Korean cuisine is something I know next to nothing about. Vague images of BBQ and steamboat, kimchi (fermented spicy cabbage) and – er – well that’s about it. So when Meemalee suggested the suggestively named Tohbang for a quick lunch I jumped at the chance to try something new.
As far as I can tell Korean food shows some clear influences from northern China and Japan, both of whom have had major influence on the peninsula throughout its history. But there is plenty that seems (to my uneducated eye) uniquely Korean. Yukhoe dolsot bibimbap for instance.
Recommended as a great intro to the cuisine this was an intriguing dish. Somewhere between Japanese katsudon and a steak tatare, it arrived at the table in a sizzling stone bowl. Small piles of thinly sliced raw vegetables such as bean sprouts, courgette and carrots sat atop a pile of sticky rice. Crowning it all was a slivered mound of raw beef and a wibbly raw egg yolk.
As instructed we covered the whole with great swirls of chilli sauce and mixed it all up with gusto. For someone who often compartmentalises the food on his plate, this was a curiously exciting thing to do. Mixing madly like a demented three year high on Pepsi, I somehow managed not to spray everything within a five foot radius with globules of yolk, sticky rice and chilli sauce.
It tasted fabulous, surprisingly gentle in flavour, but in a hearty way. Even with the chilli sauce the flavour wasn’t too strong. Almost raw beef and vegetables were all bound together with the just-cooked egg while the chilli provided an underlying heat. This is the perfect cold-day food, warming. Something I would definitely come back to.
The whole thing was pretty reasonable too, with some fermeneted chilli pickled potatoes and other vegetables and a hite beer, it came to £13 a head. And that was for a properly filling lunch.