Posts tagged chinese
Korean BBQ in Ikeja GRA
 

NOSA: I added Hua Han to our the list sometime last year, but we never actually got round to it. The List is basically a never-ending list of restaurants we plan to visit. Yup, it is a thing that exists. The secret is out!

Anyway… Afrolems visited Hua Han and shared it on her instagram story, which brought it back to mind so we decided to check it out over the weekend.

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FOLLY: Walking into Hua Han Garden reminded me of my experience at Orchid House.

NOSA: Hua Han is like a little Korea (or maybe China) hidden in Ikeja GRA. You literally have to pop in some “dark alley” to find the place. The address says Sobo Arobiodu Street, but it’s really on Sasegbon Street. Or off it, at least. 

FOLLY: On entry, there is a lot of Asian decor and elements that immediately confirms to you that this is the real deal. You also walk past the fridges stocked full with Chinese beverages including the iced tea which I ordered. Then you open the menu and there aren’t even English translations for everything, at this point I was confident I was about to get an authentic experience.

NOSA: Sauf the drink menu, you get menus: Korean and Chinese. Chinese is boring so we opted for the Korean. You should, too, if you end up going there. With Korean BBQ, you basically select your meats off the menu and grill it yourself on the table. Optimizing for Nigeria, Hua Han has a waiter help you with it. It’s like what Grills In n’ Out tried and failed to do some years ago. It’s perfect if you have a big group and you guys can try a whole bunch of stuff. 

FOLLY: Nosa always tells this story about the first time his siblings took his dad to a restaurant like this where you “cook” your own food.

NOSA: So I’m not going to tell it again…

FOLLY: Wow okay, For our Korean Barbecue experience, I took the reigns of ordering and we got:

  • Roast Beef Korean Style

  • South Korea Imported Boutique Pork

  • Baked Steamed Bread

  • Korean Fried Chicken

  • Steamed Bok Choy

Roast Beef Korean Style

Roast Beef Korean Style

Roast Beef Korean Style

Roast Beef Korean Style

NOSA: I really really wanted to start off with some dumplings, but they had none. Only chicken spring rolls were available. Perhaps they optimised for Nigeria a bit too much by adding the “menu item not available in real life” option. 

FOLLY: Of the two meats, the Roast Beef Korean Style was my favourite…

NOSA: Same.

FOLLY: … because the raw meat arrived seasoned and so naturally tasted better when cooked. The taste profile of this was very swalty. The marinade probably had sugar in it that crystallised when it was cooked.

NOSA: Thin cut excellence and marinated to perfection. 

South Korea Imported Boutique Pork

South Korea Imported Boutique Pork

NOSA: The Boutique Pork was a bit blander than the roast beef, but I guess that’s by design. Not a fan, but I respect it.

FOLLY: I also found the pork to be bland, bland, and more bland. It tasted much better when dipped in the sauces and spices we were also served as condiments.

NOSA: It’s a very fatty cut and perfect with the sweet & sour sauce you get on the side. 

South Korea Imported Boutique Pork

South Korea Imported Boutique Pork

FOLLY: Bok Choy is a leafy vegetable that very common in South Asian menus. It typically will take on the taste of whatever it’s cooked in but it also tend to have a faintly bitter taste. The bitterness was mostly removed by sautéing in garlic but I still could taste the very light bitterness but that’s normal tbh.

Bok Choy

Bok Choy

FOLLY: Korean Fried Chicken is a popular street food which is fried very crispy and then coated in a variety of sweet/spicy but always sticky glazed sauce.

NOSA: The one at Hua Han reminded me a lot of mall Chinese and I loved mall Chinese when I was a proper fat ass. I could inhale a General Tso’s portion in seconds. 

FOLLY: In Los Angeles last year, we checked out the Ganjung - what was nice about that experience was that there were a number of sauce options to choose from.

NOSA: Actually, now that I think about it some more, it did taste a lot like the Ganjung chicken we had in LA and that is probably a better parallel since they’re both Korean Fried Chicken.

Korean Fried Chicken

Korean Fried Chicken

FOLLY: Hua Han’s version comes with a default sweet and sour sauce. Their version of Korean Fried Chicken slaps - very tasty crispy balls of chicken. 10/10, I highly recommend.

It won’t go well with rice so please don’t report back and say you ordered it with rice and it was weird. Just eat this on its own as it is, and if you must, wrap in the lettuce that’s served with the meats to make a lettuce chicken wrap.

