Ever wondered if there was anyone out there serving fast, accessible, and most importantly delicious Korean style fast food on London’s streets? Well wonder no longer! Kimchi Cult has been offering up a slice of Korean fast food heaven since April 2011. If you don’t know about them already, prepare to want to eat their food!
Korean Class MASSSIVE went down to visit Kimchi Cult in London at their stall to check out their food and to find out more about them. Kimchi Cult is run by Daniel O’Sullivan, who after going to Korea to work, fell in love with the culture and food. The really great thing about Daniel’s set up is that he makes all of the food himself. For instance, he makes all the kimchi himself, by hand! The care and attention that’s put into the food by Kimchi Cult really shows. We can say this with certainty as we have had first hand experience chowing down on Kimchi Cult’s food!
The food is cooked on the spot, so your meal will be perfectly hot. Just what you need for the cold weather at the moment. The portions are a really good size too, so you should be nicely full by the time you finish eating, although we can’t guarantee you won’t want to go back for more straight after!
The bulgogi steak and kimchi hot sub was was delicious. The kimchi adds just the right amount of heat, and the marinated bulgogi is mouth-watering. With the bolgogi and kimchi being freshly cooked in at the stall (you can see this happening in front of you), you’re guaranteed for a delicious lunch time treat. We’ll definitely have to go back to test out the rest of the menu.
Wanting to find out more about Kimchi Cult, Daniel was kind enough to answer some questions about his business for us.
Interview with Daniel
KCM: How did you get into Korean culture? Why Korean food?
D: My girlfriend and I were living in Glasgow after graduating from University and were unhappy with our jobs. We wanted to go traveling and my cousin (who was living in Busan at the time) suggested coming to Korea to save some money. We worked a year in Busan, traveled around Asia for 5 months afterwards, then went back and lived in Seoul for a year. Food was definitely one of the main reasons we enjoyed our time there so much and was a big part of our lives – I started writing a blog about Korean street food whilst in Busan and things just snowballed from there.
KCM: How long have you been cooking and perfecting your Korean recipes? Who taught you?
D: I’ve been cooking Korean food for about two years now – I’m mostly self taught but during my second year (in Seoul) I spent a lot of time bugging the cook at my school by asking her how to cook various food. She was a fantastic cook and told me about the basics of Kimchi making. I’ve yet to try a Kimchi I’ve enjoyed as much as hers! I’ve also picked up various tips and suggestions along the way from Korean friends and I’m always trying to improve my recipes.
KCM: How would you describe the food you sell?
D: I like to describe our food as “Korean-style fast food.” This is because we try to take elements of Korean food that we like and apply them to common western fast food dishes such as burgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, fries etc. It’s also a nod to the fast, casual and interesting food you can find in Korea, such as bulgogi pizzas, Korean fried chicken and french fry covered hotdogs. This type of food is mainly ignored by most Korean restaurants here but is actually very popular in Korea.
KCM: You seem to be a pro kimchi maker now, how did you get into making it? How long do you have to spend making it to supply your stall?
D: I started making it in Seoul after I had decided to start the stall. My first batch was terrible but things gradually improved. My best compliment came from Ra Hyun (the Korean girl working with me on Fridays) who referred to me as her “London Granny” because she liked the Kimchi I made for her so much! I spend about four or five hours a week making it in roughly 10-15kg batches. It requires quite a few different steps and be quite time consuming but I like doing it and love tweaking my recipe and techniques.
KCM: What is the public reception to kimchi like? Some people aren’t kimchi fans, whereas others love it.
D: I think you nailed it on the head there – some people love it and can’t get enough, whereas some people really aren’t bothered. I have found that people here are very open to try kimchi however, and 9 times out of 10 I get good responses!
KCM: Apart from kimchi, how much of the food do you prepare yourself i.e. bulgogi marinade etc
D: I make everything from scratch, including bulgogi marinade, my Korean BBQ sauce for the pork, salad dressing and Yangnyeom sauce for fried chicken. I also triple cook my french fries and never use anything frozen or pre-prepared. It takes more time but it means I can produce food that I’m proud of.
KCM: Do you have any plans to expand your menu in the future?
D: Lots – I’d like to add more sandwiches, do a few different variations on my burgers (including a Korean Fried Chicken Burger) as well as start preparing my fried chicken “Asian Style” i.e. hacking up a whole bird into lots of meat and bone segements instead of just using wings. I also want to start serving some variation of Galbi at the stall or in the pub – Korean ribs are just too good to ignore much longer! I’m also hoping to start doing all day breakfasts at my chatsworth road spot on Sundays with would include kimchi bokkeumbap, fried egg, sausage and black pudding. Korean food is so versatile and kimchi goes with alot of things so the possibilities are endless!
KCM: What would be your dream dish to sell?
D: Probably Galbi or big plates of perfect fried chicken. I’d also love to see how London responded to San Nakji but I think we are a few years away from that yet! (NB: San Nakji is freshly cut up octopus, so fresh it’s still moving!)
KCM: What are your business plans for the future?
D: I’m just going to keep going as I have been for now. I’d love to do some pop-up type events and perhaps down the line find a pitch or location more permanent. Some exciting things are happening in the London food scene right now so I want to make the most of any opportunities that come up.
KCM: Do you get a lot of customers who’ve never tried Korean flavours before? What are their thoughts?
D: Quite a few – people generally respond quite well to the flavours. It’s a very easy food to get in to, if you like chilli and garlic you are half way there already!
KCM: Do you think Korean food is becoming a lot more popular and mainstream recently?
D: It’s hard to say, it’s been on “food trend” lists every year running for years now but in the UK at least it has yet to break into the mainstream. Once you are able to buy gochujang in Sainsburys or get a kimchi fried rice ready meal in Marks & Spencers then perhaps that will be the case, but to be honest I’m not sure Korean will ever reach the levels of popularity as Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese or Japanese food here, mainly due to the relatively small Korean population. It is getting more popular though!
As you can see, Daniel has a real commitment to fresh and well prepared food. We can’t wait to see what new and innovative menu ideas he’ll create in the future; that all day Korean breakfast certainly sounds right up our street! We’d strongly recommend going to track down the Kimchi Cult stand next time you’re on the prowl for food, you won’t regret it. If you want to pay Kimchi Cult a visit, you can see their schedule for where there’ll be around London here.
Once again, a big thanks to Daniel for having a chat with me, and look forward to tasting the rest of the menu!