware of the existence of anyone else in the street, and will always manage to make you lose your tube, the bus, the green light, or just simply your patience as you are forced to crawl behind them, unable to walk past them as you’re trapped between them and the multiple hoardings and temporary fences that invade and reshape the pavements anywhere you go… and I’m of course talking about the Asian students in London! ?
However, there are upsides to their presence. They of course have to eat, and as would befit any person living thousands of kilometers away from their home, they yearn for familiar food… which results in all sorts of Asian eateries sprouting around universities, which is good. But there’s something better than an Asian eatery: an Asian grocery store, like the new Korean store that opened last week in our immediate vicinity and I am still super excited about!
There used to be one about 10 minutes walk away, but this one is SO CLOSE! ?
After learning about Indian cooking last year, I’ve been itching to learn more about Eastern Asian cooking, but Chinatown can sometimes be quite annoying due to the huge amounts of people. Now I can just walk here and be back in less than it takes to navigate the crowds at Chinatown!
A nice smell of hot Korean food welcomed me as I entered the shop: you can get cooked food to go, which is convenient. But also, big fridges left and right held various drinks and packaged groceries that were mostly unknown to me, except the usual: vitasoy, kimchi, tofu.
I was excited enough, but then I noticed a sign pointing to a passage that was home to freezers, with things such as fish balls, dim sum buns, and again lots of items I had no idea how to cook or consume, and just before I thought I’d explode consumed by the sight of all these supplies and their sense of possibility almost in my literal doorstep, I realised that the passage opened into a sort of cave of wonders with shelves that held an assortment of dry goods mostly sorted by country: China! Japan! Thailand! and of course… Korea!
There were recognisable sauces (soya, chilli, fish), mysterious pots I have no idea what to do with, other things such as Japanese sweets, and handy stuff such as dry noodles, nori sheets and even my favourite format of rice package that I’d love to buy if my kitchen was bigger: the 5 kilos bags! Or maybe it was even 10 kilos. I see them and I’m excited by the idea: all these dishes we could cook with freaking ten kilos of rice! Woohoo!
I composed myself, took a clandestine picture to share with my Dearest One, who responded with as much excitement as I expected, and emerged from the secret cave of wonders with a smile in my face. I got the tofu which I needed for my Chinese recipe, and sadly had to buy the Oyster sauce from another supermarket, because they had just opened the Korean place the day before and they hadn’t even finished stocking the shelves, they kindly explained.
Then I made something called “ma-po tofu”, which could be described as a sort of Chinese omelette with tofu:
It was really yummy and way easier to make than I expected. (I followed a recipe from a cook book called “Gok cooks Chinese”).
I am still very excited about the Korean store. VERY EXCITED.