 

POSTCRIPT

NOSA: I really loved Hua Han and if it wasn’t so far away, I’d check it out more frequently. If you live in the area, you should definitely do it for Sunday lunch. 

FOLLY: The waiter seemed a bit angry sha. I think he was surprised we went with the Korean food.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Bok Choy - N2400

Steamed Bread - N1500

Korean Fried Chicken - N4500

Roast Beef Korean Style - N7600

South Korea Imported Boutique Pork - N5800

 

PARKING

It’s not plenty like that lol. Maybe 3/4 cars

Kiss Noodle Injects Delight Into The Palms' Food Court
 

NOSA: Chinese food is one of the most fascinating things I’ve personally encountered. Especially the regional interpretations of it. Like, how Chinese food in America is slightly different from Chinese food in Nigeria. From General Tso’s Chicken in America to Ramen and Gyoza in Japan, there’s a lot to be written about the migration of Chinese people and how well they adapt (and influence local cuisine) when they migrate. When we visited Accra last year, one of the local food bloggers told us how Chinese fried rice was so popular that Ghanaians have co-opted it as their thing.

FOLLY: One of the ways you can see how big Chinese food is a thing here in Nigeria is at our celebrations. At events, you’re often offered the Nigerian menu as well as a Continental or Oriental menu. The oriental menu usually has adapted Nigerian favourites like glass noodles, sweet and sour chicken, curry shredded beef etc. More could be said about this in a broader discussion about that, which this is not.

NOSA: Noodles (read: Indomie) are really popular in Nigeria and it’s a bit strange that Ramen Shops or Noodle Bars haven’t really exploded here. Actually, maybe it’s not that strange, I can’t really see Nigerians getting into soup noodles to be honest. Indomie “Bars” are definitely a thing, however, but that’s an off topic discussion for another day. Kiss Noodle is very much in the Ramen Shop mould and it’ll be interesting to see how well they do in Lagos. 

FOLLY: Noodle shops that Nosa would go to have not exploded here, but street food stands that deal in Indomie and egg exclusively, are popular in areas that I frequent in Lagos. I’ve seen quite a few on street corners in Lekki, Victoria Island, and Yaba. It’s usually just a wooden table covered with a table cloth or tarp - then they have a crate of eggs and the Indomie variants stacked on the table.

FOLLY: Enough of the backstory though, we checked out Kiss Noodles in Palms a few weeks ago. We came to know about it through one of our chef friends.

NOSA: I’m not the biggest fan of the location. Like, I see how it could work in a mall’s food court but I absolutely hate it because I hate The Palms with a passion. Noodles are a very intimate thing so having random men come sit  on your table with your face in a bowl of noodles is not the vibe. Oh, and if the name didn’t give it away, the menu is full on noodles. There’s a sprinkling of Nigerian Chinese in there to keep it accessible. 

FOLLY: They also have a Nigerian team member at the front desk too, in order to keep things accessible in that regard as well because there is a SIGNIFICANT language barrier with the international staff.

NOSA: Because Folly and I like to pretend we’re not Philistines, we avoided the accessible stuff and went all in. We got the Braised Beef Noodles Soup and Shanxi Fried Sliced Noodles, with a side of dumplings.  

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NOSA: For a mall food court, it’s a bit on the pricey side. Sounds a bit rich saying that with Debonairs around the corner, but I’m sticking with it. Nothing in a food court should cost over N2000. If you have to make portions smaller, then so be it. Once you start pricing things at N4000, then I full expect a waiter and proper table service. 

FOLLY: I was surprised about the prices too but I was really excited about the food so I didn’t focus on the prices at all.

NOSA: I really like dumplings and they’re pretty hard to mess up so it’s easy to easy to see why I ordered it. As expected, they didn’t let me down one bit. I still haven’t figured out how eat soup dumplings with chopsticks. That’s the one skill I really want to acquire this year. 

FOLLY: The dumplings were confusing to me because we had three different kinds in one bowl - pork, meat, chicken. I’m not really big on steamed dumplings and I prefer pan fried too so this wasn’t really a winner for me - based on personal preference.

NOSA: I’m not really big on soup noodles so I ate more of the flat noodles, which looked more interesting when they were being made than when I actually ate the thing. Watching the guy make the noodles from scratch makes a great Boomerang, by the way.

FOLLY: The flat noodles tasted oddly like bok choy. Okay, that’s not odd because there was bok choy in the noodles, I just didn’t expect it to taste overwhelmingly like Bok Choy considering the small amount of bok choy that was in the dish.

