Top 15 Asian restaurants in London that won't break the bank
Without a doubt, my favourite thing about living in London is the 24 hour access to top quality Asian food. I have spent the last 5 years eating my way around Asian London and there is barely a chopstick left un-split. I’m no millionaire, but it’s fair to say a large majority of the money I’ve earned along the way has gone towards my noodle soup addiction. This has however, made me quite the thrifty noodle foodie and so all of the restaurants mentioned can be done for under £25 per head.
I know I’m cheating a little bit with the general sweeping of all ‘Asian’ cuisines into the same bracket but I simply love them all so please bare with me because I have some bangers. Here are my top 15 asian restaurants in London that won’t break the bank ( I tried to narrow it down to 10 but couldn’t, you’ll thank me later).
NB: I’m often on the hunt for my nearest Asian fix whilst on the move, so some of the places mentioned below are more of a grab and go than a romantic meal type place. I’ve come up with an ingenious codding system to make your decision easier, I’ve labelled any grab and go joint ‘cafe’ and any that are more of a restaurant vibe, ‘restaurant’ (I told you it was ingenious). Hope this helps, happy noodling!
My neighbours the dumplings is a great place to grab dumplings as well as other small plate dishes, a bit like a Chinese tapas. A relaxed and trendy family ran joint, you can expect Dim-Sim style food accompanied by some exquisite Sake from their Sake Bar.
2. SILK ROAD - CHINESE RESTAURANT, CAMBERWELL
If what you’re really after is a bathtub of thick, goey, stomach warming noodles in a salivatingly delicious sauce then look no further. Silk Road is a traditional Chinese restaurant, serving up much more of an authentic version of Chinese food than the take-away style we are used to here in Britain. Silk Road is famous for its fresh homemade noodles and huge flavours which pack a serious punch.
Mama Lan is 3 generations deep, originally starting life as street food in Beijing by Ning’s Grandma and Granddad before being opened as a super club in 2010 by Ning and her Mum in London. Flash forward a few years and Mama Lan has earned it’s place as firm favourite on Brixton Markets bustling food scene. Named after her Grandma, it’s clear that family and tradition is key to Mama Lan’s success. You can look forward to hearby dumplings, hearty noodle soups and zingy salads all packed with those sweet and sour chinese flavours we all know and love.
4. DUMPLING SHACK, CHINESE CAFE, OLD SPITALFIELDS MARKET
There’s one thing dumpling shack does well, and I think you can guess what that is. Dumplings. And Wonton Soup. Their menu is confidently simple with just 7 dishes, but oh are they good dishes. My personal favourite is the Tianjin Prawn Wonton Soup, there is nothing more comforting in the world than a Wonton soup. In fact I’m starting to think there’s nothing a good Wonton soup can’t cure. Can confirm: period pains check, heartbreak check, shitty English weather check, stress induced anxiety check.*
Please don’t sue me if you aren’t cured for any of the above it may not work for all*
I have a bit of a love hate relationship with my Bao in (my home turf) of Peckham. Love because there is literally nothing not to love and hate because they can never just ‘fit’ me and my friends in last minute as there is always a waiting list of 23405 people on any given evening. Of course we could always book, but where’s the spontaneity in that I ask you. If you like Bao buns and other Taiwanese small plates you will love Mr Bao, but maybe book to avoid disappointment.
If you are a bit useless like me, forget to book Mr Bao and inevitably don’t get in you can always nip across the road to Bahn Bahn, which I like equally as much but it’s obviously Vietnemese not Taiwanese. I would recommend the prawn lettuce leaf pancakes wraps and the Pho, although there’s lots of other yummy authentic Vietnamese dishes to try. I would say Bahn Bahn and Mr Bao are both a bit moody in decor and quite up market, perfect for a bit of a posh treat but still doable under £25 per head.
