[Edit: Menu picture below updated March 2012. To see a larger version go to My Flickr]
A while back now I had some mates over and we remembered that Wuli Wuli do takeaway. I’ve been ordering one most Saturday nights since then and it’s so good I thought it might be worth a little reminder for those locals amongst you.
Remember you need to order from the Sichuan ‘B’ side of the menu, the other side is just the usual gloopy rubbish. Last night we feasted on (clockwise from top), mapo tofu; smacked cucumbers with garlic sauce; shredded potato with garlic sauce; the appetisingly named ‘saliva chicken’; monk’s vegetables and fried pork country style. Here’s a picture of the menu (below) in case it’s your first time and you don’t have one. This is the only page you need. If you’re going to order using the numbers make sure to say, “number 126-B” otherwise you’ll end up with number 126 from the A side of the menu and you’ll be faced with sweet and sour chicken balls.
The people are very friendly, the delivery super speedy (I’ve never had to wait more than 30 minutes for my food) and cheap; this lot (with 2 steamed rice) came to £30 and it fed 2 of us twice that evening and for lunch the next day. You get 2 free beers or a large soft drink with orders over £25. For me, nothing cuts through Sichuan food like an ice cold fizzy beer.
Wuli Wuli 15 Camberwell Church Street London SE5 8TR Tel: 0207 708 5024 Free delivery on orders over £10 Open Mon-Sat 12-11pm and Sat-Sun 12-11.30pm; delivery time: 5-11pm.
[IMPORTANT EDIT DECEMBER 2011: Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre has now been taken over by new management and I’m sorry to say, is no longer worth visiting. They once served the best jerk in South East London but it’s now dry, lacking in heat, flavour and all around love. I couldn’t be more sad/angry!]
I’ve been working my way around the jerk shops of Peckham. Some have been soul destroyingly pants. Spice and Nice Bakery, I’m looking at you. Gabby’s takeaway, you made me sad. It has not been a good couple of weeks on the SE London jerk scene and then, to top it all, I received the earth-shattering news from a friend that the chef at my favourite place, Smokey Jerkey in New Cross, doesn’t use scotch bonnets in his jerk marinade. I mean, what?! I’m still reeling.
It’s enough to plunge a woman into dark mental places but I’ve found salvation in Caribbean Spice, which has sprung up all happy and yellow under an arch near Peckham Rye station. As with most jerk shops and to be fair, most places in Peckham, it’s a no-frills outfit. There’s a kitchen where they cook stuff, a counter for serving it on and a few stools should you wish to hang about to eat it. No messing.
I was down there the day after they opened, default-ordering jerk chicken. It was very good indeed. Wet marinated and suitably sticky with sugar, it necessitated a good bout of finger-licking afterwards. The chilli heat made me sniffle. I wondered if it needed more allspice but when I looked down for my next bite to make sure, it was all gone. Caribbean Spice, welcome to Peckham. You’ll do a roaring trade in such a perfect location. So many times, I’ve come out of that station and before I know it, I’m standing in front of the counter placing an order. At this rate, I’ll need to start taking a different route home.
Caribbean Spice Jerk Centre
Station Arcade, Rye Lane
(It’s in the alleyway that is the side entrance to the station)
Tel: 0207 358 8491
I snubbed breakfast and arrived absolutely ravenous and half an hour an hour early for the Jerk Cook Out. I wanted to get the measure of the place, formulate a plan of attack and talk to some of the cooks. As the meat hit the grill and the smoke started twisting above the trees though, I got impatient and began repeatedly texting and calling my friends until one of them turned up; some pleasantries were exchanged (“how are you?” “yes yes fine whatever so let’s go to this place first then this then this…”) and we were off.
Tasty Jerk have won the competition two years running. I asked them if they fancied their chances but the answer came that they were just in it for kicks; if you win twice in a row then you have to take a year off. We got stuck right into some of their jerk pork belly. The fat was like eating the pork scratchings of my dreams. I like a touch more cloves in the mix but the allspice was prominent enough and I wonder if they put berries in the coals to infuse the smoke. As styles go it was more dry rub than sticky glaze but there was skill in the cooking and confidence in the spice.
There are different styles of jerk; there’s the all-in-one marinade and then the dry rub and glaze. I want to experiment with the latter. Some places seemed to be serving the meat with a sweeter sauce on the side. Last year’s runners up Jerk Lan took this approach, with disappointing results. Their sign urged us to ASK FOR SPECIAL SAUCE and so of course we did, which was a shame because it ruined the meat. I was thinking hot pepper paste with a donkey kick but instead we got saccharine gloop which seemed to be a mixture of the worst sweet and sour sauce of my life, sugar syrup and water. We could only judge the meat by licking the crusted remnants of chicken skin from the corners of our mouths, which, incidentally, were good and garlicky.
