One of the best things about blogging a lot about food is that’s opened up a whole new social life for me. I’ve met lots of interesting foodies and food bloggers, discovered new places to eat and drink and learnt so much about ingredients, produce and the cuisine of different cultures.

I’ve had lunch with Kat several times now and as well as being a nice person to hang out with, each time I’ve learnt something new. This time, she introduced me to Kim Chi Tray and Korean corn tea.

I would never have given Kim Chi Tray a second glance if she hadn’t suggested it as a quick and filling lunch stop. In fact, it’s got one of those frontages I tend to avoid without a recommendation – lurid pictures taped on the window, order by numbers and dishes with broad descriptions like ‘noodles with beef/chicken/pork’ or ‘rice with beef/chicken/pork’. And Canto/Japanese/Vietnamese (and in this case, Korean) music videos  on loop! Urgh.

As its name suggests, Kim Chi Tray serves an array of Korean dishes with a side of kim chi, a scoop of mashed potato with corn and spring onion and a tasteless egg omelette, presented on a metal tray. The menu doesn’t deviate from Korean’s favourite hits and as I am a sucker for bibimbap (hot stone rice) I went with the chicken version ($14.90). Kat had my second favourite Korean dish, the sweet potato noodles with beef, while J had a huge hot plate of very spicy beef with rice.

My bibimbap came with a squeeze bottle of chilli sauce but was otherwise was fairly standard – I would have liked more crustiness in the rice (the hot stone bowl has to be super-hot) and my accompanying miso soup was strangely sour. While I took a couple of perfunctory bites of the kimchi (it’s just not really my thing), Kat the kimchi expert said that it was a pretty good version, properly fermented and sour. You can buy a huge tub of it to takeaway for $5.

Besides being hugely filling, the highlight of the lunch was actually the complementary corn tea or Oksusu cha. I never knew that corn was available in Korea or that you could make tea with it, but what you get when you brew hot water with roasted corn kernels is kind of a savoury/sweet drink which cuts through the sourness of the kimchi, the liberal use of chilli and the sometimes sweetness of the sauce. It’s kind of like liquid movie popcorn or a corn version of Japanese genmaicha (tea with roasted brown rice) and really delicious.

During our lunch Kim Chi Tray filled up with mostly young Korean students, a good sign as to its authenticity and value for money. If I’m ever in need of a filling hot lunch and a hot drink, I’ll be back.

  • Kim Chi Tray, Shop 2, 294 Flinders St Melbourne +61 3 9614 8088

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