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Korean Chicken Sandwich at Wishbone, Brixton

24 Jun

LOCATION: Wishbone, Unit 12 Market Row, Brixton Market, London SW9 8BR [map]

PRICE: £7

BREAD: White  sub roll/baguette type thing – I’ll get to that.

FILLING: Chicken thigh nuggets, crushed peanuts, pickled daikon, fermented chilli mayo, shredded Chinese cabbage, spring onions.

PROS: I hurried to Wishbone in desperate circumstances. I was frenzied. Panicked. This sandwich was a special you see, to be plucked from the menu but two days later. As it turns out I wasn’t  the only one to *SPOILER ALERT* like it, and so they’re keeping it on for the foreseeable. YES Brixton! People power!

So what’s all the fuss aboot? Aye? Well, those nuggets  inside are made from thigh meat, which we all know is the way to go when choosing bits of chicken what will be eaten into the face. If you’re not eating a bit that was once sporting bone then it had damn well better be roasted, with crispy skin and a blob of aioli on the side. I’ll take a potato salad with salsa verde too while you’re at it and also some young broad beans; lightly cooked, podded and dressed with a spiky vinaigrette and nuggets of bacon. Ta.

So yes, nuggets. Nuggets nuggets nuggets nuggets. The Wishbone nuggs were succulent and greaseless. Spot on. To be honest though, one would hope Wishbone would have the whole frying of chicken bit down by now, what with being a er, fried chicken shop and everything. The fermented chilli mayo is an appropriately Korean flavoured lube, which is actually surprisingly subtle. Don’t be put off by the word ‘fermented’. Personally I’m drawn to foods that have been shoved in a pot, sealed and left to their own devices for an extended period of time but I can empathise as to why the idea might strike fear into the hearts of nervy eaters. Chinese cabbage, if you’re not familiar, is kind of like iceberg but without the water…no, that’s unfair…it’s like regular cabbage but without the sulphurous twang. An excellent sandwich ingredient (see katsu sando). There are dinky batons of pickled daikon, there are delicate papery rings of spring onion, the crunch of scrunched peanuts. It’s a balanced sandwich and it shows restraint; knowing when to stop is the clincher.

I bet that bread recipe is a well kept secret, too. Wowzers. I dunno who is making it but it’s a goddamn revelation, like a very light baguette, with much of the inside crumb removed to make way for more filling and a sort of polenta-esque sprinkle on top which reminds me of that grainy stuff you get on a Maccy D’s sausage and egg Mcmuff. DON’T PRETEND YOU DON’T KNOW.

CONS: My name is Helen and I am a spring onion addict. I can make sandwiches with big ol wedges of spring onion inside and munch them down happily. I often find myself  dunking whole ones in salad cream by the sad yellow light of the fridge. More spring onion in everything, please? YES INCLUDING TRIFLE.*

SCORE: 9/10

They lose half a point for not having thought of this sandwich sooner and half for the fact I’d like more heat, although I guess that’s why there’s hot sauce on the table.

 *not including trifle.

Chicken Karaage Sandwich at Tsuru

26 Apr

LOCATION: Tsuru Sushi, various locations [see website for details].

PRICE: £5

BREAD: Sesame seeded brioche bun.

FILLING: Karaage chicken, cos lettuce, Japanese mayo.

PROS: What do you mean you don’t know what karaage is? Are you some kind of IMBECILE? Okay fine so it’s Japanese fried chicken. Fried chicken is now officially a good thing, by the way. No longer do we have to scarf KFC or Morley’s on the down low for fear of being ostracised by friends and family, now we can go to places like WishboneMama Lan’s and Tsuru, and eat really bloody good fried chicken. We can eat it inside while sitting down and everything, rather than loitering with it on the streets or worse – YOUTHS – on the bus. No. Do you know what is covering the roofs of most buildings in major cities like London? Chicken bones, that’s what. The kids throw them on the floor and pigeons pick them up and deposit them on the roofs of buildings.

Anyway. This sandwich is incredibly good. Firstly, the chicken is thigh meat, which we all know is much tastier, not to mention juicier, than breast. It’s marinated in mirin, soy, ginger and garlic, then given a good ol’ dustin’ in cornflour and deep fried. It is spectacular; greaseless and, importantly, craggy. A good craggy batter is where it’s at. It comes on a sesame seeded slightly sweet bun, which is golden and shiny and has your back right until the end. There’s cos lettuce and Japanese mayo. You don’t know what Japanese mayo is?! Okay so it’s made with rice vinegar and is a little sweeter than the regular kind.