Over a swift pint of Meantime Pale Ale at The Florence it was time to re-group and digest before riding back on the second wind. My friend enjoyed our third portion better, although I can’t say I thought much of it. The real surprise came in the form of a spit roasted lamb, again from Tasty Jerk. Shards of crunchy skin and fat with a proper heat elevated to an out of body experience by the accompanying chilli sauce.
The lurid artificial hue of a drink is directly proportional to its level of efficacy in quenching the fire in your mouth. Everyone should know this. A couple of Slush Puppies the colour of 1980’s neon leg warmers brought us back from the endorphin super highway. Thought you’d turned your back on the SP at ten years of age? Think again.
The problem with an event getting bigger of course, is that quality becomes diluted. Our pork and lamb were great, although I did know of them and make a beeline. A later impulsive purchase of curry goat was watery and timidly spiced but there were so many places to choose from, it was hard to know where to start over-indulging. When considering this conundrum, it seemed that my only chink of light would come in the form of my judging the competition, so that I could visit each and every stall. I would systematically work the field, savouring each nugget of pork, fish and chicken like it was my last before slipping peacefully into a jerk coma.
And then I’d wake up.
The annual Jerk Cook Out Festival takes place in Brockwell Park (formerly Horniman Museum) in August. Dates vary so keep an eye out. This year’s event ran from 12-6pm.
I live in the sometimes dirty, smelly and er, ‘lively’ area of the capital and I love it. Right now, I’m living in Peckham, and you’ll often hear mesticking up for it. The high number of African and Caribbean people living here means we get some damn good grub, which by its nature is heavy on spice. Many restaurants here lack the polish and presentation of more Northerly establishments, which to be honest, is part of their charm.
Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly interested in Caribbean food, which started with a trip to the annual Jerk Cookout in the gardens of The Horniman Museum in 2007, on the off chance that it might be a nice day out. I would now never consider missing it. Holidays will be scheduled around it. I’ve picked up a few tips along the way and tried out my own recipes for jerk chicken and curry goat but as I’ve realised, these recipes are something which take a long time – years, generations even, to perfect. In the meantime I’ve dedicated my days to visiting as many Caribbean restaurants as possible and I’ve learned that you are on your own trying to work out the secrets of the good places – ask and they clam up completely; heads shake firmly and eyes widen in disbelief.
It’s not all good of course, there are always some howlers. When I was planning our recent Peckham restaurant crawl I planned to take everyone to a Caribbean place a few minutes from my doorstep: ‘God Bless Caribbean Restaurant’. Thank goodness I decided to check it out first. The jerk was incredibly bland, as was the curry goat (which was mostly bone anyway). Strangely, the rice and peas were the best I’ve ever had but not even that will make me return to sample their dry, tasteless, spiceless meat ever again. Shame, because it takes all of three minutes to get there. Lizzie on the other hand, is more fortunate. Literally a few minutes walk from her front door in New Cross stands the unassuming shack that is Smokey Jerkey. When she told me of the tantalising wafts of grill smoke she endures on a daily basis and the surly woman who turns out some of the best damn jerk she’s ever tasted, it was a done deal – I had to try it.
“Is it shut?” I asked as we approached, with more than a hint of desperation in my voice. It wasn’t – it just always looks like that. A padlocked grill covers the front and inside there are a couple of chairs and a counter where you order the food. That’s basically it. We ordered the jerk chicken with rice and peas (£3 lunch special), and scurried back to eat it.
The portion was generous and not too rice and pea heavy as can often be the case. The chicken was succulent and chopped into hand manageable pieces in the way that Caribbean places always do. And the jerk seasoning? Brilliant. I found it pleasantly sweeter than other jerk I’ve had, sticky with caramelised crusty bits and infused with a smoky char. The flavour was fruity with scotch bonnet chillies and the heat started as a little numbing tingle on the lips and slowly built to good ‘n’ hot. We also doused on some hot sauce for good measure. The heady mix of spices was not too powerful and the extra sweetness prevented that dusty wallop that can happen when it’s a case of too much spice and not enough everything else.
All in all, this is some of the best jerk I’ve had in the South East and I highly recommend you try it if you are passing through the area. By the way, if I’ve missed any SE London bloggers, then please do reveal yourselves – it’s always nice to find some more locals to share tips, drinks and maybe even restaurant crawls with. Also, I know I’m asking a lot of questions at the end of my posts right now but if you have some favourite jerk places anywhere in London then I’d love to hear about those too. I do venture North of the river occasionally you know…