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On the soup noodles, it wasn’t similar to Pho at all - the flavour profile was really different (most noticeably there was no cilantro) and it wasn’t as fragrant. I repeat, if you’re expecting something similar to pho, this is not the one. it was okay in it’s own regard - 7/10.


POSTSCRIPT

NOSA: It’s not, like, great GREAT but it’s good enough. And it’s also hard to find anything like this in Lagos so I’ll definitely come back.

FOLLY: When they have a proper space so I don’t have to deal with random men in my personal space who ask if I brought the table from my house and other questions.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Dumplings - N4000

Braised Beef Noodles Soup - N3500

Shanxi Fried Sliced Noodles - N3500

 

PARKING

It’s a mall so there is A LOT of parking, you just have to pay.

Gypsy's Champions Portion Sizes in Ilupeju
 

NOSA: The biggest knock on dining out in the Lagos mainland isn’t the lack of options per se. They exist, bountiful even. 

FOLLY: The mainland doesn't have many fancy restaurants (outside of hotels) but they do have a lot of 'just there' establishments.

NOSA:The real struggle is the options fall short when it comes to quality and when they don’t, they lean heavily on the buka side. Bukas are great, but they have their place.

This brings us to Gypsy's, a cute little hard-to-find Indian/Chinese restaurant in Ilupeju. When you walk in, it feels like you’ve accidentally stumbled on a restaurant that has been intentionally hidden. Bar the waitstaff, we were probably the only Nigerians (read: black people) in there.

Vegetable Samosa

Vegetable Samosa

FOLLY: Ilupeju has a huge Indian population so that kind of explains a lot of that. Why the huge population exists in Ilupeju? That, I don't quite know. Maybe it's the proximity to the industrial area and factories? 

NOSA: It was very reminiscent of our first visit to My Coffee being the only Nigerians in a space. It’s interesting how a restaurant unknown to the larger population could be so popping.

FOLLY: They were probably wondering how we found it.

NOSA: There’s probably something to be said about niche markets and enclaves, but I’m not too smart to make the connection. 

FOLLY: If you know the explanation for the Indian population in Ilupeju, please explain to us. For now, we'll focus on the food. 

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NOSA: A fancier person might say the menu at Gypsy's is Pan-Asian. I’m usually wary of restaurants with menus span a couple specific regions so I stuck with Indian side of things. I mean, if the Chinese was that great, it wouldn’t have so many Indian people and no Chinese people in there. There’s a method to do the madness. 

FOLLY: And I naturally decided to wander into the Chinese section because a lot of Indian food is made with dairy and I'm lactose intolerant.

NOSA: I started with the Vegetable Samosa and finished off with the Chicken Tikka Masala and a side of Garlic Naan

FOLLY: The garlic naan was fabulous. I'm the type of person that doesn't really care about garlic breath and I absolutely love the bold flavour it adds to food. I loved how the naan also had bits of roasted garlic. With roasting, the flavours become a bit milder which also makes it more accessible to more people who don't really like the punch that it packs.

Garlic Naan

Garlic Naan

NOSA: Chicken Tikka Masala is probably the most basic of all the Indian dishes one can try. It’s like ordering a California Roll when getting sushi or Jollof Rice when getting Nigerian food. You could even argue that it’s not even authentic Indian food because you rarely find it in an Indian household like General Tso’s in a Chinese one. But the heart what the heart wants, Tikka Masala is comfort food abeg. Shoutout to the Southeast Asian brother in England that invented it. 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala

FOLLY: Butter Chicken > Tikka Masala in terms of comfort food levels though

NOSA: The Chicken Tikka at Gypsy's is incredibly delicious. I haven’t had it in a while in Lagos so maybe this has affected my perspective, but I can’t remember having any better in this city. A shame they had no cheese naan but the garlic naan did a good enough job. One observation that I kept making with each plate was that Gypsy's had ridiculously large portions for the price. Folly and I could’ve easily split my order without being dissatisfied. 

FOLLY: I can't believe the waiter didn't warn us and let us order all that food. 

NOSA: Folly went all Chinese with her order: starting with the Sesame Rolls and ending with the Fried Vermicelli in Singapore Style and Chopped Ribs with Black Bean Sauce on Hot Plate as her main. 

Sesame Pockets

Sesame Pockets

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FOLLY: The Sesame Rolls on the inside are a very thin layered flatbread. It's served warm so when you break it open, the trapped steam greets you lovingly. I'm convinced everyone loves warm bread.

NOSA: I expected the sesame pockets to be a lot smaller portion-wise. They definitely surprised me. We went with the chicken option for our sesame pockets, aka Shaobing. 

