Yuhang Wu created some of Berlin's most imaginative cuisines at UUU in Wedding. Photo: Paula Ragucci
These Chinese, Indonesian, Thai and Korean chefs have brought new dishes, neglected cuisine, and new paradigms to Berlin.
During the pandemic, Berliners liked Chinese food more than any other international cuisine. Equipped with carbon steel woks, Fuchsia Dunlop recipes and Go Asia pantry ingredients, home cooks will fry dumplings, fried peppers and ring biang biang noodles on their countertops in the winter of 2020-21. After the lock-up was over, the staff behind Han West, the Asian fusion franchise, immediately opened Wencheng, an Imbiss focused on the latter: thick hand-drawn dough with toppings such as stewed tofu and shiitake mushrooms, or Xi'an-style cumin lamb. For the mixture, the heat ranges from "mild" to "Asian spicy". This is not perfect. It's ok. After three months, you still have to queue for an hour to eat there.
Remember to make tea? As predicted by teens who like TikTok in 2019, this is back to a large extent. Although the beverage itself is Taiwanese, some of the most interesting sales locations are from the mainland. Take the branch near Glitzer Park of the international chain brand Mr. Hecha as an example, which hides the only surviving branch of the local Sichuan legendary Datang. Grand Tang – A Tasty Box offers a mix of canteen-style steam table combinations and a la carte dishes, many of which, such as crayfish with spicy black bean sauce, are not actually on the menu.
Opposite Spree, Friedrichshain's Kong was previously known for its Sichuan cuisine set menus and precious aesthetics, and has now become the most popular vegetarian beverage shop in Berlin. Kong Yin’s soy, almond and coconut drinks are not strictly boba, but they have the same symphony of satisfying taste and texture: here is a glutinous rice ball, there is a layer of salty soy milk or a ball of mashed sweet potato. It turns out that this concept is so popular that it still exists even when Kong's evening service resumes (as a "Sichuan snack", more than half of which are plant-based).
Grand Tang-A Tasty Box has spicy crayfish with black bean sauce on the menu
This doesn’t even include heavyweights, such as China Restaurant Holly-its self-proclaimed "non-Westernized" menu of grilled offal skewers, braised pork and homemade dumplings-and the upscale hot pot restaurant Ting Song, where you can enjoy The Pork or Mushroom Soup of Derrian Grid's value comes with add-ons from entrecote to the gorgeous presentation of the brain.
Not to mention Wedding’s UUU. It is not so much a restaurant as a John Malkovich-style portal that enters the minds of chef Wu Yuhang and host Jonas Borchers (Jonas Borchers) middle. Three nights a week, up to 9 people sit around the semi-circular wooden table of the exquisitely tiled former Kneipe and enjoy a 129-euro Chinese-style dish set, cooked with local ingredients, not wine, but tea and Homemade Kombucha.
It doesn't make much sense to describe the menu. As the seasons of vegetables and animals change, the menu may change every week or even every day. It can be said that it combines the expertise of Michelin (Wu is a veteran of Tim Raue, Coda and Aqua) with wide-eyed curiosity and passion for experimentation that will never overwhelm the food itself. You will leave a buzzing sound, not just from all fermented teas.
It is the fourth most populous country in the world, but until recently, this Southeast Asian archipelago hardly appeared on the food scene in Berlin. The few brick-and-mortar restaurants, such as Nusantara in Moabit, are hidden in remote neighborhoods, and when Koempul opened on the coveted sidewalk in Prenzlauer Berg, it was all refreshing.
Its menu is a "most popular product" that caters to real Indonesians and casual tourists who have performed amazing yoga retreats in Bali. Almost everyone will eat Nasi Lemak, a combination of Sumatran beef stew (or fried tempeh), kale coconut stew, chunks of jackfruit, potato fritters, cucumber pickles and rice, all of which are wrapped in banana leaves and then White paper packaging placed on the dining table for ceremonial unpacking. Among the many deep-fried seafood options, choose pempek kapal selam, a crispy fish cake stuffed with eggs, thinly sliced, rice served with sweet and sour chili sauce and glass noodles.
In terms of street food, there is the lunch shop Daily Warteg, which is not only famous for the affectionate dishes of the owner Gabriele Winata, such as fried chicken coated with salted egg yolk sauce or nasi lemak (golden turmeric coconut rice with sweet tempeh, green beans, sambal-coated hard-boiled eggs and, optionally, marinated roast chicken), but because it is in an alternative location in a new food truck mini village next to Hauptbahnhof.
Occasionally there is Lokarsa of Soydivision, the culinary branch of an anti-colonial contemporary art group led by Jakarta-born Ariel Orah. During the lockdown, the staff opened a take-out window in Schillerkiez, serving hot stink beans and hemp seed sambal in the lunch combo, such as skewered tempeh and stewed eggplant with turmeric and jasmine rice; peanut sauce with multigado salad; or coconut Rendang banana flower. Give them an Instagram follow and see where they will pop up next.
In a city full of bibimbap and barbecue, two places dared to introduce different things to Berliners. At Charlottenburg’s Pum, run by the chef and food researcher Hera Hwang of the Korean Embassy, this is a traditional way of cooking. Your main food is chili tofu, crispy pork belly, or the most tempting whole is coated with chili garlic Ginger's raw crab-paste-appears in the ever-changing side dishes. Think about fermented radish, potato shreds, salted squid, burdock root, fried sausage, spinach miso soup... and of course cabbage kimchi.
At the same time, at the Lia Ppang restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg, Korean desserts became a top priority. The owner, Lia Hong, used to offer traditional walnut biscuits or hodugwaja to homesick Koreans at the Kulturbrauerei food market; now, sweet-tooth locals of all ages will patronize her cafe to taste soy dak muffins, classics Macarons (3.50 Euros) or a large piece of cake. Our favorite: Matcha roll cake, a fluffy swirl cake filled with whole red beans and matcha cream. As the sign on her door explained shamelessly, it is not vegan, gluten-free or lactose-free, but it must be very good.
2021 is the year of legalization of Thai parks, which means fewer suppliers, tables instead of picnic blankets, and absent-mindedness in implementing corona hygiene measures. But more and more Thai food lovers no longer need to venture to the West to buy good things. During the lockdown, people in Neukölln or Prenzlauer Berg can order delivery services from Khun Xyu Ban.
Thai takeaway from Khun Xyu Ban
Jamie is a Manchester native who worked in the much-hyped Khwan and Khao Taan restaurants. After being forced to retire, he made curry paste, fried fish and steamed rice for home-cooked dishes that comforted you, even if they Let your taste buds cry for mercy. After a summer pause, he returned to make a pop-up shop, but was overshadowed by another Khwan alumnus: former chef Monay Sakarin.
In his new restaurant Larb Koi in Friedrichshain, he produces food that surpasses its moderate price and Imbiss environment: homemade Chiang Mai sausages with pickles and chili sauce; sun-dried butterfly bass fried to mouth-watering Crisp and crispy; the southern curry chicken curry kua kling kai, which is delicious. It is as exhilarating as its neighbour Khao Taan and does not require a whole night's commitment.