Great food without emptying your wallet at Mamalan, Shoreditch

26 Oct 2016

When I was a kid I envisioned a high-flying career in New York, with loads of cash burning a hole in my pocket. I thought I’d be quaffing champagne and dining at the hippest, most expensive restaurants with my best gal pals every night (blame Sex and the City). Now I’ve reached the ripe old age of 26, I realise my mistake (thank you Broad City).

But I still have an amazing close set of girl friends who have seen me eating Playdoh all the way through to moving in with my lovely partner. At least about that part I was right; I love spending time with these special humans. So, given that none of us ever have much expendable income, where might we spend a weekday evening catching up?

Enter Mamalan, a London chain of five (soon to be six) locations serving Northern Chinese street-food. Evolved from a North London supper club, owner Ning Ma was inspired by her grandparents’ Beijing stall. Mamalan serves hearty, filling and most importantly, cheap food. I’m talking nothing-on-the-menu-is-over-a-tenner cheap.

I had actually been to the Clapham Mamalan with old buds before hearing that the new Shoreditch branch was on the horizon, so visiting for the pre-launch on a Wednesday was a real pleasure. We were treated to a tasting menu of what seemed like everything on offer, so I’ll recall the highlights for all future patrons.

The Fried Vegetable Balls (£4.50) are piping hot parcels of savoury goodness, with the right amount of crunch. An unusual, almost floral, fried coating of golden batter make the Spicy Chicken Wings (£5.50) incredibly moreish. Of the four types of dumplings tried (ranging from £5-£6.50 for five), the steamed prawn is a clear winner. The others – Pork, Beef and Vegetable – were strangely undecipherable from one another. The Pork Buns (£6 for two) are filled with soft, melty meat. The bun is more akin to a toasted English muffin than the fluffy, steamed bun I expected, but it was still nice, if not a tad stodgy. The Beef Noodle Soup (£9) is a warming broth of slow stewed beef and rice noodles with fragrant hints of coriander, while the Chicken Noodle Salad (£9) is any peanut butter lover’s dream, with a very generous portion of moist chicken. (Note – this most definitely falls under the ‘noodle dish’ category, rather than salad).

There’s also 4 playfully-named (and somewhat novelty) cocktails on offer, including the Beijing Blues (£7.50), a neon blue concoction with a kick of ginger, and Bull in a China Shop (£8), a drink for anyone who likes the taste of flowers. Décor-wise, think classroom meets warehouse party. I was into it.

So, even though at 26 I now more closely identify with Broad City’s Ilana and Abi than Carrie or Samantha, at least I can do so eating at Mamalan with one of my best mates. And when you’re still getting change from a twenty, what more could you want?


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