FOLLY: You're expected to scoop the chicken into the sesame pocket and excuse me for being pedestrian here, and make a "chinese shawarma". I was perfectly fine with the sesame pockets on its own and a lot of the chicken filling went un eaten as a result.

NOSA: Sesame pockets aside, I thought the Chinese side of the menu was pretty weak. The short ribs, in particular, were waaaay too salty. 

FOLLY: Bruh, the salt in this even seemed to 'develop' more overnight because the leftovers were unbearable. However, if you're able to make it past the salt, you get all the normal trappings of Chinese cuisine: ginger, sweet peppers, garlic, and onion. 

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Singapore Noodles

Singapore Noodles

NOSA: The Singapore noodles were a tad better.

FOLLY: Although still salty though. 

NOSA: Those short ribs were unforgivable. I get so giddy when I find really good restaurants in Lagos, especially when they’re on the mainland. Gypsy's is perfect for post-church lunch. 

FOLLY: I was pretty disappointed that I didn't get the try the Nutella Spring Rolls they had on their dessert menu as we were pretty full from just two courses. This simply means I have to go back.

 

POSTSCRPT

NOSA: I really liked Gypsy's despite my complaints about the Chinese. The sesame pockets are a must.

FOLLY: It's an excellent hidden gem in the heart of Ilupeju. More people need to know about it. 

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Garlic Naan - N500

Sesame Pocket - N3500

Vegetable Samosa - N1900

Chicken Tikka Masala - N2700

Fried Vermicelli in Singapore Style - N4000

Chopped Ribs with Black Bean Sauce on Hot Plate - N4000

 

 

PARKING

The parking was more than I'd expected with proper off street parking for 6 - 8 cars.

Chai Tang Restaurant Opens at TwinWaters
 

NOSA: Chinese food and older Nigerians go together like beans and rice. From special occasions to post-church lunches, Chinese restaurants are the OGs when it comes to dining out in Lagos. Oh, and buffets too.

FOLLY: There's a lot to unpack in the reasons why both of those are true...

NOSA: But we’re talking about Chinese restaurants today so lets focus on that. 

Chai Tang is nestled in an absolutely lovely space in the Twin Waters Entertainment Center, aka the Rufus & Bee building. It’s crazy how beautiful the space is, especially considering the shambles around the building. 

Chai Tang is a new Chinese Restaurant positioned to be the best in fine dining experience across the whole of Nigeria. Our menu has been carefully researched, selected and put together to satisfy your love of the Chinese cuisine in an extraordinary setting. Chai Tang is breathtakingly beautiful and sensibly decorated for the fine gentlemen and ladies that we serve. The amazing view of the blue Atlantic from Chai Tang will leave you breathless and relaxed. Eat, Drink and watch the sunset from the amazing Chai Tang. Great ambience, great service and amazing menus to choose from. Welcome to Chai Tang
— Twinwaters Website

NOSA: Chai Tang's menu isn’t particularly exciting. It’s boring as hell, actually, but it’s standard Nigerian Chinese fare and your mother will absolutely love it. Just come prepared to spend a bucket load because it is far from cheap. 

FOLLY: Fam, the prices hit me like a ton of bricks when I opened the menu. They also don't have two different portion size options like most Chinese restaurants in Lagos.

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NOSA: To start, we got a pair of spring rolls and some wontons. The wontons are a complete waste of money and you need to avoid them at all costs.

FOLLY: Roger that. Over fried with mystery meat inside. 

NOSA:The spring rolls are much better because they actually tasted like spring rolls. You know how they say "90% of the work is showing up"? Yeah, that's why the spring rolls get a passing grade. 

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FOLLY: The prawns in my main dish were much smaller than our server promised. I enjoyed it because of the ginger and when I mixed it with that spring roll pepper sauce and the rice (#Nigerian), I quite liked it. 

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NOSA: The seafood fried rice was great idea on paper, but I found it pretty meh. 

FOLLY: The addition of the calamari was what distinguished it from what Oriental or any other Chinese restaurant in Lagos might serve.

NOSA: It's a super large portion so most people might forgive. 

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NOSA: On Kitchen Butterfly’s Instagram, she checked out some Korean place in New York with really good fried chicken because Korean fried chicken is apparently a “thing”. Following that logic, I got the Crispy Chicken at Chai Tang because I assumed Asians must have the hands with chicken and Korea isn’t too far from China. Worst case, it’ll be like Nigerian and Ghanaian jollof

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FOLLY: I didn't even know this back story. I thought Nosa ordered it just because he wanted a dish that was "dry" and without the MSG laden sauces. 

