Here’s a review from guest writer Ben
It’s not everyday I have time to dither on the Catford Bridge platform bound for London Bridge. Missing one today, I wandered back up Catford Road for a drink.
Slightly surprised to discover a brightly painted yellow boutique with even brighter red stencilled lettering: “FLK Chinese Groceries” I wondered how it had escaped my attention, although absent-mindedness runs in the family, I had never noticed this petite oriental boutique, mesmerised as soon as I walked in, to see perfectly meticulously arranged shelf after shelf of delightfully exotic groceries and snacks. “How long have you been here?” I asked Fiona Lai Yuen, the owner whose shop acquires its initials. “About eight years.” she replied.
As a Catford local, I was stunned. How have I managed to miss it for so long? Looking around to see what I was missing, I was greeted by the a welcoming shelf of choice rice crackers; with seaweed; with snowflakes; in oblong and moon shaped biscuits; exotic BBQ crackers, individually wrapped for comfort snacking on signal failures during train journeys. For the uninitiated, the tasty low calorie rice crackers, perfected in the Orient are great for starters.
Being local to the fabulous St Dunstans College, it’s no wonder these are a big hit with students grabbing a snack for the journey home.
I digress: my mission was to come in to find an alternative to the standard factory canned 60% sugar drink in newsagents. How refreshing to discover in the heart of Catford central, various kinds of chilled green teas; chrysanthemum flower tea, aloe veras – and an old favourite from my travel years in Thailand – a bottled version of the naturally sweet soya bean milk drink! Bottled drinks taste better than canned anyday.
My favourite gusty brewed plum wine, also graced the shelves besides a great selection of oriental specialist beverages on offer. What a great way to end the day after work made all the better within a few paces from the train station (after work of course).
So what makes this a delicatessen? Well, we are used to meat and regional delis popping up in fashionable villages and addresses. Fresh deliveries of succulent fresh fish and vegetarian roll sushi are supplied on Mondays and Tuesdays. In this day and age where every supermarket sells the tasteless rubbery pre-packaged version, it’s a delight to discover a tasty snack for a working lunch. Being vegetarian, one of my favourites is the freshly fermented pickled spicy Korean kimchi, which leaves a salubrious explosion of complex tastes and aromas in each mouthful. The uninitiated find the aroma overpowering – a great challenge for a best mate double dare to sample after work, although less courage is required than downing some of the wasabi sauces on offer!
Traditional oriental rice noodle rolls with shrimp and spring onion, steamed in bamboo baskets will be familiar to locals who frequent Chinatown for dim sum (点心) in the fresh deli section, alongside seasoned fresh green seaweed and a selection of traditional Chinese vegetarian, meat and lotus flower sweet dumplings.
I counted at least 20 different varieties of noodles including fresh white tubular Udon noodles; fresh rice noodles, fried yellow Shanghai noodles; brown and white vermicelli; buckwheat; soba; clear glass noodles – a great addition to fish soup consommés – enough to send a novice into a spaghetti head spin whilst noodling around the little tardis boutique. Selection of rice is no less diverse and the challenge of carrying a 20kg sac of rice, boarding a crowded train overcome for a small fee, via internet shopping for delivery within the London area, Kent and Croydon – worth the weight off your shoulders and priced at less than a train ticket.
For the chef who likes to prepare, be prepared for a great vegetarian selection of bean curds and tofus, black and yellow beans, speciality rock sugar and deserts. Even the most dedicated chef looking for a twist to the usual Catford markets will be pleased to discover a palette of ingredients which most mortals can’t spell!
All in all, FLK Chinese Groceries is such a gem of a discovery, I’ll be missing the train more to make an effort to discover the hidden delis and boutique grocers in Catford. Opening hours are eminently suited for commuting workers: Monday – Friday open from 11.00am – 8pm and Saturdays, 9.00am – 6.00pm.
Also good to know:
FLK Chinese Groceries,
Address: 3 Station Buildings, Catford Road, London, SE6 4QZ
10% discount for St Dunstans College staff & students & local NHS health professionals
Discovered by Ben Culverley
© October 2014