We have had the absolute pleasure of having The Chunky Buddha takeover our kitchen for two months now. Lee has been serving up Asian comfort goodness to all our beloved Jujubabes as they sit in the sunshine, sipping on Mezcal cocktails... but who is the man behind the noodles?
A hot Friday afternoon we sat in the sizzling kitchen as Lee rapidly whipped around, frying chicken, steaming rice and pickling his famous homemade kimchi. Through the heat and lunchtime rush he answered a few of our questions:
What are your roots?
My mum is from Vietnam and my dad is from China but I was born in New York and raised in East London. Confusing, right? Im lucky really as all these countries and cultures have had an impact on my food.
Where did your passion for cooking come from?
My family. My family has a huge cooking culture; we cook and we eat together all the time. Growing up around that, food quickly became my passion. I started cooking when I was 8 and never looked back.
Who does your menu cater to?
Everyone - I take great pride in that. I don't care about competition, making things different or challenging for people with dietary requirements. All I care about is filling my customers bellies with flavours they love.
What is your favourite dish on the Chunky Buddha menu at Juju's?
The Ginger and soy chicken, rice noodles and pickled vegetable Buddha Bowl, you think I would get sick of it...but I don't.
Why do you love Juju's?
It's the diversity of the people who visit, through the events you host and the location. There is no one type of person that visits Juju's, that's what I love.
Lee's passion for life and his brand ooze from him as he dances to Drake in the kitchen, branded head to toe in Chunky Buddha clothes designed by himself and hand delivering food to guests around the venue, chatting, singing and smiling. These good vibes and positive energy is passed down into his food, from the Sticky Icky Wings to the Vegan Kimchi Fries, you can taste Lee's passion for life in the perfectly paired ingredients and flavours.
One of the most popular dishes on The Chunky Buddha's menu is Chunky's Buddha Bowls. It's a dish that appeals to everyone, you pick your base of rice or noodles and then you add your protein. Now it may sound like a simple and healthy lunch option, which it is, but the flavours and variations of this dish are endless.
Everyone has their favourite: mine is the udon noodles with tofu, pickled veggies and kimchi, while Juliet's is the red rice with crispy duck with pickled veggies...Such different flavours, it got us thinking, what does this say about our personalities? It must mean something, right?
We got a top London psychologist and Oxford graduate to examine each Buddha Bowl comparing it to the human mind to determine what your Buddha Bowl choice says about you.I'm joking, it was me - after a glass of wine.
Tofu, Jasmine rice, pickled vegetables, kimchi and a fried egg
You are a compassionate and emotional soul, who wears their heart on their sleeve and feels the weight of the world on their shoulders. Some may refer to you as calm and quiet, but the ones who know you well know you're not shy of table dancing and other cheeky antics on a night out with friends... You are loyal, putting friends, family and lovers before yourself always. You are a creative type who takes solace in hiding away in your bedroom, writing a story, knitting a scarf, or scrapbooking; basically, anything which is inside your extensive craft box.
Crispy duck, rice noodles and pickled vegetables
You aren't afraid of anything, and certainly never shy away from a challenge, even when you are certain you may fail. Friends know you as the wild one, the one you can always depend on to be the last standing at the party. You fall in love quickly and deeply which, as you have discovered a few too many times, can be painful, but you always follow your heart first. You never change your behaviour or style to conform with social standards; you are you, through and through.
Char-su pork belly, udon noodles and pickled vegetables
If there is ever an important decision that needs to be made, you are the one all your friends call. You will always soothe their restless thoughts with words of wisdom and comfort. Equally, you are the first person to tell a loved one to 'Get a grip!' Because you are never afraid of giving your truest opinion, even if it offends others. Your strong and independent personality means you rely on others for little and have a small, close group of loved ones you confide in. Beneath the destiny's child 'independent woman' facade is a squishy, warm and sensitive person who loves the love <3
Ginger and soy chicken, red rice and pickled vegetables
You are a social butterfly! You have friends in every nook and cranny of London. But your social circles don't stop there, you have friends hiding all over the world who you have met, backpack on back and wanderlust in heart. Adventure is your heartsong; you have climbed mountains, surfed waves and bunked down in many hostels because nothing scares you. Your good friends throw parties on your return but know nothing will anchor you to one place for long and they watch on social media as your passport weighs heavier with the thick ink of international stamps. You are the friend who can disappear for months but return the same loyal, fun-loving, passionate person who they can still count on even when miles and miles apart.
Well that's that then. And the conclusion? No matter your mood, Chunky will have a buddha bowl to match, and if the bowl of goodness isn't your thing his extensive menu will take you on a tour of your own taste buds.
So, what are you waiting for? Explore the flavor of your personality and book a table for lunch or dinner at Juju's.