Photo by Christián Recabarren
Chinese food in Berlin is a medley of ‘ethnic’ foods billed as bona fide regional cuisine (like the ubiquitous Chinese-Korean-Thai sushi dives). Inexperienced diners often settle for greasy fast-food or pan-Asian conglomerations, but those on the lookout for authentic dishes should head to Wok Show, a family-owned restaurant that serve up small dishes of seasoned cucumbers, delicately sliced meats and vast plates of handmade jiaozi.
Like the Japanese gyoza, Chinese jiaozi (aka dumplings) are essentially meat and vegetable mixes wrapped in dough, boiled or pan seared. The uninitiated will settle for shriveled, texture-less dumplings plucked from industrial frozen packages, but true
Chinese know that jiaozi par excellence require sticky, chewy skin just thick enough to cradle the broth inside, the perfect blend of spices, meats and vegetables, and the juicy explosion of soup when one bites in. Offering a deal of 40 savory handmade dumplings for just €10 a pop (a portion which necessitates sharing), Wok Show has long been frequented by Consulate officials, Chinese exchange students, and the occasional homesick expat craving a taste of mom's cooking.
While most family-owned Chinese restaurants from Los Angeles to New York manage an unmistakable local diner meets Forbidden Palace aura, Wok Show maintains an artistic bent, with a back room salon-gallery space presenting dramatic canvases by the restaurant owner, Da Ke Wang, whose epic history paintings are more than just a little reminiscent of one of Zhang Yimou's films.
When you go, avoid the ultimate western move: a flash flood of soy sauce. Put down the bottle and try dumplings with a just a dash of chili oil and/or black vinegar.