Now here’s the deal with the karaage sandwich; it’s delicious as is and all but the thing you need to remember is to add copious amounts of Tsuru’s frankly fantastic ‘Eat the Bits’ chilli oil. It’s quite mild for chilli oil actually, but the flavour is incredible. The way to use it is to get plenty of the sediment at the bottom,  hence the name ‘eat the bits’; it’s packed with sesame, red miso, garlic and onion. Get it on there, basically. Also, buy a couple of pots to use at home.

CONS: I would say the chilli oil should come as standard but it’s nice to be able to control how much you put on. Perhaps it should come with a little bit, just to convert any non-believers. I also find myself wondering if the lettuce should be shredded. Perhaps not.

SCORE: 9/10

Tsuru also make an excellent katsu sando, FYI

Chicken Satay Banh Mi at Viet Cafe, Camberwell

23 Jan

LOCATION: Viet Cafe (formerly Cafe Bay), 75 Denmark Hill,  SE5 8RS [map]

PRICE: Ummm about £2.70 ish I think. Or £3.10? I’m just plucking numbers out of the air here. It’s cheap, basically.

BREAD: Baguette.

FILLING: A skewer of chicken flavoured with a mild satay, cucumber strips, pickled daikon and carrot, coriander, sweet chilli sauce, fresh chilli.

PROS: Camberwell is basically a sandwich wasteland so Viet Cafe must be making an absolute killing. This is by no means the best banh mi in the world but it stands out a mile in an area packing only a Subway (what IS that smell that comes from Subway?) and  numerous crappy cafes. Yes I enjoyed Rock Steady Eddie’s recently but seriously, there’s a time and a place, sickos!

I’m constantly amazed that the chicken satay banh mi is so much better than all the pork banh mi and, especially and, it’s better than the banh mi special which contains all the types of pork at once. ME CONFUSE. Anyway, it’s the best so I never order anything else. It’s also good and punchy, just the way a banh mi should be. I like the sweet chilli sauce filth factor, which they then ramp up with bits of fresh chilli so by the end I’ve really worked up a proper sniffle. Banh mi never have enough chilli in general, I find, so mad props to Viet Cafe in that respect.

CONS: Well you know, it’s not anything particularly ground breaking; you’re not going to find rice flour baguettes. I kind of wish they would stop arseing about with all the tuna mayo/cheese salad/chicken and sweetcorn rubbish though and just live up to the name of Viet Cafe – shake up that hood a little. I think Camberwell may just, just about be ready…

SCORE: 7/10 (relative to everything else in the area)

Buffalo Chicken Sub at Chooks, Muswell Hill

28 Oct

LOCATION: Chooks, 43 The Broadway, Muswell Hill, N10 3HA [map].

PRICE: £8.25.

BREAD: Soft white sub.

FILLING: Buffalo chicken pieces, cabbage and watercress slaw, mega tousle of watercress on top.

PROS: They were certainly generous with the filling, which they damn well should be for £8.25.

CONS: What do you mean that’s not the actual sandwich in the picture? You dissing my food photography skills or what? Shocking. Okay so I couldn’t take a picture of the sandwich because it’s too dark in Chooks. There is an extraordinary amount of red neon strip lighting though. Mmmmm, brothel chic. I have therefore gifted you with a stunningly accurate representation which I created using the magic of Paint. I’m particularly pleased with the watercress. It wasn’t what I actually ordered, by the way. I actually ordered the ‘chooks philly’ but the waitress cocked it up and brought the wrong thing, and not for the first time during the meal.

The buffalo chicken itself was fine, I suppose. It’s quite hard to balls up buffalo sauce to be honest, and although not the best, it was mediocre rather than downright bad. Underneath it however, lurked a truly insipid ‘cabbage and watercress slaw’ which my mate rather eloquently described as tasting like ‘cabbage in milk’. On top was that magnificent tangle of undressed watercress. No, I’ve no idea either. We began by taking a bite and finished by picking out the bits of strangely watery chicken, leaving bun, cabbage and leaves to think about what they’d had done to them.

EIGHT POUNDS AND TWENTY FIVE PENCE.

