New Malden, the English Korean Town
“What do you mean New Malden is in Surrey? Isn’t it in London?”
Strange. I remember someone told me New Malden is in Surrey before my friend Connie argued it is in London. After some online research, this town sat at the border between London and Surrey. Some sites claimed it was once a part of Surrey before being claimed by the London Borough. Hence, the confusion.
Keeping my curiosity in mind, I proposed the idea to my other friend Jasmine. She had yearned for a quick weekend getaway, but she did not have a specific location in mind. We agreed to leave Guildford for the one in the afternoon train.
Train to London Borough
The train heading to Waterloo Station was slower than ever, as it also stopped at more stations. In the almost empty carriage, I took out my tablet and studied some notes. I occasionally chatted with Jasmine about our studies, especially about how the new semester is going on.
“Sheep! Sheep!” Jasmine cried. The train had passed through a field with tiny white sheep grazing the grass. They followed the motion of the clouds moving in the sky. It was only in the European countries we could find such adorable sights along the rail.
When the train reached the Cobham & Stoke D’Abernon station, it remained stationary. A raspy-sounding announcement stated a fallen tree had obstructed the path ahead, and the driver was still waiting for further instructions. We checked the train app several times; it went from delayed to cancelled. A typical day with the Southwestern Railway. After staying in a stuffy carriage for twenty minutes, the train redirected to another lane. Jasmine suggested we could transfer to Wimbledon.
“What happened?” A passenger asked a passing ticket master.
“A tree fell,” he said. “But I’m not sure if it tumbled itself or a driver hit by a driver.”
“It sounds like a James Bond movie.”
The two people chatted loudly, which somehow annoyed Jasmine. My stomach was grumbling, and I barely had any sleep throughout the night. However, the sight of red buses, colourful NHS graffiti, and teal green signs outside the window enlightened my mood. We left the train once it reached busy Wimbledon and ran to the other platform to catch the upcoming train.
It was only two stations away. We followed the other East Asia passengers leaving the station and headed to the High Street of New Malden.
The High Street Full of Korean Food
The High Street had an odd mixture of English-style shop lots, with an extra flair of contemporary Asian aesthetic. The fragrant smell from Korean BBQ restaurants enveloped the street, with a hint of sweetness from the boba tea store and bakeries. Aside from grocery stores stocking imported snacks and vegetables from the far East, there were several charity shops selling ex-beloved objects. A Methodist Church harboured a café, ready for believers to convene after the masses.
While taking photos of the street view, we found a signboard with the words: ‘Eureka Education and Consulting’ with a photo of a handsome-looking man with framed-glasses. It was a tuition centre. The bane of every Asian child’s existence; the source of childhood trauma; the shackle that binds the limbs. How surreal it felt to find a tuition centre in Europe.
“So there are tuition centre in Malaysia too?” Jasmine asked.
“Apparently, it is common in countries influenced by Confucianism. East Asian, in particular. Everyone wants to juan.”
(Juan is a Mainland China’s slang that refers to the competitive culture)
I also heard a Kumon centre was hiding within this English town. Good luck to the Asian children of this area.
A Nandos and a Weatherspoon branch guarded the end of the High Street. Ahead of us was a roundabout and neat row of residential houses. Jasmine and I tried to see if there were more shops in the corner, but only to find more houses.
“That’s it?” I exclaimed. Everything was within this street which I had walked along for 10 minutes.
Finally, Some Piping Hot Food
As time went on, the sound in my stomach complained louder. I should start looking for something to eat. Anything was fine. Jasmine did not like her coat smelling like smoke, so I had to find a place without someone grilling meat. We went from one restaurant to another, but all we saw were smokes from the grill. Every restaurant was occupied by families and friends, despite it was already three in the afternoon.
After making so many U-turns, we found a restaurant covered with dark window tints. YAMI claimed itself as a Japanese-Korean fusion, but the menu had a whole page of Korean cuisine. The place was dimly lit, pretty unexpected for Korean-style dining. We sat at a corner that was far away from a table that was having BBQ. I had a hard time choosing a main dish, so I settled for two starter dishes. Jasmine ordered a beef bibimbap.
A plate of bright orange kimchi pancake arrived. Although it was less crunchy than what I expected, it still tasted decent. Next, a stone-textured dolsot arrived. Hot steam and sizzling sound emitted from the bowl as Jasmine stirred the thinly sliced vegetables and beef together with the yolk and rice. A plate of golden fried chicken arrived last, gleaming in caramelised soy sauce. Korean fried chicken should not be too crispy, but I gladly bit into the meat. I also tried the bibimbap, and it was fantastic.
I really miss having warm food for lunch.
We were happy that we could clean the plates and bowl. Our stomachs were too full for dinner. Yet there was a possibility that I would get hungry in the middle of the night. I headed to a dessert store named Cake & Bingsoo, hoping I could get something sweet and filling.
Just like any other cafe, there were no free seats around. While waiting in front of the counter, my eyes rested on the selections of crepe cakes and cheesecakes. UK cafes serve a more uniform taste of carrot cakes or brownies, it was a relief to see something different. I bought a plain cheesecake, not too fancy but would satisfy my hunger late night. Jasmine was feeling cold, so she had herself an extra cup of hot coffee. Again, why the weather was still under ten degrees when it was about to reach March?
We rushed to the station to catch the train back to Guildford. When we saw the familiar sight of Lidl, Jasmine asked,
“Do you want to shop around Primark?”
Date of Visitation: 25th February 2023
8 out of 10
Opening Hours: 12noon-3pm & 6pm-10.30pm (Mon-Fri); 12noon-10.30pm (Sat & Sun); Closed on Tuesdays
Address: 69 High St, New Malden KT3 4BT
Cake and Bingsoo
Opening Hours: 9am-9pm (Mon-Sat); 10am-9pm (Sun)
Address: 39 High St, New Malden KT3 4BY