Onkoreanfood: Onthebab

When I was in China, one of the girls on my tour said that her favourite food was Korean food. I asked her what kind of stuff Korean food was, and how it was different to, say, Chinese food. She replied “kimchee” and “tastier”. She was German/Cypriot so maybe was less eloquent here than she might otherwise be were she speaking in her native tongue.

Eight months passed and I finally tried Korean food in Ban Di Bul. I ordered bibimbap, and the person I was with ordered some type of noodle dish. The noodles seemed like 50p ramen noodles and the bibimbap, while tasty, felt more like a side dish. Maybe it was meant to be. Other tables were sizzling in the warm glow of the barbecue. We left the restaurant and the key to my bike lock bent meaning that I couldn’t unlock it. We went to watch comedy, me in a foul mood, and I got a bus home in the snow, then managed to free my bike the following day.

The second time I had Korean food was when my flatmate invited me for lunch with her and her friend: the first and only time that this has ever happened. We went to the Southbank foodmarket, surveyed the whole place, I went for the hog roast then at the last minute changed my mind and went for Korrito, where there had previously been a queue but thankfully was no more. I went for the rice box. It was very tasty, a definite step up from Ban Di Bul. My flatmate’s friend commented that she wished she had gone for Korrito rather than her Mongolian fare. As a proud half Chinese person, I would never go for Mongolian food.

Later that day I went on a pseudo-date with a comedian and we ended up looping back to Southbank market. I said that I had some food from there (Korrito) earlier and, obviously not hearing me, he went on to tell me how good Korrito was and that I should try it. To be fair, I hadn’t tried the actual burrito, but the rice box was good enough. We did not have another date, but he has been sending me intermittent updates on his dating life. Good for him.

My friend Daisy came to visit London as she had an interview, so she thought she’d stop by and say hi. The last time she did this (she had a lot of interviews) we went for Vietnamese, and this time I suggested either Mexican or Korean.

Onthebab came as a recommendation from someone at work who had also steered me in the right direction with my favourite Italian deli, Terroni.

There was a 10 minute wait. Daisy was tired from the mile walk and ravenous from the 10-hour no eating. We were finally seated, then abruptly moved as there was a wheelchair user. Our second seat was better.

Daisy told me that she had been offered three jobs.

“Let’s order lots to celebrate while you regale me with your successes.”

That we did.

We went for the Korean fried chicken as the first starter, served with garlic mayo as per the waitress’ suggestion. It was delightful. The real K in KFC is Korean.


Half-eaten KFC (the kind of KFC that you’d want)

For our second starter we opted for the Kun Mandu, or pan-fried shrimp dumplings. As I’m half Chinese and Daisy is half Chinese/half Malaysian, we do like our dumplings. Is that racial stereotyping? Who cares. It is about myself.

We were right to order this. Flavour-wise, this was definitely the stand out of the meal. We both did that obnoxious “oh my, this sure is tasty” face, and carefully watched to ensure that neither of us were getting more than the other.


Half-eaten kun mandu. Not much to look at, but plenty to taste.

The girl that recommended Onthebab to me said that their buns were particularly good, the saucy minx. She is a vegetarian, so doesn’t get to delight in the majesty of spicy pork, but I do, so no love lost there.

Kate, the friend through whom Daisy and I know each other and who I will be maid of honour for in July 2017, once said that a dealbreaker for her in relationships would be if the guy was a vegetarian. I don’t think she quite understood the question, but at least she knows what she wants. The koala, the deer and the cat: Daisy, Kate and I.

Onto the buns. Or should I say, “on the buns”. These were soft andstill managing to pack in a lot of meat and not be too messy an eat.

Later that evening I read that Bao’s pork bun had been proclaimed the best dish in London by Time Out so felt some regret that I’d slummed it for Onthebab, but Taiwanese and Korean are not the same. I can see why the girl in my China group likes Korean food so. It is quite a flavour palate unto itself, especially when done well. Plus Bao apparently usually has a wait time of at least half an hour which Ravenous Daisy and Impatient Sophia would not have liked.


Bun fresh


I am a charming dinner companion, photographing my unwitting friend and posting the evidence online. Paparazzo.

The final part of our meal was the bulgogi beef on the rice. It was the most blah of the meal, but was still not without its merits. Beef isn’t my favourite meat, and the sublime flavours from the rest of the meal left a lot to live up to, or compete with.


We drank our tap water and left. On the way out I saw a table having an impressive beer fountain which the girl that recommended Onthebab to me also mentioned. Were I more into beer I may have had this, purely because it looks impressive.

Daisy was still hungry. As was ever-gluttonous I. The food was tasty but the portions could have been more generous. Hipsters eat for show, not for sustenance.

We went to Chinatown for bubble tea and red bean dessert.

Korean food still hasn’t stolen my heart, but it’s getting there. Onthebab is another restaurant that seems to generate queues. With so many restaurants around, it does make me wonder why people don’t just try somewhere else. Then again, good things come to those who wait.

7/10 – portion control

Onthebab, 36 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7BD. Branches also in Shoreditch and Old Street



One thought on “Onkoreanfood: Onthebab

  1. Pingback: Pho Ckoff: My Unconvincing Relationship With Vietnamese Food | This Is Not A History Blog

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