Iraqi Food at Borough Market – Kubba by Juma Kitchen.
What silver linings have come out of lockdown for you? I’ve discovered that I can walk to Borough Market relatively easily and, without the influx of tourists in London, I’ve found it to be a wonderful place to shop. Normally it’s hard to get close enough to the stalls to order anything – now it’s busy but with local shoppers actually buying the food rather than taking selfies with a pile of turnips… It’s also a time when, with no restaurants open, the joy of street food comes into its own. I went along to try Kubba by Juma Kitchen, albeit taking most of my order home (two stops on the tube). Tucked away from the main food hall, in an area called Borough Market Kitchen which is full of street food options, you might have to search a bit. I promise you it’s worth it.
The first thing that caught my eye was a large, glowing charcoal grill. There’s nothing better than meat fresh off the grill and I was looking forward to trying one of Kubba’s specialities. Then, there were bowls of fatoush being plated and packed up for delivery.
Trays of Kubba, Chap and more. And a smiling face behind the counter ready to cook my order.
“You must try the Knafa” he tells me. I’m agreeing to everything at this stage – and he tells me he will cook it from scratch because it’s better that way and ready in just 10 minutes. It’s a heady mixture of Katayif pastry made with shredded wheat, nuts and sugar syrup topped with pistachio and rose and laced with mozzarella cheese to make the kind of dish you really need to eat when you have no intention of going anywhere near scales for a month or so.
Oh my – this one is insta-worthy AND delicious. If you happen to be planning your visit to Kubba already, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
My takeaway box was a mixture of spinach fatayah, potato and mushroom chap and kubba with date and tamarind sauce and with and one of the specials – Chicken Taok – charcoal-grilled chicken which has been spiced with their own proprietary mixture. The box was filled up with freshly charred tanoor bread that Juma baked themselves each morning and a salad.
‘Kubba’ are Iraqi dumplings, an Iraqi food staple a bit like a croquette. They come in a variety of textures, shapes and ingredients, each one made by hand. Traditional Kubba Haleb is a fiendishly moreish delight. Sunshine-like amber cracked rice coating surrounds beef mince spiced with Philips’ secret family blend for Baharat, a traditional Arabic spice and served with a warm and tangy pickled mango dip called Amba.
Potato chap is a kind of potato croquette which is used to surround Baharat-spiced beef mince and onion served with a perfectly balanced sweet and intense date and tamarind sauce. The veggie option, Kubba’s Mushroom Chapcombines mushroom, garlic and truffle oil inside a potato casing and served with date and tamarind sauce.
Back home, I just heated everything other than the salad up for a few minutes in the microwave. I’m sure it would have been even better eaten al-fresco at Borough Market. But, as I was by myself and the market was closing I felt little incentive to stay around.
Instead, I’m now going to be building Kubba into my shopping trips. Right now they have a new ‘Christmas Chap’ – a crispy, pillowy potato chap encasing confit turkey with aromatic thyme. This concoction is is deep-fried until golden and crispy and then served with a honey roasted parsnip, extra crispy Brussel sprout, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy. It’s a mini Christmas dinner – with a garnish of grated chestnut and orange zest that costs just £5.
Philip Juma, head chef and founder explains
“I absolutely love Christmas and it’s very exciting to create something which is a love letter to both my English and Iraqi roots. My Christmas Chap is such a tasty snack that Borough Market-goers can enjoy on its own whilst exploring the market, or sit down, relax and have alongside some of our other much-loved Iraqi dishes.”
I can’t think of anywhere better to find warming, flavourful and exciting traditional Iraqi food made by the hands of Chef Philip Juma, KUBBA is open six days a week (Monday-Saturday) to save us from lockdown fatigue.
KUBBA at Borough Market Kitchen,
London SE1 9AG
Monday — Thursday 10:00 – 17:00
Friday 10:00 – 18:00
Saturday 10:00 – 17:00