How do I love thee, Berlin? Let me count the ways.
Let me not, actually. There are so many things I love about Berlin, we’d be here for hours. One thing I don’t love about Berlin, though: its Chinese food. Having grown up in Taiwan and being half-Taiwanese myself, I’ve eaten a lot of Chinese/Taiwanese food in my lifetime. And I’m sorry to say that the options for Chinese food in Berlin mostly range from downright wretched to meh to what I’d begrudgingly describe as “good for Berlin.” So when I hear a recommendation for a good and authentic place, I will not hesitate to drop everything and strike out in search of a good dumpling or a tasty heap of noodles.
This week’s dumpling/noodle mission: success! Like almost all of the decent Chinese restaurants in Berlin, Shaniu’s House of Noodles is out west, in a rather quiet corner of Wilmersdorf. But never mind the location, because the homemade dumplings — both steamed and fried versions — are well worth the trip. Oh, the dumplings! The only other place in Berlin that has scratched my dumpling itch like Shaniu’s, by the way, is Wok Show in Prenzlauer Berg. I can put back more of their dumplings in one sitting than I care to admit. (Hint: it’s a number between 30-100.)
The problem with Chinese restaurants in Berlin is that they have to cater mainly to local eaters who are, generally speaking, unexperimental and flavour-shy. This means that menus are filled with all sorts of Westernized dishes that are anathema to purist Chinese food lovers like myself. Seriously, why are Germans so obsessed with Ente Kross? And no, no mini spring rolls with plum sauce. Just… no.
At Shaniu’s, get #14, a salad of crunchy cucumber bathed in a black vinegar dressing and heaped appropriately with a slightly terrifying amount of chopped garlic. (Do yourself a favor and add plenty of the chili oil from the table’s caddy of condiments.) Get #10, a simple but very essential appetizer of cold silken tofu in a puddle of soy sauce. Get #70, rather sadly translated as “spaghetti on chinese style” but actually zha jiang mian, a ubiquitous noodle dish made with minced pork and fermented bean sauce that’s eaten throughout China, Taiwan, and even in Korea. The Shaniu version was different than the Taiwanese zha jiang mian I’m used to, but delicious all the same, rich, meaty, and intensely flavourful with ginger and chili (photo below right). And of course, get lots of dumplings. Lots.
Shaniu’s House of Noodles: Pariser Str. 58 | U Spichernstraße | Facebook Page