Finding Chinese food in Europe may seem like an easy task. All you really have to do is go to Chinatown or even a busy shopping street, right? Well, the real answer depends on what you’re looking for.
Even if you’ve just moved to Europe, you probably already know that most of the Chinese restaurants across Europe will offer fast, cheap, and greasy food that is light-years away from the authentic Chinese food we all know and love. If you ask “why?” the answer is that local Chinese kitchens are influenced by western culture and create fusion dishes such as orange-flavored chicken or sweet and sour pork in order to attract local European customers and even tourists from across the globe.
So, how can you find that delicious combination of flavors that will remind you of home? And, what are the signs you need to look for in order to identify an authentic Chinese restaurant? I asked myself these questions when I first moved to Europe. Today, I’m happy to share some of my pro-tips with you.
First of all, do the research
As China has 23 provinces, we’re talking about 23 variations of dishes, recipes, and regional specialties. So the first thing you need to ask yourself is what “authentic Chinese food ” is for you. Is it the “川菜(Chuancai)” kitchen from the Sichuan province, which will offer its famous fiery flavors, or the “粤菜(Yuecai)” cuisine from the Canton region, which focuses on more natural tastes? This is an important question because you might find an authentic Chinese restaurant, which doesn’t serve the food you are used to.
Anyway, a quick online search will tell you almost everything you need to know about the specific restaurant you’re vetting. By reviewing its online menu and understanding which ingredients are in use, you’ll be able to know if this is an authentic Chinese restaurant and whether or not it will be able to serve you with a dish that will make you feel at home and will help your mind drift all the way into your mom’s kitchen.
Customer-review-based websites such as Tripadvisor, Yelp, or the Fork are also a great indicator to find out whether or not a specific restaurant serves the kind of food you’re looking for. But, note that since western cuisine is quite different from the oriental one, reviews written by individuals who are not familiar with the true Chinese cuisine might not reflect your potential experience.
Is everything in the restaurants is in Chinese?
This is actually a crucial aspect. By “everything,” I am referring to the people who work at the restaurant and whether or not they take orders in Chinese, as well as the menu and whether or not it is in both Chinese and the local language (or just Chinese).
Why is this important? Because a restaurant that is run by a Chinese team is most probably authentic. Now, all that’s left is to find out which region rules this particular kitchen.
Another important indicator is, of course, the customers – if you see fellow Chinese people enjoying their meal, know that you are in the right place.
Can you pay with Alipay?
Another sign of authenticity can be revealed according to the payment method possibilities offered at the restaurant. As Alipay is one of the main digital wallets used in China, a large number of Chinese migrants also possess this app and use it for their everyday needs. Moreover, as most people in China use Alipay, Chinese migrants can remit money to Alipay accounts using external online banking apps that offer fair exchange rates.
The bottom line is that if you are able to pay for your meal with either WeChat Pay or Alipay (which enable customers to pay by simply scanning a code), know that this culinary establishment was built while considering the specific needs of Chinese migrants.
I hope these tips will help you to find your favorite Chinese restaurant in town. Once you find it, remember to share your knowledge with your friends and family.