Café Bibimbap (Korean) – West Ealing, LondonHALAL STATUS Fully Halal
While we have, in the past, compiled a list of London’s Halal-friendly Korean eatries, which incidentally continues to be a very popular resource editorial, this one is rare in that it’s fully Halal.
Café Bibimbap’s owner, Yeohan Kim, who’s a model, budding actor, and presenter, and who converted to Islam in 2016, has setup shop in a small galleria in West Ealing called Al Jazeera Mall on The Broadway.
Although indoor seating is currently limited to no more than three, with the option of a small table being temporarily setup outside, we were informed that more will become available soon when the café secures the premises next door.
Inspired by “mum’s homemade healthy food”, the menu is succinct, with a trio of Bibimbaps and Specials that can be had with the traditional Korean side dish of fermented cabbage called Kimchi, as well as plenty of Korean-inspired teas with a few Korean Patisseries and Snacks.
This Chicken Bibimbap was tremendous! The key to this classic dish, however, is in the name itself, with bibim meaning mixed and bap meaning rice; in other words, be sure to give this eye-catching assortment of rice, noodles and colourful condiments a good mix.
And once you do, the entire thing is brought alive, with the lightly spiced and succulent chicken being complimented by the layers of tangy-sweetness courtesy of the various sauces, including the Korean chilli called Gochujang, and the cooking oils used therein.
With cucumbers, mushrooms, carrots and other vegetable goodies, this bowl, and a large one at that, is just a delightful plethora of textures and tastes.
In addition, we ordered a Bibimbap with the addition of a fried egg too whose yolk succeeded in enriching the dish with its velvety goodness.RECOMMENDED
Having tried the chicken and the beef bibimbap, both with and without a soft fried egg, we would strongly suggest considering the beef before the chicken, and definitely with the egg so as to really enjoy the full, intended experience.
To be sure, while both are equally enjoyable, it’s the beef which, sliced and cooked in a soy sauce and onion-based marination, provides a more well-bodied, umami flavour.
Paired with a side of the palate-cleansing kimchi, with its sweet and slight acidity helping to cut through the chilli gochujang sauce coating the bibimbap, the portions here are equally generous, which is always a plus.
Subject to availability, you also have the option of requesting different toppings, such as the light and crunchy deep-fried seaweed we opted for, which provided some textural contrast.
No matter what combo it might be, you’ll be highly satisfied and very full by the end of your meal.RECOMMENDED
Presenting the Vegetarian Bibimbap in a hot pot actually turned out to be extremely effective in that everything along the sides and bottom, including the aforementioned sauces, continued to slowly be cooked, thereby adding that extra textural dimension that was absent in the above.
As such, not only was this version just as varied in its flavours, aromas and textures as its chicken counterpart, but superior too thanks to its presentation.
In short, these Bibimbaps – and we’re quite confident that the beef version will be just as good – are traditional bowls of healthy goodness which we can’t recommend enough.
Why not give their Kimchi a go too if you’ve never had one before. Although a small portion of the crispy fermented cabbage drizzled in chilli Gochujang sauce does cost £3.50, it was an interesting experience, and one that helped cleanse the palate in between courses.
And if you really enjoy it, then you can put in a pre-order (3-days notice required) and pick up a 1kg bag for £12.50 with a 20% discount.
Whilst that attractive thing contained slithers of red and yellow peppers, and was covered in plenty of green scallion and sesame seeds, ours was merely topped with a few slices of red peppers, mushrooms, some greens, and a lettuce leaf.
The thin-glass vermicelli noodles were a little sticky and chewy in texture too, only made marginally better with a drizzle of soy sauce. Both visually and flavour-wise, this wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as the bibimbaps.
With the Chicken Mandu, or dumplings, being unavailable, we ordered a portion each of the pan fried Vegetarian and Prawn Mandus. Despite the latter being smaller in size than the former, both sported a crispy exterior.
Of the two, we enjoyed the soft and mildly sweet prawn filling more than the veggie, which was made better by the accompanying soy sauce dip. Not the best dumplings we’ve had; but not bad ones either.
Sadly, the kitchen had a few technical issues on the day culminating in us being served (on the house) something resembling an Indian puri rather than a pancake.
In spite of the mishap, however, this was perfectly edible, turning out to be a sticky-cum-crispy affair, with a sweet sugary liquid centre, which we rather enjoyed with our selection of Korean teas.
Being out of Custard Pies and Matcha Tea Pies, we went with the only available option; the Korean Choco Pie. Now, we’d never heard of a Korean Choco Pie before; and we were also unsure as to why a pie would only cost £1.50. Perhaps they were mini pies or something, we thought.
Instead, these so-called pies are nothing more than the UK equivalent of a classic Wagon Wheel! In this case, the Korean Choco Pie had a more gelatinous texture to it. Nothing more to say other than that.
We love our teas, and Café Bibimbap didn’t just deliver on serving us some exotic Korean kinds, but also dropped some knowledge about one brand that required just a simple chicken egg yolk for it to be served as some delicacy at £25 per serving!
But before coming to that, let’s start with the Pomegranate Tea, which was fairly strong in flavour and quite soothing too. In contrast, the Ginseng Tea was akin to green tea, turning out far more subdued and subtle in nature.
But it was the Ssanghwa Tea, with the addition of Korean dates, that turned out to be our pick of the beverages. Be sure to give it a good stir first though to really enjoy that sweet nectar goodness.
There was also the Gyeolmyeongja, or Sickle-pod, Tea which, we were told, not only has medicinal properties, but was the one which costs an arm and a leg with the addition of a chicken egg yolk. Fortunately, ours was free of any eggs; and thus only cost us £2.50.
- NO/ NO
Having only been open a few weeks, it's also only a matter of time before any teething issues are addressed and rectified. In the meantime, be sure to visit and enjoy "mum's homemade healthy food", especially their Bibimbaps, which are prepped and cooked by the mother, who's as charming as she is welcoming.
Café Bibimbap's menu will also be available soon for home delivery through Deliveroo so watch out for that.
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