Before going to London, I asked friends and Facebook for tips on where to eat. And many of them recommended going to The Begging Bowl. Turned out this little Thai restaurant was located just about 500m from where I stayed in the very nice area of Peckham, where loads of things going on right now, yet it still has a quiet and small-town-feel to it.
We arrived at the restaurant way too late, with the kitchen already closed, but begged our way into getting some food and it was so worth it.
Surprisingly, although this is a restaurant serving Thai food, I didn’t see a person of Thai origin working there, neither in the service, nor in the kitchen. While I later learned that this is not unusual in London, I suspect it to be rather impossible in Germany or Berlin. I’ve experienced nationalism, or maybe the idea that a certain kind of national cuisine is only authentic if made by a person of the same nationality, to be a strong dogma in food. Appropriately enough I just had a discussion with a reader on Facebook, who suggested you can’t talk about Italian food unless you’re Italian – following her argument, this has something to do with having to grow up with certain flavors to be able to fully understand, enjoy and thus judge them.
Turns out, The Begging Bowl served the best Thai Food I had outside of Thailand – it was fresh, original with very natural flavors all over and yet being innovative. We ordered several smaller dishes (that’s how you do in contemporary London, a beautiful concept that’ll make it possible to taste way more than with the usual one big dish). Starting with stir-fried pork belly with red curry, Thai basil and green beans, a delicious clear chicken soup with Asian celery and then a curry with butternut squash, pickled garlic and ginger. All is served with two kinds of rice, the common jasmine rice, but also a portion of sticky rice that is served in a little basket.
Seeing the sticky rice for the main, I already hoped they’d be able to serve us one of my favorite Thai desserts: sticky rice with mango and coconut sauce. And they were. When it arrived my dinner partner wasn’t convinced by the looks of it (as you can tell from the picture), but once he got over that, we both indulged the sweet treat in consentaneous appreciation.
It was lovely to see how the London restaurateurs are not limiting themselves to the food culture they grew up with, but rather open a place serving the food they want to. This and the high quality innovative kitchen The Begging Bowl is serving, are a perfect example for why London is city with the most interesting food culture today. I need to go back and eat more.