Chooks is trying hard to be cool in an identikit, ticking off current trends kind of way; cocktails in jam jars; tin cups and plates a la Spuntino; dark interior like Meatliquor; food on trays with paper like Meatliquor; ‘house rules’ posted on the wall like er, Meatliquor; waitresses walking around looking cocky like, you’ve guessed it, Meatliquor. Table sauce in squeezy plastic chef bottles like Pitt Cue. It’s the restaurant equivalent of a fashion victim.

Also, the food is shit.

SCORE: 1/10 

I was invited to review Chooks

Chooks on Urbanspoon

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich at Spit & Roast, King’s X

16 Oct

LOCATION: Spit & Roast at Kerb, King’s Boulevard, King’s X (vendors change daily; your best bet at the moment is to check Twitter for details) [map].

PRICE: £5

BREAD: Floury white bap.

FILLING: Buttermilk fried chicken, apple coleslaw and Korean chilli sauce.

PROS: The chicken had been marinated in buttermilk which we all know by now is the ONLY way to prep fried chicken. The meat is obviously good quality, full of flavour, generously proportioned and mega succulent from the buttermilk treatment. The coating is really well spiced too; a touch of the colonel about it but like he’s levelled up one in the sophistication stakes. Apple slaw is fresh, not claggy, and it compliments the fried chicken nicely, if hardly breaking the mould. Korean chilli sauce has a good flavour, mainly of gojuchang (Korean chilli paste); it’s mild and sweet yet distinctive, having as it does a touch of the funk about it.

CONS: There is one major sin when it comes to fried chicken and that is an under-crisped coating. It’s such a shame to undermine the work that has gone into the spicing by retrieving that bird from the fryer too soon. It’s difficult to get fried chicken right, I know that, but still..them’s the facts. Also, the coleslaw, advertised as apple, did not appear to have any apple in it; at least I couldn’t taste it and I wanted to. I was promised it after all. More citrus is also needed to give the fat in the chicken skin what for. The Korean sauce could use more heat; no-one can blame them for erring on the side of caution when it comes to chilli, but I did find myself returning to get some of the extra hot sauce sensibly provided on the counter.

It’s a sandwich with mega potential; even the floury bun worked and I was sceptical. There’s something about the flour from a bun like that getting EVERYWHERE that annoys me to unreasonable levels. Spit and Roast are clearly on to a good thing but really, just Spit and Roast? Where’s the Fry?

SCORE: 7/10

Madras Chicken at Blackbird Bakery, East Dulwich

15 Feb

LOCATION: Blackbird Bakery, 46 Grove Vale, East Dulwich, SE22 8DH [map]

PRICE: £3.50

BREAD: A good quality white (baked by Blackbird).

FILLING: Chicken mixed with madras curry mayo, lettuce, sliced tomato and finely diced red onion.

PROS: This is basically coronation chicken in disguise but my goodness, it’s delicious. The large, juicy chunks of chicken are plentiful, bound in a borderline indecent amount of curried mayo. Although this is made with a curry powder blend, it miraculously  swerves any danger of tasting like something one might find chilling in a motorway service station and instead plants itself firmly in the camp of luxurious; silky soft and dreamy. The sweet little nubs of red onion are the perfect garnish too, adding just the right amount of allium bite. For £3.50, it’s extremely good value, because this sandwich is an absolute giant. At the halfway point I almost considered saving the other half for later. I didn’t, of course. Blackbird are trying to revive a British classic and are doing so with style and taste.

CONS: The insipid tomato needs to go. Also, the second time I bought it there was no red onion, which upset me a lot; I’ll mention it next time I go in. Speaking of return visits, I almost didn’t make one after a particularly irritating morning about 6 months ago when I popped in to pick up a sandwich on my way to work. I asked if there were any sandwiches available and the lady there told me that no, they don’t make them until 10am. “Oh, you don’t have the ingredients yet?” I asked her. “Oh yes, we just don’t make them yet” she replied. That’s fine, but I took a quick look around, and considered the fact that there was only one other person in the cafe and two members of staff. I then asked very nicely if they’d mind putting one together, a request which was met with a flat ‘no’ delivered in what was, frankly, a truly arsey tone. Is it really too much trouble to make a sandwich when you’re not doing anything else and I’m a regular customer? Really? Hacked me off for months, that did.

Anyway, the sandwiches are good so I return. Sigh.

SCORE: 7/10