7. VAN HING - VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT, CAMBERWELL
Van Hing is a no frills Vietnamese restaurant in Camberwell. What it lacks in trendy decor, it makes up for in flavour and value for money. Probably the cheapest on the list and just as tasty as some of the more expensive places so you can’t really go wrong. I find with Vietnamese restaurants in London, you really need to look past the exterior to find some of the best hidden gems. The flavours in traditional Vietnamese cooking speak for themselves, so you can usually get some excellent quality food from places that look a bit worse for wear.
Tay Do is another classic example of impeccable Vietnamese cooking from a not so impeccable looking restaurant. Tay Do is part of what I like to call ‘the Vietnamese strip’ (think Magaluf but for Vietnamese food) in Hackney. For years I never knew the difference between all on the restaurants on the strip as they are equally as good as each other but recently I’ve come to the conclusion that Tay Do just has the edge on the others. Was I swayed by the BYOB option? It’s possible, but regardless you’re in for a treat with Tay Do. They also have a Tay Do cafe across the road which I think is owned by the same people, if you fancied an even more relaxed meal or a quick bite to eat.
9. CHAO NOW - VIETNAMESE CAFE, ST. PAUL’S
A trendy little Viet Cafe in St. Pauls. I used to work at St. Pauls and Chao Now became a bit of a problem for my waistline/wallet. There is usually a queue down the street at lunchtime through the week, which is understandable considering the flavours and so worth the wait. A highlight for me was the limitless pots of spicy sauce I could freely add to my Pho. And the spicy prawn crackers.
10, HOHAKI, VIETNEMESE RESTAURANT, ALDGATE EAST
You’ve probably guessed that Vietnamese food is a favourite of mine by now, so just take my word for it that you should try Hohaki. What makes Vietnamese food so packed full of flavour, is that it’s not ‘fast food’ (although it can be served as such). It takes hours of slow cooking and marinating of the flavours so they deliver maximum impact on your palette. At Hohaki their broth is simmered for over 10 hours to get the quintessential umami flavour and topped with the freshest herbs to create the perfect combination of tangy, rich, deep flavours that makes Vietnamese cooking so perfectly balanced.
11. KEU, VIETNAMESE CAFE, LIVERPOOL STREET OR SOHO
And finally in my Vietnemese favourites is Keu. My old manager was a Vietnamese refugee and this was her favourite spot in London. It is much more traditional than the more westernised ‘Hop’ across the street and because of this it attracts a more authentic crowd. The flavours are especially strong and I find them a little on the meaty/heavier side so I would avoid it if you’re looking for a ‘light’ lunch.
12. MIYAMA - JAPANESE CAFE, BLACKFRIARS
One of my favourite Japanese dishes in Tempura Udon, and Miyama does an exceptional Prawn Tempura Udon (soup). I introduced a group of my work friends to it and there was a phase where we would sell them out of Tempura Udon everyday due to it’s popularity. They also sell sushi and bento boxes which are equally good.
13. MUGEN - JAPANESE CAFE, FARRINGDON
This is always my first choice for sushi in London. They used to do a salmon sushi salad which was essentially sashimi salmon, avacado, lettuce, sushi rice with a vinaigrette dressing for £3.50 and it was the best thing ever, sadly I’ve never been able to recreate it since they discontinued it. Very sad. Maybe I’ll start a petition for them to bring it back, who knows. But alas their sushi is excellent and it’s very good value too. I urge you to head there over ‘Abacado’ and ‘Itsu’ just up the road. You will pay one third less and have authentic Japanese sushi instead of the westernised rubbish they sell in the others.
We’re nearly there folks, it’s been a long old road but look what you’ve discovered along the way? Kin is one of the few places I would sit on a 1 hour bus to get there, to eat their delicious food one more time. Another world class example of ‘Pan Asian’ done right. You can please your Thai loving friends with their Pad Thai at the same time as your Japanese loving friends with their Katsu Curry, each dish and culture with as much thought gone in to it as the next. I usually go for their Wonton Soup and egg fried rice which is the best I have had in London anywhere, even better than Dumpling Shack (sorry dumpling shack I still love you).
Well that’s been my top Asian restaurants in London that won’t break the bank, thank you for reading and if you read all the way to the end you’re a better human than me.