I’m a huge foodie, and a massive fan of Asian cuisine, so when Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall opened up in Colindale, not far from the old, now defunct, but still legendary Oriental City shopping centre, I had it on my wish list for months.
I finally got to visit a couple of weeks ago, and it was definitely worth the wait. I don’t have the words to describe the incredible food I had there, but I’m going to give it my best shot…
One of my favourite things about the food hall is that many of the kiosks are small, family-run businesses, selling dishes that are old recipes, delighting in sharing their nation’s best cuisine with customers. I’m a huge believer in the power of cooking to cross boundaries, to bring people together, and to demonstrate some of humanity’s best traits: generosity, enthusiasm, kindness… you might think it’s all a bit much to get into when you’re talking about filling up for lunch, but actually I felt quite moved after my visit and hearing so many chefs and small business owners speak passionately about why they wanted to share their skill with the people who sit down to eat here every day.
Take Makatcha, for example, where Maria, the owner, rushed from behind her counter to tell me all about her family’s 150 year old beef rendang recipe that it took her six months to prise out of her mother. Full of questions about my own experiences with Indonesian cuisine, she eagerly suggested I try the rendang and black manis chicken wings. The kiosk, decked out with a snazzy menu board that looked like a trendy diner, was dominated by a large rotisserie cooking satay style chicken, and the company also trades at Kerb Camden as well as various food and music festivals throughout the UK.
Plated on a gorgeous pastel blue plate with sweet-chilli dressed salad, pickle, rice and a spicy sambal, the rendang was one of the most attractive dishes I had – and the competition was fierce, I have to say! I loved the side dishes and the sambal was an incredible addition to the sweet, creamy curry. Shredded slow cooked beef in a spicy, coconut sauce, it was rich and delicious, and not at all too hot – your level of fire can be adjusted with the sambal, which makes this great for chilli-heads and tamer tongues alike.
The black manis chicken wings were a revelation – I’m a sucker for chicken wings, and these hit the spot so well. Tender, melt in the mouth chicken with a sweet, tangy and sticky tamarind based marinade, they’re the perfect addition to any meal – or great with a beer or two from The Pearl Lounge, the licensed bar in the hall.
Maria also spoke with me enthusiastically about her vegan and vegetarian offerings, so if you’re cutting down on meat in your diet I would highly recommend a visit!
Another family-run kiosk is Manila Kitchen, which serves Filipino home cooking with a modern flair. Dawn was more than happy to talk me through the menu which contained classic Filipino dishes like Beef Kare Kare and Coconut Adobo, alongside fusion dishes like burgers and Tocino Cheese Fries (which I’m dying to try – French fries topped with Tocino bacon – bacon cured with pineapple – melted cheese, and caramelised onions).
I’d already enjoyed some home-cooked Filipino food at my friend’s house, so I was eager to try more, and plumped for the Chicken Adobo, which is cooked with soy sauce and vinegar. Dawn also insisted I try their clear soup, which comes free with some of their dishes that don’t already come with a sauce.
The Adobo was just as I had hoped – rich, succulent chicken with a tasty, piquant sauce that had reduced to a glossy blanket pooling into the rice. Along with the crisp salad vegetables on the side, this was a window into the home-style cooking of the Philippines, a cuisine which is rapidly growing in popularity in the UK. The soup was clear but sticky and rich with flavour, delivering a sweet-sour tamarind kick with a salty, savoury punch at the end. A real winner!
One of the dishes I was intrigued to try was the roast duck from The Four Seasons. Hailed by many as the best roast duck in the world, The Four Seasons boasts branches across the world, including in China Town, but this kiosk specialises in roasted and braised meats, like BBQ pork, soy chicken, rice wine chicken, and the like. There was only one thing I was after, though, and I have to tell you, I haven’t stopped thinking about that roast duck since I tried it.
Succulent, perfectly roasted duck, encased in crispy skin under which lies a layer of wobbly, unctuous, melt-in-your-mouth fat, this is not a dish for the faint of heart or those embarking on a diet. There’s a sweet-savoury taste to the duck, which is basted in a secret sauce known only to the chef – perhaps a bit of star anise, some ginger, maybe cloves? If you love the flavour of Chinese five spice you’re sure to enjoy this – the combination of those secret herbs and spices, the sweetness and the soy sauce, poured over a freshly roasted duck with golden, crackling skin, moist, tender flesh, and that special layer of golden, wobbling fat… It’s no wonder this has been named the best roast duck in the world. I’m still thinking about it and those sticky, sweet and tangy black manis chicken wings from Makatcha weeks later – it’s actually become an obsession of mine.
My final stop (and if you think this was a lot of food for one person, you’re correct… I ended up with a lot of takeaway tubs!) was Ramen Samurai Ryu. Ramen noodles from the famous, late Hong Kong chef Yamagishi Kazu, the kiosk offers a wide range of base soups with traditional toppings.
I have fond memories of solitary suppers in Tokyo with steaming bowls of ramen in front of me, gyozas to the side, so I was really excited to see how Ramen Samurai Ryu stacked up. I went for the black garlic chicken but I was also highly recommended to try the spicy soup base too, which is next on my list.
The glorious black broth is made with garlic that’s fried to a black crisp to create this nutty, flavoursome oil that’s added to the base soup stock, which you can see bubbling away in an enormous vat at the back of the kitchen. Just as with the other three kiosks I visited, the chefs are passionate and their love and expertise shines through in the finished dishes, from the succulent grilled chicken to the soft-cooked Japanese egg that garnished the hearty bowl.
It was a genuine honour and privilege to meet the staff from the four kiosks I visited at Bang Bang, and I hope I managed to convey what exceptional food they served in this post. The foodhall is a jewel in the foodie crown of London, and a worthy showcase for the excellent cuisine of Asia. I’ve been raving about it to everyone and anyone who will listen for days now, and if you are in London, you must visit! The nearest Tube station is Colindale, and it’s an easy 30 minute journey from Waterloo. It takes about ten minutes to walk to the foodhall from the Tube station, but you’ll need the exercise to work off all those calories! I visited Indonesian, Filipino, Chinese and Japanese outlets, but there are scores of others, and they all specialise in incredible food, from dim sum to chai tea, pastries to sushi. It’s a paradise for food-lovers!
Visit Bang Bang Oriental Foodhall here. There’s also a brand new Asian supermarket right next door if you think you want to replicate some of these dishes at home! The foodhall is always hosting amazing events, too, so check them out here. Don’t forget Chinese New Year is coming up soon!
My dishes were on the house at Bang Bang, but as usual my opinions and photography are my own.