NOSA: A big goof on my part for expecting a Korean fried chicken spot in New York and a Chinese Restaurant in Lagos to serve up the same thing. The Crispy Chicken at Chai Tang wasn’t particularly crispy so I don’t get why it’s called that. 

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FOLLY: Unlike Nosa, I found the chicken skin sufficiently crispy but I was a bit hesitant to delve into this fully because I found the slight pink tint of the chicken meat slightly uncomfortable. 

NOSA: The chicken didn't pack a lot of flavour and given how large the portion is, that's a bit a problem. 

POSTSCRIPT

NOSA: Eh. It’s ok. I’m not the biggest fan of Chinese food so maybe I don’t get it. Judging by the guests present on the day, most people will like it.

FOLLY: It's a perfect spot to take your parents or extended family for a special occassion lunch. There will be something for everyone

NOSA: That said, it’s ridiculously expensive.  

FOLLY: Yes, come with a briefcase of cash.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Spring Roll - N600 each

Crispy Chicken - N7500

Stir Fried Prawns - N9500

Seafood Fried Rice - N6200

 

PARKING

The Twin Waters complex has sufficient parking. 

Mr. Chang is a Throwback to Old Lagos

Mr. Chang

120 Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.

01 271 75 75

FOLLY: Over the years, my affinity for Nigerian-Chinese food has dwindled. In primary/secondary school, I might have lost my mind if my dad said we were going out after Church for Chinese.

NOSA: Now that I think about it, no one took me out for Nigerian "Chinese" when I was little. I don't even think I got anything when finished top of my class in Primary 3. Maybe that's why I've become such a hater of everything. If I got Chinese that year, this blog might be all sunshine and rainbows.

I digress.

FOLLY: These days, I find it too salty, too stew-y, too hot, too everything sha. 

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FOLLY: To start, we decided to skip our dumpling/shu-mai and go for the more common spring roll. It's hard to take an interesting photo of a spring roll so I tried to be artsy and break it into two to get the above shot. The actual spring roll was much better than that which you'd get in a small chops pack. Still crunchy and the veggies were FRESH. 

NOSA: Tasted as spring roll-y as ever.

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NOSA: For our mains, we went with as much MSG as we could pack in three plates - Rice Noodles with Beef, Shredded Pork Peking Style, and Kung Pao Chicken

FOLLY: Now see, I love noodles, so the only thing I ordered were the special fried noodles. I told Nosa he could choose the rest while I ordered the noodles.

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FOLLY: I was a bit let down by these not because I felt the flavor was very one dimensional - aka MSG. Nothing stood out to me, not ginger, not garlic, pepper it was all salt. 

NOSA: I thought I'd like the noodles, but I'm with Folly, it tasted too MSG-y to be enjoyed.

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FOLLY: Kung Pao chicken used to be my wave at Panda Express while I was in university in America. American "Chinese" is different from Nigerian "Chinese", which are both different than real Chinese and this explains why this was very unfamiliar to both Nosa and myself. 

NOSA: Nigerian "Chinese" is very much like British "Chinese".

FOLLY: The Kung Pao chicken we're both used to is a lot drier and spicier.

NOSA: This one was way too broth-y for me and I guess it's right in line with the Nigerian palate. Every time I get Chinese food in Lagos, the waiters always go "there's no sauce" at my order. We're very much a "rice and stew" nation. We like all our carbs with "sauce".

FOLLY: Also, the Kung Pao Chicken was too sweet and had carrots in it. This was very similar to the mushrooms in a pad Thai incident because carrots have no place in Kung Pao chicken *straight face*

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FOLLY: The shredded pork was solid. I gobbled this up when mixed with the noodles. 

NOSA: This was favorite of the lot too. As you can see, it's pretty dry and from my little spiel above, you can see why.

 

POSTSCRIPT

NOSA: At the price, it's really not worth it. The nostalgia doesn't make up for how the plates lack any distinguishing flavor beyond MSG.

FOLLY: They also added N3000 in service charge and VAT to the bill which was highkey irritating.The security man slash parking attendant didn't use his church mind. 

 

VERDICT

DAMAGE

Kung Pao Chicken - N4300

Vegetable Spring Roll - N500

Shredded Pork Peking Style - N4200

Fried Rice Noodle with Beef - N4600

 

 

PARKING

Typical Awolowo road business parking. Don't say we didn't warn you.

The security guards are annoying.