It's taken me a while to write this up, and I am placing the blame solely on the above. Soju. Freely available at Chee Mc, a divey little Korean place on Walworth Road, walkable from my house - at least I think so, as neither of us remember the journey home - and with an extensive fried chicken menu. I was tipped off by the ever excellent Su-Lin and me and my friend bumbled off there one Saturday night to try it out.
They are really not messing about with the fried chicken. They sell them as half portions or whole in various different sauces, but you can also order a mixture of two types, which obviously we did. It is my motto in life that one shouldn't have to make a choice if they can just have it all. This one was covered in finely shredded spring onions, so dense and bushy we struggled to separate the strands. In any case, the chicken was freshly fried with a crisp crunchy coating. Tables around us filled up, mostly Koreans, though there was one lady on her own next to us, sniffling and sucking air through her teeth as she negotiated a portion of the chilli chicken.
We ordered beers and soju, and were talked up to the stronger 19% version by our very sweet waitress who went to great lengths to explain everything to us. That's where things became a little... blurry. I had wondered what these ice-bucket-esque tongs were for, and looking around, people were picking the chicken up with them and eating directly from them. It was a lively atmosphere; lots of people drinking beers with big groups of friends. I liked the place a lot.
For a little vegetable balance, we ordered some kimchi which was unremarkable but refreshing, spicy and crunchy to cut through the fried-ness of the chicken. At around £4 or £5 a portion it wasn't a great deal, but we also got lightly pickled radish included with our chicken so we were satisfied that we were not going to become vitamin-deficient.
Our mix n' match was the 'sweet garlic sauce'. FFF me. It was honky. It was so honky, in fact, I feared it would linger until Monday. The garlic was indeed sweet, but wow, that garlic. Let's not forget the amount of spring onion I ingested too. Another bottle of soju to wash it down. The first text message I sent the next day said "I SMELL TERRIBLE".
Woman cannot live on chicken alone though, so we ordered the cheesy ramen which was exactly that. Instant ramen in a spicy broth (Shin raymun perhaps?) topped with stir-fried onions and spring onions for added breath-effect, and then topped with a melted piece of slappy cheese. Friends, it was glorious. The cheese mixed in with the broth to give it some creaminess and to temper the spice. We hoovered this up. I have a recipe for something similar, called Buddae Jjigae in Chinatown Kitchen and it was developed as a hangover of the Korean War. The Koreans used frankfurters, spam and processed cheese in their cooking, left behind by the American G.Is, which is where this sort of fusion comes from.
We boxed up the leftover chicken and paid around £30 per head with service. A not-insubstantial amount given it was a tiny little café near the Elephant and Castle, but I don't think we went light on the booze since I was so unwell the next day I cried. Yup. Garlicky little hungover sobs. I'd go back though, especially since everyone else we saw had ordered the glistening, sticky red of gochujang on their chicken, studded with sesame seeds. And for that slappy cheese ramen. Hold that soju though.
310 Walworth Road
London SE17 2NA