Chinese Food and the True Story Behind it

The relationship with Chinese food can be a love-hate one. For many, it is enjoyable because it is usually fast to arrive and tasty, but others might consider it to be oily and low quality. Of course, in Berlin you can find several options.

But what is the true story behind Chinese food? After living for more than three years in different provinces in China, I am now able to recognise good and authentic Chinese cuisine from fake and appropriated versions. Yes, in Berlin, many Chinese restaurants and food stands are actually run by people from Vietnam or Thailand just like Italian ones quite often have Turkish or Arab owners.

I got used to hearing people talk about Chinese culinary habits, about their bizarre food, and to seeing astonished faces asking the question, “Is it true that the Chinese eat dogs?” Generally speaking, the answer is no. Yet there are also people in China that like it and cook it. You can find dog meat in some markets, but it is not common. When I lived there, sometimes I found myself talking about culinary stereotypes with Chinese people. As an Italian, my national cuisine is usually much appreciated, but when I told them that in Italy we also eat horsemeat, they were horrified as much as Westerners are when it comes to eating dog meat.

During this past year in Berlin, I have been looking for real Chinese food, and I found a few restaurants worth mentioning. One of them is definitely Tian Fu, located on Uhlandstraße 142. The atmosphere is cosy with wooden furniture. The food is quite amazing, offering a little taste of real Chinese food in Berlin. Here you can delight yourself mainly with Southern Chinese food, especially from the Sichuan province. It’s very spicy in the sense that it is often pretty hot, so be careful if you have a sensitive stomach. Sichuan province is, indeed, famous all over China for its hot and spicy food, especially the Hot Pot. Its concept is similar to Swiss Fondue, just without cheese; it’s a pot of simmering broth, on a portable burner in the middle of the table. Around it are plates of meat, seafood, and vegetables all chopped and ready to be cooked in the spicy broth. It can be shared with 4-6 people and the dining time can last for hours. Sharing a Hot Pot is a really good way to relax and enjoy your close friends’ company.

Spicy hot pot broth in Chongqing style.

Another really good place where you can find Hot Pot and Southern Chinese cuisine can is Tangs Kantine in Kreuzkölln, at Dieffenbachstraße 18. They serve an amazing MaPo TouFu cooked with minced meat in a spicy chilli- and bean-based sauce, a typical Sichuanese recipe.

Yumcha Heroes, in Mitte, at Weinbergsweg 8, is a creative reinvention of the classic dumpling, born in China during the Han Dynasty. Nowadays, the dumplings you can find in China are basically filled with pork or mutton, cabbage, and a few other vegetables. Yumcha Heroes offers a variety of dumplings made with ingredients such as cinnamon, Thai basil, ginger, chestnuts, bamboo, or zucchini. Some of these dumplings are also suitable for vegetarians. This restaurant provides a greatly appreciated mix and innovation of Chinese favourites on its menu.

By Rossella Gramegna

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